For Your Health
The Latest on Fertility
Simple guidelines and recent research bring hope to conception-challenged women
Craving a baby and not being able to have one is a too-common tragedy, one that can go on and on as you try ever-more elaborate and expensive fertility techniques. Here, two steps that can help to ward off problems, plus some good news from the research lab for women who are having trouble conceiving.
A Simple Test to Safeguard Fertility: Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted bacterial disease, is a rising cause of infertility. Over a million cases were reported in 2007, and the CDC estimates that another two million go undiagnosed because there are no symptoms. Chlamydia is easily detected via a urine test and easily treated with antibiotics (though reinfection is guaranteed if your partner isn’t treated too), but if it isn’t discovered, infertility can result. The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under 26 be tested annually, as should any woman who has a new sexual partner. For more info, go to getstdtested.com; for a free test kit, go to Iwantthekit.org.
The Infertility Cause That’s Often Missed: There’s a hormone deficiency that can lead to conception issues for both women and men. Nonclassical congenital adrena hyperplasia (let’s just call it CAH) can result in low sperm counts in men, or infertility in women. A blood test is all that’s needed to diagnose, and CAH is treated with small doses of a steroid, dexamethasone. If you’re embarking on fertility treatment, make sure your clinic is looking for this easily remedied problem before you start pricey and involved procedures.
Babymaking After Cancer: There was exciting news at this summer’s meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction which promises to make conception easier for women who’ve undergone cancer treatment. A team at Northwestern has grown human eggs in a laboratory culture, a technique that may help women rendered sterile by chemotherapy and radiation.
Reviving Frozen Eggs: For two decades, scientists have been freezing eggs of cancer patients for later use. When it works, it’s wonderful, but most times it doesn’t. Only half of the frozen eggs survive, and only 20 percent of those fertilized develop into a baby. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center have improved the odds by fertilizing the eggs sooner after thawing.
Making New Eggs: It’s long been thought that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, a lifetime supply that ages and degrades until menopause. Now, Chinese researchers have grown mature eggs in mice from germ-line cells, which have fertilized readily and resulted in healthy births. If this success can be replicated with women, it will provide a method for older women to have healthy babies that are their own biological offspring (currently, the majority of fertility-assisted births for women in their late forties or older involve donor eggs).