Can stress harm fertility?

A new study out of Australia says yes. Researchers have uncovered a new link between chronic stress and reproductive problems, in a pre-clinical study that shines the spotlight on a hunger-triggering hormone.

The study suggests high levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and is also released during stress, could be harmful to some aspects of reproductive function.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, found that by blocking the ghrelin receptor in female mice, they were able to reduce the negative effect of chronic stress on a key aspect of ovarian function.

Senior co-author Dr. Luba Sominsky said the study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, could have implications for those with underlying fertility issues. “Stress is an inseparable part of our lives, and most of us deal with it quite efficiently, without major health problems,” she said. “This means young and otherwise healthy women may experience only temporary and probably reversible effects of stress on their reproductive function. But for women already suffering from fertility problems, even a minor impact on their ovarian function may influence the chance and timing of conception.”

Sominsky, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at RMIT, said that although this work is exclusively in mice, there are many similarities to humans in stress responses, as well as in many phases of reproductive development and function.

“Our findings help clarify the intriguing role of ghrelin in these complex connections, and point us on a path towards future research that could help us find ways of mitigating the effects of stress on reproductive function.”

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‘We’re grateful for our blessing!’

A patient of ours shares her happy news:

“Awesome staff! We’re beyond satisfied with all of the help we received and grateful for our blessing! Thank you!

We’d like to help you make your dreams come true, too. Read more comments from our patients on our web site.

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Study suggests antibiotics may treat endometriosis

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found, in mice, that treatment with an antibiotic reduces the size of lesions caused by endometriosis. The study was published online in the journal Human Reproduction.

Endometriosis is a chronic problem for up to 10 percent of women ages 25 to 40. About 5 million women in the United States and an estimated 176 million women worldwide are believed to be affected. Studying mice, the researchers found that treating the animals with metronidazole reduced the size of endometriosis-related lesions in the gut. That was true whether treatment was started before the lesions began forming or after endometriosis already was well-established. The findings also suggest that bacteria in the gut microbiome may help drive, or prevent, progression of the disease.

“Our initial goal was to understand how these gut bacteria, or microbiota, might be connected to endometriosis, but in the process, we may have found a cost-effective treatment,” said principal investigator Ramakrishna Kommagani, PhD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University’s Center for Reproductive Health Sciences.

Interestingly, other antibiotics tested in the study — ampicillin, neomycin and vancomycin — did not lessen inflammation or shrink lesions. The researchers are planning a large, multicenter clinical trial to test the drug metronidazole in women who have the painful condition.

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‘Dr. Mensah gave me hope’

A patient of ours has high praise for Dr. Virginia Mensah and the staff at RSCNJ:

“I  cannot say enough positive things regarding the staff at the Reproductive Science Center. Dr. Mensah takes as much time as you need to understand and feel comfortable with the process going forward. Even when I felt discouraged I felt that the staff and Dr. Mensah gave me hope. I would highly recommend the Reproductive Science Center.”

Thanks to her, and to all those who take the time to post comments online. You can read more of them on our web site.

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For friends and family: When infertility strikes

Our last post on advice for friends and family members of those dealing with infertility covers family dynamics. Infertility “may highlight a family’s inadequate means of dealing with problems,” says RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. “Old family issues, jealousies and resentments may resurface or other family struggles, such as parental illness or the pregnancy of a sibling, may take priority over reproductive difficulties, leaving the infertile couple feeling isolated and abandoned.” In addition, infertility issues may damage family interactions, “particularly if family members use negative coping techniques such as blaming, side-taking, denial or avoidance.”

On the other hand, infertility also can bring out the best in families, “promoting growth and well-being for the members.”

This article discusses how infertility impacts family dynamics and discusses ways to help deal with the demands infertility places on the family system. Among its recommendations are:

  • Acknowledge infertility as a medical and emotional crisis with a wide variety of losses, disappointments and ‘costs’: physical, financial, social, marital and more.
  • Be sensitive to the pain, stress, and emotional pressure of childlessness or the inability to expand one’s family as desired.
  • Be supportive: Don’t assume you know what supportive means to your loved one but, instead, ask how you can be supportive.
  • Emphasize the importance and value of the couple (and each partner) in the family.
  • Always keep the lines of communications open.
  • Respect the boundaries the infertile couple sets regarding their infertility.

