Fertility and pregnancy
A common growth-promoting hormone used worldwide in the cattle industry has been found to affect the sexual behaviours of fish at a very low concentration in waterways - with potentially serious ecological and evolutionary consequences.
Researchers from Monash University, Australia in collaboration with researchers from Åbo Akademi University in Finland, have found that the steroid 17β-trenbolone - used on livestock to increase muscle growth - alters male reproductive behaviour in guppy fish (Poecilia reticulata).
This androgenic growth promoter is part of a group of contaminants called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that enter the environment through a variety of sources - from discharge of household waste to agricultural run-off and industrial effluent.
Using trenbolone in livestock farming has been banned in the EU. However, in Denmark, researchers have measured high concentrations of it in gym sewage. Trenbolone is popular among bodybuilders. Trenbolone is used for example in the United States, Argentina and Australia.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up preliminary appeals brought by Roman Catholic groups that want an exemption from part of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception.
The cases were brought by a series of Roman Catholic-affiliated nonprofit groups based in Washington, D.C., including Catholic University.
The legal issue is different from one involving for-profit companies that also object on religious grounds to the so-called contraception mandate, which was argued before the high court last week.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the two cases at this stage means that the federal appeals court in Washington will proceed to decide the issue. If the groups lose, they would have another chance to seek Supreme Court review.
Democratic Governor Mike Beebe on Tuesday vetoed a bill to ban most abortions in Arkansas at 20 weeks into pregnancy, though state lawmakers can override his decision with a simple majority vote.
The measure, which had been approved by an 80 to 10 vote in the state House and by a 25 to 7 vote in the state Senate, would provide exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life. It is one of several bills introduced by Republicans this year seeking to restrict abortion. This is the first time the party has controlled both chambers since the Reconstruction era.
Beebe said in his veto letter that because it “would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion before viability, (the bill), if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent.”
Arkansas currently limits abortions after 25 weeks.
Women who are desperately trying to get pregnant might want to avoid complementary and alternative medicine.
The common belief is that it won’t hurt to try alternative fertility treatments before reverting to in vitro fertilization (IVF). But a new study from Denmark finds that the success of IVF treatment is 30% lower among women who have used alternative medicine. The researchers included over 700 IVF users over a 12-month period. Women who had first tried a combination of alternative treatments, such as reflexology, acupuncture, or herbal- and aroma therapy, had significantly lower pregnancy rates after IVF treatment.
Alex Polyakov and Beverley Vollenhoven of the Faculty of 1000 Medicine emphasize the relevance of the study for IVF clinics. “It is important, when discussing IVF treatment with couples, that their use of alternative therapies is also discussed, as this may have a bearing on treatment success.”
Frida Kahlo’s many haunting self-portraits have been studied by experts for decades, have attracted worldwide attention and have sold for millions of dollars at auction. Yet, despite the fact that Kahlo’s work focuses largely on anatomy and failed reproduction attempts, relatively little attention has been paid to Kahlo’s own body and infertility.
Intrigued by the messages manifested in Kahlo’s work and surprised by the apparent lack of interest by scientists in Kahlo’s clinical condition, Fernando Antelo, a surgical pathologist at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center, set out to reassess the condition that caused Kahlo’s infertility and inspired some of her greatest pieces.
“While art historians and journalists have written extensively on Kahlo’s life and artwork, there is a lack of scientific comment by physicians - who have written only a handful of papers on her health,” Antelo explained. “To add a twist of irony, none of these medical papers have focused on Kahlo’s infertility.”
A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help.
A new analysis, published online in the journal Pharmacological Research, noted that previous studies on the potential for antioxidants to help address this serious and growing problem have been inconclusive, but that other data indicates nutritional therapies may have significant potential.
The researchers also observed that infertility problems are often an early indicator of other degenerative disease issues such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. The same approaches that may help treat infertility could also be of value to head off those problems, they said.
The post-war trend of falling birth rates has been reversed across Europe, according to a new study. However, despite an increasing emphasis on family and fertility policies in Europe, this recent development involves social, cultural and economic factors more than individual policy interventions.
For some decades, couples have been having children later in life. But birth-rates among younger women have stabilised and the long-term trend towards lower fertility rates has been reversed.
Politicians are still left to grapple with problems associated with an ageing population as Europeans live longer and birth rates remain below the level needed to dramatically change the balance between young and older people.
Babies born by in vitro fertilization (IVF) do not face an increased risk of birth defects, nor are they at greater risk of being smaller than normal, according to a study conducted in Japan.
But the researchers did find that women pregnant via IVF were more likely than those who conceived naturally to develop a pregnancy complication called placenta previa, in which the placenta blocks the opening to the birth canal.
Some studies comparing babies born through IVF and those conceived naturally have found worse outcomes for the IVF infants, including higher rates of birth defects and greater likelihood of low birth weight, Mai Fujii of the World Health Organization in Geneva and her colleagues note in their report.
