Misdiagnosed Miscarriage

When a woman is diagnosed with a miscarriage, she usually has three options: a D & C, an inducing medication, or wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally. However, after reading many personal stories at misdiagnosedmiscarriage.com it seems that the third way, the “wait and see” option may be the best one, offering real hope that your baby may be alive and well despite predictions to the contrary.

Here are a few reasons that you may have been diagnosed with a miscarriage, when there is actually a healthy, developing baby inside.

Misdiagnosed Blighted Ovum: Also known as “anembryonic pregnancy,” a blighted ovum happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself. A blighted ovum usually occurs within the first trimester and a woman’s body tends to miscarry naturally. (Read more here: American Pregnancy.org)

It is possible that what looks like a blighted ovum may in  fact contain a healthy fetus.  When a Blighted Ovum is Not a Blighted Ovum is the personal story of a woman who had an ultrasound at 51/2 weeks, 6 weeks, 7 weeks, and 8 weeks, was diagnosed with a blighted ovum, and whose doctor strongly recommended a D&C. However she held out, mainly out of fear of D&C complications, and at her 9 week ultrasound found a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat!

If you have been diagnosed with a blighted ovum but are not experiencing miscarriage symptoms, you can choose to wait it out. Women with similar experiences say that up until 10 weeks is still to early to confirm a blighted ovum.  Misdiagnosed Miscarriage.com has many more personal stories.

Vanishing Twin Syndrome: First recognized in 1945, vanishing twin syndrome is when one of a set of twin/multiple fetuses disappears in the uterus during pregnancy.  The most common symptoms include bleeding, uterine cramps and pelvic pain, which are generally associated with miscarriage. However, in this case there is still one living baby in the uterus. No special medical care is necessary with an uncomplicated vanishing twin in the first trimester.  If the fetal death is in the second or third trimester, the pregnancy may be treated as high-risk.  (For more information click here: American Pregnancy.org)

Fetus without Heartbeat: Early on in a pregnancy, up to 10 weeks, it is possible that an ultrasound will reveal a fetus, but will not detect a heartbeat. Keep in mind that when a doctor or technician tells you how far along in pregnancy you are, this can also be miscalculated. At your next visit there may in fact be a heartbeat and a healthy fetus.

These are just a few situations of misdiagnosed miscarriages. There are many more to be found at Misdiagnosed Miscarriage.com, including misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancies, misdiagnosis after light or heavy bleeding,  misdiagnosis after slow-rising or declining hCG levels, and more.

One of the site’s moderators has the following words of advice for anyone who may have been diagnosed with a miscarriage:

1. Many of the stories will overlap. Often times the women who have empty sacs with hCG levels over 10,000 will also be told the gestational sac is big enough that a baby should be seen. They will also find their babies between, on average, 8 to 10 weeks although, as you can see, a few are even further along.

2. Often women with a tilted uterus will fall into a number of these groups. They’ll have the higher hCGs that will not be doubling (really, despite what your doctor may say, they are NOT supposed to double in 48 hours at this time but instead 96 hours or even more). They will also almost always be told they are one to two weeks behind even when there is no possibility of conception to have taken place then. Don’t worry, in the second trimester when you have your abdominal ultrasound, dates will be more accurate.

3. For women who fall in the “No Heartbeat Seen” category during the first trimester, we have been told you should wait at least a week and have a follow-up ultrasound to verify. Unless you are showing signs of infection or something is seriously wrong, ask to wait that week. As you can see, those little heartbeats can on occasion show up.

4. Women who have ultrasounds done by doctors are also frequently misdiagnosed much too early. Women should always turn down ultrasounds done by their doctors and only have them done by fully-trained ultrasound technicians. Research is showing that ultrasounds may not be as safe for our babies as we’d like to believe and you really do want a technician who knows what they are doing.

5. If you finally believe there is no hope and schedule that D&C, please, ask for one final ultrasound right before the D&C. We’ve had too many babies turn up at that ultrasound now.

6. Keep in mind, a number of women who were given no hope found their babies at nine weeks or beyond. Unless you are showing signs of infection or have a serious condition, eight weeks may just be too soon to have a D&C for a blighted ovum.

I am still adding helpful stories to this post. We just have so many misdiagnosed women’s stories here now that this is quite an undertaking in itself. As I add more stories, I’ll add more helpful information to this post.

I hope women find this post helpful. I am also hoping that once we get these stories ‘categorized’, we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to get the ultrasound literature changed so it reflects more accurate information. Also, if we can get doctors to realize that they are misdiagnosing too many women, maybe they can examine how they might handle these pregnancies differently.

