I know from personal experience that dealing with infertility can be an expensive, time consuming, and a monstrous emotional drain. Years ago, when my husband and I were agonizing over our diagnosis and struggling with how to start a family, doing the legwork to make sure I was as informed as I could be was an important and productive way for me to cope. -Icecream helped a lot too but probably wasn’t as productive in the long run. Staying on top of developments helped me figure out how to be a good patient, manage the process and ensure we were getting the best care and helped us make informed decisions on how to spend our time and money.
Fortunately, doctors and scientists around the globe are working on fertility breakthroughs to help improve fertility testing and improve on and develop innovative reproductive technologies. Fertility breakthroughs range from something as simple as squeezing an embryo to see if it’s resilient to new tests that measure male factor infertility. These fertility breakthroughs give new options to people everywhere who are struggling with infertility. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest infertility breakthroughs from the past year.
Fertility Breakthroughs: A New Male Fertility Test
Men contribute to a couple’s infertility about half the time, but the bulk of fertility testing and treatment focuses on the woman. The limited testing done on men currently doesn’t actually provide much information. Episona aims to change all that. Their test provides insight on sperm health at the genetic level so you can make informed decisions about expensive fertility treatments. Before you spend $24,000 on an IVF cycle, spend $495 to understand if sperm health will impact your chances of success. Since sperm production takes place over a three month period Episona’s test can also provide insight into lifestyle changes that could impact success and types of fertility treatments you elect to make. Couples can now order the test online and take it in the privacy of their own home. Taking Episona’s test up front, along with a semen analysis, can help you and your doctor feel confident about the male contribution to all different stages of a healthy pregnancy.
Fertility Breakthroughs: IVM
In Vitro Maturation (IVM) is a relatively new procedure similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF), yet with a notable difference. IVF utilizes a regimen of medications to bring a patient’s eggs to maturity before they are removed from the ovary; IVM retrieves eggs while they are still in the immature stage, and brings them to maturity in the laboratory (in vitro). This can be particularly beneficial to patients, like those suffering from PCOS, who cannot tolerate some of the efforts to mature eggs in the ovaries. In IVM the fertility specialist will do a scan to look at the follicles in the ovaries and then use the same type of needle that would be used for IVF egg collection and then retrieve these tiny follicles. These immature eggs are taken out of the ovaries and matured in a lab for one to two days. In the lab, they get the drugs they need to mature. Once matured the process is the same as a typical IVF cycle. The chief benefit is for sufferers of PCOS who have a higher risk of complications when taking hormones to mature eggs in the body.
Fertility Breakthroughs: Embryo Squishiness
Stanford researchers announced recently that they’d developed a new technique to determine whether an embryo should be implanted in an in vitro fertilization procedure. The trick: Check how squishy it is. The squishiness predicts how well the embryos will undergo cell division — and, in theory, how likely they are to thrive. A human trial is underway.
Fertility Breakthroughs: Improved Incubation for IVF
Scientists at Australian IVF clinic Genea have come up with a new version of continuous culture fluid — closer to that found in the human body — that when used in conjunction with a unique time-lapse incubator is having a dramatic impact on the number of high-grade embryos achieved per cycle. The cutting-edge process allows embryos to grow in a petri-dish undisturbed for five to six days mirroring the journey in the mother’s fallopian tubes prior to implantation in the uterus. It’s the closest process yet to inside the mother’s womb with a 46.7 percent increase in the number of viable high-grade embryos per cycle.
Fertility Breakthroughs: FSH & AMH Testing
It has been commonly thought that testing the levels of these two hormones can provide some insight into a woman’s biological clock. That has fueled women’s interest in having blood and urine tests done during annual checkups to monitor their fertility. However, in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers based in North Carolina reported that their study of 750 women ages 30-44 with no history of infertility found that low levels of AMH and high levels of FSH in blood samples didn’t necessarily mean they would have more difficulty conceiving compared to women with normal levels. Women with ‘low ovarian reserve’ as determined by these two hormones were just as likely to get pregnant as were those with normal values. As it turns out these tests are good at giving a prediction of how many eggs a woman might produce when stimulated with hormones during fertility treatments but not as a predictor of natural pregnancy or how long a woman has on her proverbial ‘biological clock.’
Fertility Breakthroughs: A New Way to Create More Eggs
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh proved it is possible to reverse the clock and coax the ovaries back into a pre-pubescent state where they begin to produce new eggs. Women are born with all their eggs. As women age, conceiving becomes harder because the total number of eggs diminish, and they become damaged and even run out entirely. However, scientists recently found that a common cancer drug triggers the development of new eggs, previously thought to be impossible. Researchers noticed that women who had undergone chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with a specific drug combination had ten times number of eggs as healthy women the same age. Far from damaging the chance of having a baby, the cancer drugs may actually have improved their fertility. Work is underway to investigate the viability of the new eggs produced and reveal the mechanism the drug combination triggers.