IVF does not increase breast cancer risk

A new study should ease concerns of some women considering fertility treatment: in vitro fertilization (IVF) does not increase the risk of breast cancer. A Dutch study of more than 25,000 women found no “significant increase in the long-term risk of breast cancer among women treated with these IVF regimens.”

Earlier data reveals that certain hormones, including estrogens and progestogens, can affect breast cancer risk, and IVF procedures do cause levels of some of these hormones to rise or drop temporarily. This was thought to perhaps affect breast cancer risk.

To study the risk, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam followed more than 19,000 women who underwent IVF between 1983 and 1995 and compared them with 6,000 women who had not had IVF. The risk for breast cancer among the women who had IVF (3%) was similar to the risk of women who didn’t have IVF (2.9%), the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Could herpes explain unexplained infertility?

A new study may have found a possible explanation for so-called unexplained infertility. A little-known member of the human herpes virus, known as HHV-6A, was found in the lining of the uterus of nearly half of women with unexplained infertility, but not in the uterine lining of any fertile women.

Though small, including only 66 women, “Our study indicates, for the first time, that HHV-6A infection might be an important factor in female unexplained infertility development,” say the study’s authors, whose research is published in the scientific journal Plos One.

The study also found that the virus seems to activate immune cells called natural killer cells in the uterus. Those cells produce chemicals called cytokines, which help lead an attack on a foreign invader, like a virus. However, this may also make it harder for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.

About 25% of female infertility cases are unexplained, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are no treatments for HHV-6A at this time, but further research may confirm these findings and determine whether antiviral treatment would help women with this uterine infection.

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Hitting the road—safely—while pregnant

Now that we’re deep into summer, many of us are hitting the road, or sky, for distant vacations. And most of the time, pregnant women can travel without worry. As long as you clear any travel with your doctor first, and make sure to keep yourself comfortable and safe, you should be able to travel.

The National Institutes of Health recommend that, when traveling, pregnant women should:

• Eat as you normally do.

• Drink plenty of fluids.

• Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that isn’t tight.

• Take crackers and juice with you to avoid nausea.

• Bring a copy of your prenatal care records with you.

• Get up and walk every hour. It will help your circulation and keep swelling down. Being inactive for long periods of time and being pregnant both increase your risk for blood clots in your legs and lungs. To lower your risk, drink plenty of fluids and move around often.

Get medical care right away if you have:

• Chest pain.

• Leg or calf pain or swelling, especially in just one leg.

• Shortness of breath.

Do not take over-the-counter medicines or any non-prescribed medicines without talking to your provider. This includes medicine for motion sickness or bowel problems.

Remember, talk to your doctor if you are planning a trip.

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Staying cool in the summer heat

Being pregnant in the summer can be a mixed blessing. You don’t have to deal with heavy coats and snow boots, and you don’t worry about slipping on the ice and snow. Then again, the heat and humidity can really be difficult when you are carrying an extra passenger around.

Check out The Pregnant Gal’s Guide to Surviving Summer, from Pregnancy.org. And be sure to add your tips for dealing with summer in the comments section below.

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FDA warns about an antifungal drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning to doctors and patients to use caution when prescribing the antifungal drug fluconazole during pregnancy. The drug may raise the risk of miscarriage, the FDA warns. Fluconazole (sold under the brand name Diflucan) is used to treat vaginal yeast infections.

“Patients who are pregnant or actively trying to get pregnant should talk to their healthcare professionals about alternative treatment options for yeast infections,” the FDA advised.

The agency is evaluating the results of a Danish study that suggested a link between fluconazole and miscarriage, and will release its final conclusions and recommendations when the review is completed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends only topical creams to treat pregnant women with vaginal yeast infections.

Be sure to discuss this with your health care team if appropriate.

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Ask for—and get—fertility help

A recent study out of Great Britain highlights an important fact for Americans. Treatments can help those with fertility problems—but too many people don’t seek them out.

The British survey of 15,000 adults, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that nearly 43 percent of women and nearly 47 percent of men who had experienced infertility didn’t seek medical help for the problem.

“One of the important and concerning findings in our study is the difference in educational attainment and job status between people who sought help for infertility and those who did not,” said study leader Jessica Datta, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in London. Those with infertility who did seek help were more likely to be better educated, have higher incomes and to be older, according to the study.