How Early Can You Take a Home Pregnancy Test?

The suspense is killing you… could you be pregnant? Some pregnancy test kits say that you can use the test three to four days before your missed period, but it might be too early to be accurate. If you do, you’re more likely to get a false negative (the test says you’re not pregnant but you really are).

You will get a more truthful reading if you wait until after your period is due. Menstruation occurs on average 14 days after ovulation, so the likelihood of a false negative is low once a period is late.

Whenever you decide to do it, you’ll get the best results if you test first thing in the morning, and follow the test’s instructions. If it’s positive– congratulations! If it’s negative, and you still haven’t gotten your period, try again in a few days. If you get a faint positive reading, you probably are pregnant, since false positives are very rare. Wait a couple days and test again.


How Pregnancy Tests Work

Pregnancy tests detect the chemical markers associated with pregnancy, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which can only be detected after implantation. It is commonly believed that an egg implants in the uterus wall 7 days after conception, but research shows that first appearance of pregnancy hormone, hCG, due to implantation occurred 6-12 days after ovulation, with the majority of pregnancies implanting 8-10 days after ovulation.

Every woman is different, and the time it takes for the fertilized egg to implant in your uterus wall can vary.  If you don’t get a positive sign on your pregnancy test, it doesn’t mean that you are not pregnant. You may have ovulated later than you thought (meaning that conception and subsequent hCG production didn’t happen as you calculated) or that, for you, implantation took longer than the average.

If you want a review of  different types of pregnancy tests, click over to Parents.com: 10 Home Pregnancy Tests (and How to Use Them)

The sensitivity of the pregnancy tests on the market today vary greatly. The more sensitive the test, the greater the chance it will pick up your pregnancy before your period is due. Visit Baby Hopes’ pregnancy test comparison page for info on various types’ sensitivity in picking up the pregnancy hormone hCG.

Checklist: Getting Ready to Get Pregnant

If you want to get pregnant, there are a number of things you must do before you start trying. Item number one: Go skydiving. Because there’s no way they’ll let you jump out of that plane once you’ve got a baby on board!  Do you think I’m kidding? Well, skydiving is not my thing, personally, but really any high-action activity you want to do or trip you’ve been meaning to take should be considered before you become pregnant. Whether it’s scuba diving, mountain climbing, or riding all the roller coasters at Six Flags, do it now!

But aside from that, here are some important things you’ve got to tackle in order to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to get pregnant.

image: Saida Online Magazine

Consider genetic testing: Some genetic diseases affect certain ethnic groups, such as Tay-Sachs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and sickle cell disease, among African-Americans.  If a disease runs in your family, you may want to get tested to, for your own peace of mind.

Face up to the Scale: Aim for a healthy weight, as being underweight can affect ovulation, and being overweight contributes to problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Take a look at your diet: The healthier your body, the better chances you give your baby to start life healthy, too. Cut back on white flour, sugar, and processed food. Add more lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, veges, and whole grains.  Yummy home-made soups and smoothies are great ways to sneak in good nutrition!

Exercise: If you already have an exercise routine, don’t slack off during pregnancy! And if not, well it’s never too late to start, but talk to your doctor about easing into it.  Some benefits of a good workout (or even a nice walk around the neighborhood) include preparing your body for childbirth, higher energy levels, better sleep, stress reduction, and reduction of pregnancy-related discomfort. Plus, if you stay fit during pregnancy, you will regain your figure quicker after the birth.

Take Folic Acid: This all-important B vitamin helps lower the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. These defects form very early in baby’s development, before many women even realize they’re pregnant, so ask your doctor about taking a supplement as soon as you think about wanting to get pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about your medications: Some are best to stop taking during pregnancy, while some are OK– or necessary– to continue with.  You should not make this judgement on your own!

Visit the dentist: Good oral hygiene is one of those things we encourage during pregnancy.  Getting a bacterial infection can lead to premature birth and preeclampsia. Plus, better not to get x-rayed while you’re pregnant.

Cut back on Caffeine: A little bit is OK but too much is no good for a growing baby. The caffeine also affects fertility, so cutting back may increase your chances of conceiving.

Cork up that bottle, and throw the cigarettes in the trash where they belong. A healthy baby needs a healthy environment to grow in!  He should follow your lead and not just for moral support:  Excessive drinking and smoking can lower sperm count, too.

