When the fertility doctor broke the news to us that my husband was struggling with his fertility, our first question was, “What’s causing it?” We wanted to know how we ended up there, and whether something could be done to solve the issue. The doctor explained that rarely do families determine the actual cause of infertility issues. A few expensive tests (often not covered by health insurance) are available to check the function of a woman’s reproductive system, but for most people who suffer through it, no explanation is found and doctors are left to simply treat the symptoms with fertility drugs or, as in our case, suggest the use of egg and/or sperm donors and adoption.
My first instinct was to suspect chemical exposure through his job as an auto technician. He’s touched and breathed an array of toxic chemicals over more than 25 years to maintain other people’s cars. My initial assumption was part of a culturally pervasive idea that increases in infertility could be due in part to subtle exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment.
One industrial chemical (and subsequent environmental pollutant), Bisphenol-A (BPA), found in hard plastics and known as an estrogen-disruptor and for its negative effects on the heart and central nervous system, has also recently been linked to changes in immune response within the uterus. Because of its chemical similarity to the hormone estradiol in the body, BPA binds to proteins meant to interact with estradiol.
Many Washingtonians are familiar with BPA because it was part of a phased ban in Washington State in 2010. By July 1, 2012, no one can make or sell reusable sports bottles, sippy cups, or baby bottles containing BPA in the state. Last year, Oregon considered a similar ban that would also add baby formula containers to the list along with warning labels to consumers.
New research in the March Journal of Reproductive Toxicology shows that mice exposed to BPA in their food can experience bacterial infections in the uterus (pyometra), a condition observed in cats and dogs.
Whether a causal link exists between BPA and human uterine infertility is too soon to tell. The study focused on pathological changes and not fertility rates and uterine changes due to BPA exposure haven’t been scientifically demonstrated in humans. However, this research will continue the scientific quest to understand what role subtle environmental exposures have on human fertility rates. My guess is that once the data are finally in, the list of toxic chemicals effecting fertility will be much longer than we ever suspected.
Although the authors of a new Swedish study suggest it will be ten years before this technology is available to the public, a new molecule Cdk1 has been discovered that can help the maturation of mammalian eggs.
Women whose bodies are unable to produce mature eggs can not currently be helped by in vitro Fertilization (IVF).
With the success rates for fertility treatments growing steadily via discovery of new technologies and greater understanding, the term “struggling with infertility” might soon become a faint memory.
According to this article at FoxNews.com, a new method has been developed that could increase in vitro Fertilization (IVF) success rates from 32-35% to 45%. The new method uses incubators in the handling process to maintain eggs and embryos in conditions similar to those in a woman’s body.
One might think, “Of course, why didn’t they think of that sooner?” But working with microscopic cells in a controlled environment while continuously looking through a microscope is a lot more elaborate and expensive than it might sound. Below is a photo of the standard method without incubators.
This increase in success rate could mean so much to families who choose IVF: fewer disappointments and subsequent attempts equals fewer $$’s spent on those attempts, and potentially shorter backlogs at the doctor’s office.
Just stumbled across this article, Wifi-enabled Laptops May Be Nuking Sperm, at MSNBC that says laptop Wifi could be impairing sperm count. Wonder if it might also affect eggs?
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the birth of the first American test tube baby, Elizabeth Carr Comeau. Thinking about anything that happened 30 years ago makes me feel old, but on the scale of medical advances, it was only seconds ago.
One Seattle fertility specialist made a prediction on this momentous anniversary, that IVF success rates will soon increase to 80% among women 40 and under. They were as low as 30 -40% only ten years ago.
With such high success rates, one would expect the occurrance of children born from donated eggs and sperm to become more and more mainstream. That means I better hurry up and get my book published before the “extraordinary” part of my life becomes mainstream.
Taking this to the next level, higher success rates could mean couples might spend less to concieve. Will this reduce demand on fertility specialists? Cause physicians to raise their prices?
What do you think the implications of higher success rates means for our society?
Saw this over at the blog Swimming In Circles by Michael and had to share. A scientific study has shown that laughter can increase IVF fertility. I’m assuming this is only true for those of us who aren’t deathly afraid of clowns….