A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that eating avocados and salads with olive oil can improve the chances of IVF success. It is estimated that a Mediterranean diet could improve the chances of success by 3.4 times – an astonishing number.
Improving chances of success is increasingly important as there exist a number of everyday foods that can hinder women who are proceeding with IVF, such as excessive coffee consumption. While understanding the risks of excessive consumption of a certain good, the importance of knowing what factors can improve the chances of IVF working effectively are equally important.
The study highlights monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, and states that they are directly related to improvements in the probability of successful IVF treatment. The study’s authors commented on the effectiveness of the fats in assisting the IVF process, ‘while these results are interesting, this is the first time to our knowledge that dietary fats have been linked to treatment outcome in IVF’, according to Professor Jorge Chavarro, the study’s lead author. Pinpointing which fats are beneficial to would-be mothers is beneficial although the study used a sample of 147 women, meaning the findings are not definitive.
The more profound our understanding of the best methods to increase the effectiveness such of treatments the greater the chances of success, although it must be considered that each person’s condition varies relative to their dietary needs. The study is interesting and it means those who continue in their search to become a mother can visit an IVF center knowing simple dietary changes can increase the probability of success.
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Consumption of more than five cups of coffee a day considerably reduces the IVF success rate, suggests a recent study performed by the Fertility Clinic of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark determined that the effects were similar to that of smoking.
The results showed a reduction in the pregnancy rate by 50 percent and the live birth rate by 40 percent. It is well known that excessive coffee consumption can reduce fertility, with caffeine reported to have the effect of reducing muscle activity in the fallopian tubes following two cups of coffee. Dr Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel, the head scientist, confirmed: “Although we were not surprised that coffee consumption appears to affect pregnancy rates in IVF, we were surprised at the magnitude of the effect”.
A common complaint following studies lies in the sample size used to determine the findings, something this study cannot be criticised for as the sample included 3959 women having IVF or ICSI fertility treatment. Data relating to coffee consumption was gathered along with other important information such as: “age, smoking habits and alcohol consumption, cause of infertility, female body mass index, ovarian stimulation, and number of embryos retrieved.”
Although noting a considerable affect on the system relating to those who drink five or more cups of coffee a day, it was noted that “no effect” was observed when the patients consumed less than five cups of coffee a day. This is interesting as there clear remains a clear distinction between the consumption of four and five cups per day, while not considering the potency of the coffee in question.
For example, a study performed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK found that among 20 shops the strength of the coffee varied significantly, with one appearing six times stronger than another, with Starbucks being the weakest. Therefore, in my opinion it would have been more effective had the study quantified the recommended caffeine in-take rather than the number of cups of coffee.
The study is interesting and serves to help us understand in greater detail the need for regulated consumption of different goods. The effects of caffeine on fertility is significant as another study suggests that for those who seek pregnancy after tubal ligation both males and females should once again steer clear of caffeine.
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As families and parents across the United States continue to fight against the worst economic crisis since the great depression, an estimated 6.5 to 10 million individuals and couples also face another challenge – becoming a parent. Infertility is common and since the first assisted reproductive technology (ART) birth in 1978 using IVF, various other techniques have been developed.
Embryo adoption, involves the transfer of embryos to a woman’s uterus at the two-eight cell stage, is a method by which infertile couples are able to have children. While the process hasn’t drawn criticism as such, the use of the word ‘adoption’ has in legal circles. ‘Adoption’ carries with it certain laws, meaning that the process will be considered like a more conventional adoption case. With few laws determining embryos some clinics and agencies have been keen to develop their own rules relating to the practice, something that might not in fact consider the welfare of the embryo with which they aspire to have it recognised as a ‘human life’. The process differs greatly from donation as applicants are prescreened and are required to undertake a number of programs to ensure their suitability for the program, while an important factor is the degree of openness between the recipient and the donor parents post-adoption.
Embryo donation is a process by which couples who have cryogenically preserved embryos relinquish any and all legal rights to those embryos and give them to another couple with no genetic ties to the embryos – 400,000 embryos in storage in the US. According to the New York Law School Law Review, distinguishing between donation and adoption of embryos can be difficult, while the use of the former term can have a significant impact via family law.
The question remains as to the status of a cryogenically preserved fertilized human embryo:
- Embryo as a person
- Embryo as a “potential life” deserving special respect and protection
- Embryo as property
With each creating complex legal determinations for the rights of the embryo, something I will not go into here, but as it stands embryo adoption and donation are seen as a solution to cases of infertility. It seems that different States maintain varying laws regarding embryos, as Missouri defines life as “begin[ning] at conception”, are you in agreement?
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Understanding the severity of a bodily malfunction such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is challenging as the immediacy with which treatment should begin is not generally appreciated. The condition is not life threatening, but should it go untreated or unrecognised until an individual is attempting to conceive, the risks of pregnancy loss increase.
The widely held belief was that PCOS previously only affected adult women, however, symptoms such as hirustism and menstrual disturbances are not treated in isolation, as according to a report by Dr Maz Khan “women with PCOS are at greater risk of serious metabolic and cardiovascular consequences later in life”.
Metabolic problems in themselves can reduce fertility and increase potential complications. While early detection can lead to effective management of the condition, dietary changes can also improve fertility in both men and women by reducing consumption of carbohydrates, fats and alcohol. It is estimated that for obese women, a 5-10% weight loss restores fertility in 55-100% of patients within six months.
The consequences of a bad diet are considerable, with a direct link to increased infertility, while PCOS can also contribute to weight gain; individuals should proactively investigate any such physical changes and address the problem where possible to ensure the most successful pregnancy. The report suggests that PCOS is now being found in many younger women, as a result regular visits to a gynaecologist are important in addressing the condition in its early stages.
While Dr Khan recognises the importance of understanding and addressing the problems it is also suggested that individuals should seek infertility treatments following attempts at a more “holistic approach” at the “primary care level”.
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Miscarriage occurs in excess of 15% of all pregnancies, with the most probable reasons for miscarriage being genetic or medical. The frequency with which pregnancy loss occurs means that its effects can be felt by all, from rich to poor. With admission of miscarriage quite rare from what might be considered a famous person; it is even rarer from a rapper, as recently Jay-Z admitted that he and wife Beyonce had previously lost a baby.
“Last time the miscarriage was so tragic” is Jay-Z’s reference in the song ‘Glory’ to the baby the couple lost during pregnancy. Thankfully the couple gave birth to a baby girl (Blue Ivy) in January of this year.
An estimated 60% of pregnancy losses are genetic in nature, meaning dialogue with family regarding any previous miscarriages is important. Also, the possibility of pregnancy loss increases significantly with age, as a woman of 42 has an astonishing 50% probability of miscarriage.
While a number of medical conditions can affect pregnancy, the challenge remains for a number of couples in becoming pregnant in the first place. Medical advances are improving the prospects of pregnancy for a number of would-be mothers and fathers as infertility specialists not only adopt but advance technologies to ensure the greatest probability of success. A visit to an infertility clinic can prove valuable in resolving or assisting in queries one should have, while organising the most effective treatment if necessary.
The aspiration to have a child will remain for many couples as the challenges posed by miscarriage and infertility can be surmounted. Maternal and paternal ambitions are aligned as couples strive to pursue their ambition parenthood; or as Jay-Z describes “my greatest creation was you”.
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