Paint the nursery: And the dining room, pantry, and bedroom too, if you want! But don’t do it while you’re pregnant or have a newborn in the house.  Toxins such as pesticides, oven cleaners, paint, and paint stripper contain chemicals that have been linked to birth defects.

Hand over the kitty litter sifter: Sure, it might just be a good excuse to get out of an unpleasant job. But it is true that litter boxes contain parasites that can make you sick (it’s called toxoplasmosis). So let hubby do the job, or wear gloves and wash up carefully when you’re done.

Work that budget: Finances shouldn’t have to stand in the way of having a family!  Sit down with a financial planner if you  need to, and figure out how you can put some money away for prenatal care and raising your baby.  Also find out about your company’s maternity leave policies,  your health insurance’s prenatal care and childbirth policies, and look into life and disability insurance.

Be emotionally prepared: Women who have given a great deal of thought to what pregnancy and parenting entail are better adjusted later on, compared with those who did not consider the demands their new role will place upon their lives. As a couple you need to think about how a pregnancy and new baby will  impact your family, work, and psyche.

Check Sperm Count in the Comfort of your Home

Reuters reports on a new device that will allow men to check sperm count in the comfort of their own home. It is scheduled to be available in August in Europe, and is undergoing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review for marketing in the US too.

The SpermCheck Fertility test, which looks a lot like a home pregnancy test, should be helpful for couples who have been trying to get pregnant for a few months, but aren’t ready to seek professional help yet. About 20 percent of infertility cases in couples are said to involve the male partner, with a low sperm count being the most common problem.

Dr. John C. Herr of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who helped develop the new test, told Reuters Health that the test helps couples find out if the male is a factor in the infertility. The best part is that it can be done in privacy, at a cost of only $25.

That’s a lot cheaper than going in and having a full semen analysis, which can cost between$65 to $250, and may or may not be covered by insurance.  Compared with standard laboratory testing, the SpermCheck Fertility tests were shown to be accurate 96 percent of the time.

How it Works

Women who take a home test to check ovulation or pregnancy only need to dip a test stick in their urine. The SpermCheck Fertility test requires just a few more steps.

Herr and his colleagues discovered an antigen found on the surface of the head of a sperm cell known as SP-10.  The SpermCheck Fertility test was developed to detect this protein.

Users let the semen rest for 20 minutes, collect 100 microliters using a pipette, and mix the semen with a detergent-containing substance known as a buffer, which releases the SP-10 protein from the sperm. Users then put a few drops of this mix into the two sample wells. Within seven minutes, the test results will appear in test windows above the wells.

Sperm counts of 20 million per milliliter of semen and above are considered normal. Sub-fertility is a count of 2 to 20 million sperm per milliliter, while infertility means sperm count levels below 2 million sperm per milliliter. “It basically tells the man how deep the infertility is,” Herr explains. “If both strips are negative it’s important that they then seek medical treatment for the infertility.”

Endometriosis and Fertility

Endometriosis is one of the most common health problems for women, often associated with pain and infertility, yet is often misdiagnosed.  It gets its name from the word endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus or womb. Endometriosis occurs when this tissue grows outside of the uterus on other organs or structures in the body, most commonly on the:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Tissues that hold the uterus in place
  • Outer surface of the uterus
  • Lining of the pelvic cavity

According to the Endometriosis Research Center: “It is more prevalent than breast cancer, yet continues to be treated as an insignificant, obscure ailment… The average delay in diagnosis is a startling 9 years, and a woman will go through as many as 5 physicians before she is properly diagnosed and treated.”



The most common symptom is pain in the lower abdomen (pelvis) or the lower back, mainly during menstrual periods. The amount of pain is different for each woman, and does not depend on how much endometriosis she has.

Other symptoms of endometriosis can include:

  • Very painful menstrual cramps, which may get worse over time
  • Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Intestinal pain
  • Painful bowel movements or urination during menstrual periods
  • Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Infertility or not being able to get pregnant
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods
  • Click here for other related health problems

The symptoms of endometriosis diminish during pregnancy. Symptoms also tend to decrease with menopause, when menstrual periods end for good.

Associated health problems

Endometriosis growths are benign (not cancerous), but they still can cause many problems. To understand why, it helps to be familiar with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Every month, hormones cause the lining of a woman’s uterus to build up with tissue and blood vessels. If a woman does not get pregnant, the uterus sheds this tissue and blood through the vagina, IE: as her menstrual period.