The researchers believe other countries, including the U.S., would see similar results. So if you or someone you love is having trouble conceiving, contact us for a free phone consultation. It’s the first—and most important—step in your journey to parenthood.

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Pregnant? Watch your step!

It can be amusing to watch a pregnant woman try to move around while carrying that extra passenger. But it can also be dangerous. A new study finds that pregnancy really does increase a woman’s risk for falls.

Pregnant women are as likely to fall as women who are 70 years old, the researchers said. That’s because the “baby bump” changes the biomechanics of walking and everyday activities like getting up from a chair or turning around.

For their study, published in the July 2016 issue of Applied Ergonomics, the researchers used a three-dimensional video recording system to study pregnant women walking. A computer analysis of the video confirmed why pregnant women walk differently. Even as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, women’s center of mass is farther forward, the researchers said. As a result, they lean backwards while standing and bend their hips less while walking. This increases their risk for tripping over their toes or losing their balance.

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Poor diets can affect three generations

It is well known that eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet in pregnancy raises risks for stillbirth, congenital anomalies, future obesity, and heart disease for the unborn child. But a new study in the journal Cell Reports suggests the risks do not end with the first generation; at least three subsequent generations may be affected.

The researchers note that although previous studies have linked a woman’s pregnancy health to her child’s weight in later life, their study is the first to show that prepregnancy obesity can result in genetic abnormalities that are passed through the female bloodline to three future generations, increasing risks for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers fed mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet that consisted of 60 percent fat and 20 percent sugar, which mimics a Western diet. “Basically, it’s like eating fast food every day,” they said. The offspring of the mice were then fed a controlled diet low in fat and sugar and high in protein.

Results showed that even though the offspring were fed a healthy diet, the pups, grand pups, and great-grand pups of the mothers developed insulin resistance and other metabolic problems.

Additionally, the researchers observed abnormal mitochondria in the muscle and skeletal tissue of the mice.

The researchers add that the observed effects of maternal metabolic syndrome may be greater than in their mouse model since the diets of human children often closely mirror those of their parents. Although more research is needed, researchers note that eating healthfully is of vital importance and that “our diets have worsened, in large part due to processed foods and fast foods,” fueling the current obesity crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 60 percent of women begin pregnancy above a normal weight, and less than 30 percent of women gain weight during pregnancy within recommendations of the Institute of Medicine.

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New warnings about high blood pressure

Pregnant women who experience “prehypertension”—blood pressure in the upper ranges of normal—may be at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome and increased cardiovascular risk after giving birth, according to research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Current blood pressure guidelines, which do not distinguish between pregnant women and the general population, define hypertension as persistently elevated blood pressure that is 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic (top number) or 90 mm Hg diastolic (bottom number) and above. Blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg systolic over 80-89 mm Hg diastolic is deemed “prehypertension.”

The study reveals that pregnant women with blood pressure in the prehypertension range had a 6.5 times greater odds of developing metabolic syndrome after giving birth, compared to women with blood pressure in the lower normal range.

“Our findings underscore an important issue that has been long ignored in clinical practice – the fact that criteria for hypertension in pregnancy are derived from the general population,” said lead study investigator Jian-Min Niu, M.D., in the Department of Obstetrics at Guangdong Women and Children Hospital in China. “We anticipate that if reaffirmed in further research, our study could spark a change in what we currently deem healthy blood pressure in pregnant women.”

According to researchers, the study results support the notion of pregnancy as a cardiovascular stress test for women that can reveal underlying disturbances in blood pressure regulation, glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Abnormalities in all three areas can disrupt cardiovascular functions and lead to full-blown cardiovascular disease years down the road.

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PCOS linked to adrenal hormone changes

Some women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility, may produce excess adrenal hormones, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

PCOS is a group of symptoms related to high levels of hormones known as androgens. Women with PCOS may have irregular, missing, or prolonged menstrual periods, excessive facial and body hair, insulin resistance, and problems with fertility.

“Traditionally, treatment for PCOS has included modifying ovarian hormones,” said Constantine Stratakis, M.D., director of intramural research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and senior author of the study. “Our findings indicate that a subgroup of patients could conceivably benefit from modification of adrenal hormones as well.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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