Cancer treatment has come a long way, leading to a multitude of therapy options and improved survival rates. These successes, however, have created a challenge for young cancer patients since chemotherapy and radiation treatments that often save lives threaten fertility. Techniques available to safeguard fertility, such as freezing eggs for later embryo development, have poor odds of success, leaving patients with very limited options for the future. But that is beginning to change as researchers improve current techniques, mature human eggs in the laboratory, and discover cellular mechanisms that could help preserve and even restore fertility. Researchers will report on these and other findings at the 42nd annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR), July 18 to 22, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
Summaries of the findings are as follows:
Growing Egg Cells in the Lab
Researchers at Northwestern University are developing a method they hope will help preserve a woman’s fertility after radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Led by Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., the team has grown undeveloped human eggs to near maturity in laboratory cultures. During a 30-day experiment, they grew human follicles―tiny sacs that contain immature eggs―in the lab until the eggs they contained were nearly mature. According to Dr. Woodruff, this is the first step in developing a new fertility option for young cancer patients.
A substantial number of European patients travel to other countries for fertility treatment, both because they think that they will receive better quality care abroad and in order to undergo procedures that are banned in their home country says a study of the subject launched at the 25th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology today (Monday June 29). Study co-ordinator Dr. Françoise Shenfield, from University College Hospital, London, UK, said that this was the first hard evidence of considerable fertility patient migration within Europe. “Until now we have only had anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon”, she said. “We think that our results will be of considerable value to patients, doctors, and policymakers.”
During a one-month period, the ESHRE Task Force analysed data from participating clinics in six European countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. Clinics were asked to provide questionnaires to patients coming from abroad for treatment. The questionnaires asked about their age, country of residence, reasons for travelling to another country for treatment, which treatment they had received, whether they had received information in their own language, how they had chosen the centre they were attending, and whether they had received reimbursement from their home country’s health system. 1230 forms were completed and returned.
“This may not seem to be a very high number”, said Dr. Shenfield, “but it reflects only one month of events in a limited number of centres in six countries. The total number of treatment cycles per year can be estimated by extrapolating our monthly data to a year and by assuming that the centres represent no more than half of the centres in each of the countries studied. This leads to an estimate of at least 20 000 to 25 000 cross-border treatment cycles per year in these countries. It is, however, difficult to derive a number of patients from these numbers as patients receive more than one cycle to obtain a pregnancy, the mean number depending on the type of treatment.”
Even after highly concentrated cancer treatment of the ovaries, long-term ovarian function and fertility can be restored by repeated ovarian transplant with tissue taken from the patient before treatment, researchers in Korea and the US report in the current issue Fertility and Sterility.
In frozen ovarian tissue, a lack of oxygen after ovarian grafting causes a substantial loss of follicles, shortening the life span of the tissue, so repeated transplantation may be required, Dr. S. Samuel Kim at the University of Kansas, Kansas City, and his co-investigators note.
Until now, the authors note, no successful pregnancies after transplantation have been reported.
Obese women have alterations in the environment around the ovary before they ovulate that appear to play a role in the well-documented association between obesity and reduced fertility, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“Characteristics of eggs are influenced by the environment in which they develop within the ovary,” lead author Dr. Rebecca Robker, from Adelaide University, Australia, said in a statement. “Our study found that obese women have abnormally high levels of fats and inflammation in the fluid surrounding their eggs, which can impact an egg’s developmental potential.”
The prevalence of depression and anxiety among patients with polycystic ovary syndrome is high and warrants routine screening and aggressive treatment, investigators report in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
In a previous study, Dr. Anuja Dokras, at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues identified high rates of depression (35 percent) among women with PCOS, substantially higher than the 10.7 percent rate among the comparison subjects. The current report is a follow-up to that study to determine the persistence of mood disorders and the incidence of new mood disorders.
Sixty of the original 103 women participated in the second survey, conducted an average of 22 months after the first survey.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newest statistics on US births show that preterm births continue to rise, while C-sections accounted for 31.1 percent of births in 2006-an all-time high.
Since 1990, there has been a 20 percent increase in the percentage of babies born preterm, or before 37 weeks gestation. Most of this rise has been driven by so-called “late-preterm” births, or infants born between 34 and 36 weeks’ gestation, Joyce A. Martin and colleagues from the CDC’s Division of Vital Statistics note in the January 7 issue of National Vital Statistics Reports.
There were nearly 4.3 million babies born in the US in 2006, the report shows, the largest number in more than four decades. While the Healthy People 2010 set a goal of 7.6 percent of babies born preterm, the actual 2006 number was far higher, with 12.8 percent of babies born before 37 weeks in the womb.
Strategies introduced in the late 1980s for protecting fertility in patients undergoing cancer treatment may have indeed helped boost reproduction rates modestly among survivors of certain types of cancer, new research from Norway suggests.
However, overall, female cancer survivors remain about half as likely as women who had never been diagnosed with the disease to have a child within the 10 years following their diagnosis, the researchers found. For male cancer survivors, reproduction rates were about 30 percent lower than among their healthy peers.
“There is much left to be done to improve post-diagnosis reproduction, in particular in women,” Dr. Sophie Dorothea Fossa of The Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo and her colleagues conclude in a report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.