Patches of endometriosis also respond to the hormones produced during the menstrual cycle. But misplaced endometriosis tissue and the cells it sheds have no way of leaving the body. Trapped between layers of tissue, they cause inflammation, scar tissue, adhesions and bowel problems. These growths expand over time, adding extra tissue and blood. This is why the symptoms of endometriosis often get worse.

As endometrial tissue grows, it can cover or grow into the ovaries and block the fallopian tubes. Trapped blood in the ovaries can form cysts, or closed sacs. It also can cause inflammation and cause the body to form scar tissue and adhesions (tissue that sometimes binds organs together). This scar tissue may cause pelvic pain and make it hard for women to get pregnant. The growths can also cause problems in the intestines and bladder.

Can I reduce my chances of getting endometriosis?

Because the hormone estrogen is involved in thickening the lining of the uterus during the menstrual cycle, you can try to lower the estrogen levels in your body.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep a low amount of body fat
  • Avoid large amounts of alcohol and caffeine
  • Try to keep stress levels as low as possible
  • Balance estrogen levels naturally. Read more here.


Pelvic exam. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam to feel for large cysts or scars behind your uterus. Smaller areas of endometriosis are hard to feel.

Ultrasound. Your doctor could perform an ultrasound, an imaging test to see if there are ovarian cysts from endometriosis. During a vaginal ultrasound, the doctor will insert a wand-shaped scanner into your vagina. During an ultrasound of your pelvis, a scanner is moved across your abdomen. Both tests use sound waves to make pictures of your reproductive organs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another common imaging test that can produce a picture of the inside of your body.

Laparoscopy. The only way for your doctor to know for sure that you have endometriosis is to look inside your abdomen to see endometriosis tissue. He or she can do this through a minor surgery called laparoscopy. You will receive general anesthesia before the surgery. Then, your abdomen is expanded with a gas to make it easy to see your organs. A tiny cut is made in your abdomen and a thin tube with a light is placed inside to see growths from endometriosis. Sometimes doctors can diagnose endometriosis just by seeing the growths. Other times, they need to take a small sample of tissue and study it under a microscope.

HSG. Women with endometriosis who are struggling to get pregnant can undergo a structural study known as an HSG (hysterosalpingogram). This diagnostic test can be performed in as little as five minutes. The procedure is associated with cramping, but ibuprofen can be used to ease the pain. During the test, radiocontrast media is injected through the cervix into the uterus. An x-ray is taken to examine the internal contour of the uterus and check whether the fallopian tubes are open.


Conventional medicine states that there is no cure for endometriosis, but there are many treatments offered to deal with the pain and infertility.  A naturopathic/integrative medicine doctor will suggest a different course of action to clear up endometriosis based on diet, exercise, detox, addressing emotional stress, and/or natural progesterone.

Pain Medication. For women with mild symptoms, doctors may suggest taking over-the-counter medicines for pain. These include ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).

Hormone Treatment. When pain medicine is not enough, doctors often recommend hormone medicines to treat endometriosis. Only women who do not wish to become pregnant can use these drugs. Hormone treatment is best for women with small growths who do not have bad pain. Hormones come in many forms including pills, shots, and nasal sprays. Common hormones used for endometriosis include:

  • Birth control pills to decrease the amount of menstrual flow and prevent overgrowth of tissue that lines the uterus. Most birth control pills contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin. Once a woman stops taking them, she can get pregnant again. Stopping these pills will cause the symptoms of endometriosis to return.
  • GnRH agonists and antagonists greatly reduce the amount of estrogen in a woman’s body, which stops the menstrual cycle. These drugs should not be used alone because they can cause side effects similar to those during menopause, such as hot flashes, bone loss, and vaginal dryness. Taking a low dose of progestin or estrogen along with these drugs can protect against these side effects. When a woman stops taking this medicine, monthly periods and the ability to get pregnant return. She also might stay free of the problems of endometriosis for months or years afterward.
  • Progestins. The hormone progestin can shrink spots of endometriosis by working against the effects of estrogen on the tissue. It will stop a woman’s menstrual periods, but can cause irregular vaginal bleeding. Medroxyprogesterone (muh-DROKS-ee-proh-JESS-tur-ohn) (Depo-Provera) is a common progestin taken as a shot. Side effects of progestin can include weight gain, depressed mood, and decreased bone growth.
  • Danazol (DAY-nuh-zawl) is a weak male hormone that lowers the levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body. This stops a woman’s period or makes it come less often. It is not often the first choice for treatment due to its side effects, such as oily skin, weight gain, tiredness, smaller breasts, and facial hair growth. It does not prevent pregnancy and can harm a baby growing in the uterus. It also cannot be used with other hormones, such as birth control pills.