For more detail, we encourage you to go to the RESOLVE web page and click on When Infertility Strikes. After reading, please share your thoughts, comments and suggestions with other readers by posting a comment, below.

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With Mother’s Day coming, the internet makes infertility harder—and easier

“Mother’s Day is coming up. For a lot of people, it’s an opportunity to post adorable family photos on social media and celebrate a day dedicated to moms. For millions of women, it’s a painful reminder of what they don’t have.”

That’s the beginning of a recent story in the LA Times, about social media and infertility. “Social media and the internet can make an infertility diagnosis better and worse,” the article says. “When you’re struggling to start a family, it can feel like your newsfeed is an onslaught of aggressive pregnancy announcements, newborn photo shoots, major childhood milestones and kids’ birthday parties. Opening up Facebook or Instagram can feel like a relentless celebration of everyone else’s fertility. But at the same time, people experiencing infertility have access to a wealth of support groups and information online that weren’t available a generation ago.”

It’s an interesting take on modern media and infertility, and you can read the entire article on the LA Times web site.

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For friends and family: Myths and facts about infertility

In our last post, we offered some suggestions from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, about how to talk to those struggling with infertility. In this post, we address some of the myths and facts about that struggle.

Among the myths are:

  • Infertility is a woman’s problem
  • Everyone else gets pregnant easily
  • If you relax, you’ll get pregnant
  • If you adopt, then you’ll get pregnant
  • You must be doing something wrong

The facts are that these, and many other myths, are simply not true. For instance, infertility is a female problem in 35% of the cases, a male problem in 35% of the cases, a combined problem of the couple in 20% of cases, and unexplained in 10% of cases. And you are not alone—about 5 million people in the U.S. struggle with infertility. And you are not doing anything wrong; infertility is not a sex problem, it’s a medical problem.

RESOLVE busts a total of 14 myths like these. Learn the truth at their web page and click on Myths and Facts About Infertility. When you’re done, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions by posting a comment in the Reply box, below.

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For friends and family: Infertility etiquette

Infertility is obviously a difficult situation those trying to conceive. But it also impacts their families. Infertility can cause stress, strain and sometimes harm to family relationships. One of the main factors in that trauma is poor communication.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association understands that family dynamics can make talking about infertility difficult, and sometimes even destructive, for those dealing with the trauma. So they have created some very helpful guides for individuals, couples and families to better understand infertility and what it can do to everyone involved.

In the next few posts, we will offer some of the pointers they suggest. The first topic is Infertility Etiquette. “Most people don’t know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support,” they note.

Among the things not to say are:

  • Don’t tell them to relax
  • Don’t minimize the problem
  • Don’t say there are worse things that could happen
  • Don’t be crude

On the other hand, you can help by letting them know that you care. “Knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren’t going through this alone,” RESOLVE says.

RESOLVE goes into more detail about each of these, and others. Visit their web page and click on Infertility Etiquette. After you’re done reading, please take a moment to post your own suggestions or experiences with these issues in the Reply boy, below.

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World’s first “test tube baby” talks about RESOLVE

Louise Brown, the world’s first baby born through in vitro fertilization (IVF), is now 41. Over the past four decades, IVF has helped millions of couples around the world overcome fertility problems and have children.

Brown recently spoke with the staff at IVFBabble about her experiences with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, which she first met when she was just 15.

You can read her comments here.

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Research may help select fit sperm for IVF

Researchers have discovered what gives human sperm the strength to succeed in the race to fertilize the egg. The findings could lead to better sperm-selection methods in IVF clinics, with the fittest sperm being identified under conditions that mimic nature more closely.

The researchers, from the universities of York and Oxford, in England, discovered that a reinforcing outer-layer which coats the tails of human sperm is what gives them the strength to make the powerful rhythmic strokes needed to break through the cervical mucus barrier.

Only around 15 out of the 55 million sperm that embark on the treacherous journey to fertilize the egg are able to make it through the reproductive tract where cervical mucus, which is one hundred times thicker than water, forms part of one of nature’s toughest selective challenges.

“We still don’t fully understand how, but a sperm’s ability to swim could be associated with genetic integrity. Cervical mucus forms part of the process in the female body of ensuring only the best swimmers make it to the egg,” says Dr. Hermes Gadelha, from the Department of Mathematics at the University of York. “Our study suggests that more clinical tests and research are needed to explore the impact of this element of the natural environment when selecting sperm for IVF treatments.”

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