Surgery. Women with severe endometriosis — many growths, a great deal of pain, or fertility problems — may consider surgery. Your doctor might suggest one of the following:

  • Laparoscopy can be used to diagnose and treat endometriosis. During this surgery, doctors remove growths and scar tissue or burn them away. The goal is to treat the endometriosis without harming the healthy tissue around it. Women recover from laparoscopy much faster than from major abdominal surgery.
  • Laparotomy  or major abdominal surgery that involves a much larger cut in the abdomen than with laparoscopy. This allows the doctor to reach and remove growths of endometriosis in the pelvis or abdomen.
  • Hysterectomy is a surgery in which the doctor removes the uterus. Removing the ovaries as well can help ensure that endometriosis will not return. This is done when the endometriosis has severely damaged these organs. A woman cannot get pregnant after this surgery, so it should only be considered as a last resort.

The Natural Path. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. states: “While modern medicine insists the cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no cure, it can be relatively simple to treat and control the symptoms. The standard medical treatment involves taking synthetic hormones, such as the birth control pill, that stops menstruation and therefore stops the buildup of blood and endometrial tissue outside the uterus. But there are new ways of approaching endometriosis that are much kinder to the body and address an underlying problem that certainly relates to the condition.” To learn about turning the tables on endometriosis using alternative methods, click here or here, or speak to a naturalistic doctor for more information.


Emotional Support

You may want to consider joining a support group (online or in your community) to talk with other women who have endometriosis.

You can find out more about endometriosis by contacting womenshealth.gov at 1-800-994-9662. You also can contact the following organizations:

Endometriosis Association
Phone Number(s): (414) 355-2200
Internet Address: http://www.endometriosisassn.org

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Phone Number(s): (202) 638-5577; (202) 863-2518 (for publication requests only)
Internet Address: http://www.acog.org

Endometriosis Research Center
Phone Number(s): (561) 274-7442
Internet Address: http://www.endocenter.org

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Phone Number(s): 1-800-370-2943
TTY: 1-888-320-6942
Internet Address: http://www.nichd.nih.gov

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The Extra-Embryo Dilemma

A booming fertility business has produced millions of unused embryos, which have been cryo-preserved, or “frozen” in liquid nitrogen. This process allows patients a further chance at pregnancy if a first embryo transfer doesn’t work or if they want another child or children some years down the road. But what should you do with unused embryos when you no longer want any more children, or health issues or marital problems crop up? This is a question that finds many patients unprepared to deal with.

The Boston Globe featured an article yesterday by Alison Lobron called “The Maybe-Baby Dilemma,” which explains the factors that go into this decision, and the various options available. The fate of an embryo is a complicated and delicate subject, a source of political controversy, religious convictions, and personal angst.

Is an embryo a life, or isn’t it? Many patients care about and respect their embryos but don’t see them as children.  This is particularly true among patients who have seen their own embryos not “take,” learning firsthand that not every embryo is capable of becoming a baby.  Many fertilized eggs simply cease cell division — and are no longer viable — before freezing or transfer. Others aren’t viable after they have been thawed. Still others fail to implant in the uterus.

But even people who don’t view their embryos as “children-in-waiting” with rights that need to be protected, experience complex attitudes toward these tiny clusters of cells, feeling an emotional attachment that defies logic. Here are the options that these couples can choose from:

1. Donate the embryo to scientific research: Scientists see incredible potential in stem-cell and other kinds of research, and some donors are spurred by a desire to further a cure for diseases that they may have personally experienced. This has been a common option for people who want to do something productive with an embryo, which is valued and respected but not regarded as a child.

…But the couple liked the idea of donating to science because the husband, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, who was diagnosed with cancer in his late 20s, had been helped by medical research. “It satisfied my need to feel like these embryos we had worked so hard to create were being used productively,” says Brian.

2.  Donate it or Give it up for adoption: An agency like Nightlight Christian Adoptions of California, offers in vitro patients the chance to choose someone else to “adopt” their embryos. In this case, the embryos “parents” are able to screen families seeking embryos, and choose the family they feel the most comfortable with.  Many doctors are seeing increased interest recently in using other people’s embryos because it’s the cheapest option for patients who cannot get pregnant using their own eggs and sperm. Implanting an existing embryo typically costs less than $5,000, whereas an in vitro cycle with a sperm and egg donation can cost more than $25,000.

For Linda… thinking about the process as “adoption,” and being able to choose the family, made it more compelling. Over the span of a year, she and her husband reviewed the stories of four couples and “fell in love” with one pair… Linda’s five frozen embryos were shipped across the country, where the other family had a daughter and then, later, a son using the embryos… The two families have never met in person, but Linda thinks they will one day. Her kids refer to the other children as “our brother and sister,” and Linda and the woman she calls “the adoptive mom” often e-mail each other, seeking similarities in their children’s personalities, likes, and dislikes. With a laugh, Linda says, “What mother doesn’t love the opportunity to gush about her kids? She loves to hear my stories, whereas anyone else would be yawning.”

3. Dispose of it: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine deems it ethically acceptable to thaw and discard embryos. Typically, they go into the clinic’s bio-hazardous-waste container. Many couples have a hard time seeing potential life treated this way, while to others this is a logical end to unused and unneeded embryos.

4. Disposal Ceremonies: Often, parents feel compelled to give the embryo a more dignified ending than simply throwing it in the trash can.  Some choose a ceremony akin to a funeral for their thawed embryos.  Others choose a “compassionate transfer,” which is an embryo transfer procedure that would not result in pregnancy.  Some will wait until near menopause before they return for the transfer, while others refuse the hormones that are typically used to help the embryo implant. Some patients have even asked that the embryo be placed in the vagina instead of the uterus, where it is impossible for them to implant and grow.  It is thought that efforts like these bring emotional comfort to some patients, but can pose difficulties to fertility doctors. (For example, the time a doctor spends on this type of procedure is time not spent helping someone get pregnant.)

5. Do nothing: When the decision is just too confusing or overwhelming, some couples choose to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely.

Murray says that as a Catholic, she considers an embryo to be a life and feels she has no choice but to implant hers. At the same time, she and her husband don’t feel they can manage more children right now, financially or logistically. Yet donating the embryos to another couple feels wrong, too. “I would never give my child up for adoption,” she says… Murray’s sense of having no good options, nothing that works both for her family situation and her ethics, is not uncommon, say doctors who treat infertility patients. Some people in Murray’s predicament simply drop out of contact with the clinic… This is thought to represent “an absolute inability to decide…”

For a more in-depth discussion of the topic, see The Boston Globe’s online article. What are your thoughts on the issue of unused embryos? If it was your decision, what would you do?

The Male Biological Clock Ticks, Too

Everyone knows all about the female biological clock. But what you might be less familiar with is that when it comes to making babies, guys don’t have all the time in the world, either. It’s not as obvious becuase men have successfully fathered children all the way into old age. But male fertility decreases with age, as does the ability to father healthy children. Here are a number of things you should know about.

Men do continue to produce sperm throughout their lives, but the male biological clock affects the amount, motility and quality of sperm produced. Pregnancy etc calls attention to some of the following  factors:

  • Erectile dysfunction: Testosterone drops after a man turns 25, which can lead to weight gain, which in turn results in more estrogen and less testosterone being produced in the man’s body. Added weight, especially around the middle, can contribute to heart disease which constricts blood flow. This can lead to erectile dysfunction.
  • Sperm count: Men between the ages of 30 and 50 typically experience a 30% drop in sperm count.
  • Motility (how fast sperm swim): older sperm is 37% slower.
  • Sperm health: Older men produce sperm that is 5x as malformed as its younger counterparts.
  • Pregnancy: Research has shown that when a man is 45 and up, it takes the woman as much as five times as long to get pregnant.
  • Birth defects: Genetic conditions such as dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia increase with paternal age.

There are things a man can do, in order to help preserve his sperm. Eating healthy, exercising, avoiding smoking, steroids, and hot tubs can all help. But no matter how healthy your habits are, the clock keeps ticking. According to the NY Times, these findings should “persuade many doctors that men should not be too cavalier about postponing marriage and children.”

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Pregnancy in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s

“Is there a perfect age to have a baby?” asks Parents.com. They go on to list the pros and cons of having a baby in every child-bearing decade. Some women find themselves in their mid 30’s or early 40’s trying to conceive, becuase they were pursuing a career, waiting to find the right one to settle down with, or did not feel financially secure or emotionally prepared in their 20’s. But the truth is that the earlier you have children, the better your body will handle it and the better chance you have of a healthy baby. So think again before pushing off the baby-making another five years!

The 20’s: Ideal

The younger, the better! Today, the typical American woman gives birth around 25 years old.  (Thirty years ago the average was 21!)  Your eggs are young and therefore more likely to be healthy. This means:

  • It is generally easy to conceive now
  • You have a lower risk of birth defects
  • The chances that you’ll miscarry are minimal
  • Pregnancy is tiring, but you’ll have more energy to carry you through
  • After birth, you’ll bounce back relatively quickly
  • You have a high chance of giving birth vaginally because your body has more muscle tone in the uterus and abs. This makes pushing easier.

The cons about having kids in your 20’s? There really are none, unless you do not feel ready to have a baby. As Dr. Goldstein at Parents.com puts it, “societal norms have outpaced evolutionary ones. Younger bodies are better able to handle the physical demands of pregnancy, but you may not feel financially or psychologically prepared to be a parent at that stage,” he says.

The 30’s: In good company

In your early 30’s, pregnancy is much the same as in your 20’s. Your health, energy, fertility, and quality of eggs are still all at optimal levels. The risks of genetic defects is low and the chances of a smooth pregnancy are good.

Unfortunately, as you get older, the risks increase.

  • In your later 30’s, the odds of miscarriage are about 20%,  due to declining egg quality.
  • Your pregnancy will be monitored more closely, and you may be asked if you want to be screened for chromosomal abnormalities.

But there’s no need to panic. Many women in their late 30’s have completely normal pregnancies and healthy babies. They may also have the added luxury of financial security and the maturity needed to parent wisely.

The 40’s: Never too late!

Having a baby in your 40’s may be exhausting, but chances are you’re so happy to be pregnant you could care less! And Dr. Goldstein notes that women are a lot healthier at 40 than they were even a generation ago, “so it may not be as difficult as you expect.”

What is cause for concern, however, is the risk of birth defects.

  • The older your eggs are, the more likely it is that an embryo’s chromosomes will be improperly sorted.
  • At 40, the chances a fetus will have Down syndrome is 1 in 100.
  • This risk of chromosomal imbalance also partly explains why the risk of miscarriage stands at more than 50 percent by age 42.
  • Due to these higher risks, you may be urged to get extra testing at this stage.
  • Your doctor will also be vigilant about checking you for chronic health problems. First-time moms over 40 are 60 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure and four times more likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy than mothers in their 20s.
  • They are also eight times as likely as women in their 20s to suffer placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is implanted low in the uterus — sometimes over the cervix — impeding delivery.
  • C-sections are also more common in older moms, since they may suffer from other health problems such as fibroids, which can complicate delivery, adds Dr. Goldstein.

Although this list of “likehoods” is overwhelming, it is never too late to try.  You too may be blessed with a healthy baby, like other 40-something women have.  And if it makes you feel better, you are less likely to experience morning sickness when you’re older. Becoming a parent when you are settled, mature, and secure means you can afford to give your baby the best life has to offer.

image from it’s about love

8 Easy Fertility Boosters

Changing your lifestyle even slightly may not be exactly easy, but when considering the benefits of a healthy pregnancy, these 8 ways  to increasing fertility are not too much to ask! WebMD explores ways to raise your chances of becoming pregnant, according to fertility specialists. These are the recommended measures to try before turning to assisted reproduction:

1. For  Her: Weight Control

If you are underweight or overweight, it may take longer for your body to conceive.  According to one study, women who are overweight (BMI of 25-39) took twice as long to get pregnant. But being underweight is even worse! Having a BMI below 19 increased the time to conception fourfold.

2. For Him: Lower the heat

Wearing tight underwear or sitting on hot car seats may not affect your sperm viability, but regular sessions in the hot tub may.  Researchers have also found raised scrotal temperatures when guys use their laptops on their laps, which may harm sperm. Another study speculates that keeping your cell phone in your pants pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility. So if you want to be a dad, you might as well put the laptop on a table, and keep your cell phone out of ur pants pocket!

3. For Her: Drink in Moderation

Drinking too much coffee (more than 5 cups a day/500 mg of caffeien- including tea and soda) or too much alcohol (2 drinks a day) can impair a woman’s fertility.  Moderate coffee drinking seems to be OK, but keep it under 200 – 250 milligrams of caffeine a day. Obviously, once you become pregnant you should cut the alcohol out of your diet.

4. His & Her: No Smoking

Research shows that smoking cigarettes can impair both a woman and a man’s fertility.  In women, it affects how receptive the uterus is to the egg. In men, smoking can reduce sperm production and damage DNA. Smoking while pregnant can result in a host of potential problems including miscarriage.

5. His & Her: Timing of Sex

The “fertile window” is defined as the six-day interval ending on the day of ovulation.” And the 3 days before ovulation are when pregnancy is most likely to occur.

Patients often wait until the day of ovulation or later to have intercourse, says Richard Paulson, MD, but his advice is, “Err on the early side.”  To track ovulation, figure that it usually occurs about 14 days before your period is due. You can also use an ovulation predictor kit or the calendar method.

6. His & Her: Frequency of Sex

The more often the better! Delaying intercourse until your body is in the “fertility window” is counter-productive. After about a week of not having sex, the sperm count goes up a bit, but the motility (swimming ability) decreases. Daily lovemaking is best, but not always practical, so ever-other-day or as-often-as-you-can is also good.

7. His & Her: Check your Lubricant

Some lubricants contain spermicides, which actually decrease fertility. Even commercially available water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide, KY Jelly, and Touch may inhibit sperm motility by 60% -100% within 60 minutes of incubation.  So what to use? Canola oil, or even peanut oil, the experts suggest!

8. His & Her: Avoid Chemical Exposure

Men and women’s fertility may be harmed by exposures to pesticides, especially agricultural pesticides.  And women’s fertility can be affected by exposure to some solvents and toxins — including those used in printing businesses and dry cleaning establishments.

For more info on any of these 8 tips, visit WebMD.

feature image from focus photography.

Can fertility be affected by what you eat?

Yes, according to Pregnancy Examiner!  Lackluster nutritional habits and deficiencies may impair hormonal function and inhibit proper ovulation in women, or sperm production and viability in men, thus reducing the chances for conception.

On the journey to parenthood, fertility issues are split pretty evenly between men and women. It’s important to visit a doctor, OB/GYN or fertility specialist, who can run tests and do blood work to diagnose any underlying obstacles that need to be addressed in order to get pregnant. But in addtion to these efforts, there are dietary choices that can help boost fertility for both men and women.

Fertility Boosters for Her

Water: Staying hydrated helps maintain optimal health and proper reproductive function.

Spinach: Leafy green vegetables like spinach contain folic acid which is important for preventing birth defects and is a vital ingredient for producing viable eggs. It is also rich in antioxidants and iron.

Yellow and Orange Vegetables: Beta carotene, an antioxidant, has been shown to maintain hormonal balance and ward off miscarriage.

Broccoli and Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called DIM that helps with estrogen metabolism. They are also known to prevent fibroids and endometriosis in women.

Carrots, peas and sweet potatoes: Containing beta-carotene, these veggies help regulate the menstrual cycle, thus improving chances for conception.

Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, papaya, kiwi and cantaloupe – Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, these fruits offer healthful reproductive benefits to women trying to conceive.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products: Protein is made up of amino acids which are vital for viable egg production and for making LH and FSH, important fertility hormones. NOTE: Scientific research suggests women who get more of their protein from PLANTS and less from animal sources have fewer overall ovulatory issues.

Whole grains: Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients, such as B vitamins and iron.

Oysters: With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer, however high mercury levels from seafood have been linked to miscarriage. Think moderation.

Fertility Boosters for Him

Water – To maintain optimal health and proper reproductive functions, one must remain optimally hydrated.

Spinach* – Rich in antioxidants and full of folic acid and iron, leafy green vegetables are a vital ingredient for healthy sperm.

Red vegetables* – Containing lysopene, tomatoes are a carotenoid and are a known sperm count enhancer. 

Fruit* – Oranges contain the antioxidants glutathione and cryptoxanthin, which are associated with strong, viable, healthy sperm. Strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and papaya offer wonderful healthful benefits as well.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products (Protein) – The amino acids in protein are vital for sperm production.

Oysters – With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer. Be certain to monitor mercury levels when consuming seafood. One Dutch study cites sperm production increase by up tp 74% by using a zinc and folic acid supplement.

Vegetarian sources of protein – Beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds – Pumpkin seeds (¼ to ½ cup a day) are naturally high in zinc and essential fatty acids which are vital to healthy functioning of the male reproductive system. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein, which is also vital for optimal sperm production.

Whole grains – Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients from grains such as B vitamins and iron.

Organic foods – Switch to organic foods. Some studies suggest chemicals and pesticides used on foods can impair sperm viability.

*Studies have indicated the more fruits and produce a man consumes, the less sluggish his sperm is.

Source: Pregnancy Examiner

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