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infertility problems and solutions

Sept 15th 2017

Nearly half a million people in the UK are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every year. But what many don't realise is that some STIs can affect your fertility. In fact, as many as a quarter of all infertility cases are thought to be linked to an STI.

Here are some common issues associated with STI's and fertility:

1.Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection in the upper genital tract and can be either asymptomatic or symptomatic. It is a serious condition because it can permanently damage the uterus and the fallopian tubes. However, if PID is mild and treated early, your chances of conceiving are high. Sadly, if you have severe PID or it goes untreated, the chances of your tubes becoming blocked are higher. It's estimated that one in five women with PID have fertility problems.

2.Chlamydia and gonorrhoea

Both infections present absolutely no obvious symptoms at all, so you might not even realise that you're infected. Therefore, it's extremely important to get tested regularly - the longer you're infected with chlamydia or gonorrhoea, the greater the likelihood that these infections will damage your fallopian tubes and future fertility. It also means that you may be inadvertently infecting a partner, impacting their future fertility as well.


In most cases, the herpes virus does not affect either a woman or a man's ability to conceive. However, the biggest detriment that herpes will have on a couple's fertility is the need to abstain from intercourse during an outbreak in either partner. This can limit their chances of conceiving depending on how long the outbreak is and how often they experience 'flare ups'.

4.Male infertility

The negative impact of chlamydia on male infertility is often underestimated. Chlamydia in men can damage sperm and cause scarring in the reproductive tract (which can lead to permanent infertility). It is estimated around 25 - 50% of all male chlamydia cases go completely unnoticed.

5. Fallopian tube damage

Scarring or damage to the fallopian tubes can cause what is referred to as "tubal infertility

": Many cases of tubal disease are caused by infection such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Scarred and damaged fallopian tubes can prevent sperm from reaching and fertilising the egg. If an egg does get fertilised, blocked tubes can also keep that fertilised egg from reaching the uterus. This can increase your odds of having an ectopic pregnancy - when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube wall, rather than in the uterus wall.

Dr Venket is the director at Harley Street Fertility Clinic

Sept 14th 2017

When online pharmacy Chemist 4 U revealed that they would be selling the morning after pill to women for just £4.99 per pack, the news polarised opinions.

Initially, the UK website was praised for its progressive move – being the first to make the pill available to buy online at such an affordable price tag.

However, campaigners on reproductive ethics have been quick to condemn the initiative, explaining that the accessibility presents the morning-after pill as custom contraception, when doctors advise only taking it in emergencies.

The online retailer is offering customers the opportunity to bulk buy a generic version of Levonelle, a well-known form of the morning-after pill.

Women will be able to buy as many as three packs of the pill in six months – whereas it has previously only ever been sold individually, after in-store consultations at high street pharmacies.

In some cases, the pill can be obtained for free on the NHS and at some sexual health clinics.

Now all it takes is an online form which is reviewed by a Chemist 4 U medic before distributing the drug at what Josephine Quintavelle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, calls “pocket money prices,” reports The Telegraph.

She explained that the low price tag raises moral concerns as it misleadingly normalises the act of taking the morning after pill so that it becomes all-too-casual a process when in fact, taking the pill, particularly more than a few times, comes with a slew of risks.

Experts have always strongly advised that women shouldn’t take it on a regular basis, though some have argued that Chemist 4 U’s “advanced supply” initiative inadvertently advocates doing so.

"They sell the product as an 'advance' purchase, ensuring a customer has a product on their shelf in case of emergencies," a spokesperson for Chemist 4 U told The Independent.

“We always advise women in an emergency situation, to go to their nearest pharmacy that day, rather than waiting a day to receive it from an online pharmacy," explained Chemist 4 U's managing director, Shamir Patel.

"However our belief is, an advanced supply from us avoids the panic in the unlikely event of barrier method failure. We advise all patients that EHC should not be used as a regular contraceptive method,” he said.

The initiative comes after Boots and Superdrug drastically reduced prices of the pill sold in store – with Superdrug’s dropping from £27 to £13.49. Tesco also sell it for £13.50.

However, the price reductions were not without controversy either. Initially, after the British Pregnancy Advisory Service urged high street retailers to drop prices of the morning after pill, Boots refused, claiming that it would encourage women to “abuse” it and that it might promote “inappropriate use.”

Alas, Boots ultimately retracted their claims and reduced the price of the pill from £26 to £15.99.

Aug 26th 2017

Flame-retardant chemicals used on furniture and other products could be making women infertile, a new study suggests.

Researchers in the US found more than 80 per cent of women having fertility treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital had traces of three types of chemicals known as PFRs in their urine.

And those with high levels of the chemicals were 38 per cent less likely to have a child after a cycle of IVF treatment than those with low levels.

While the study does not prove the chemicals are causing infertility, it highlights a possible link.

One of the researchers, Dr Courtney Carignan, said: “These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success.”

“They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”

And her colleague at Harvard Unviversity’s school of public health, Professor Russ Hauser, said the evidence was strong enough to make prospective parents think about trying to avoid exposure to the chemicals.

“Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free,” he said.

PFRs were introduced as flame retardants as a supposedly safer alternative to PentaBDE after evidence of its adverse health effects.

However concern has been growing about PFRs – organophosphate flame retardants – which are used in polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture, baby products and gym mats, for example. They can spread from furniture into the air and dust of rooms.

This adds to something of a cocktail of hormone-disrupting chemicals in modern houses, a problem that can be exacerbated by a lack of effective ventilation. Pesticides and phthalates, which are used to make plastic more flexible in a whole host of products, have also been linked with reproductive problems.

Commenting on the new study, Professor Richard Anderson, an expert in clinical reproductive science at Edinburgh University, said: “There is growing concern that the chemicals we are all exposed to may have an impact on fertility, but direct evidence of impact in men and women has often been limited.

“This carefully conducted study analysed chemicals from flame retardants in urine from women having IVF, and found that the chemicals were detected in most women.

“Worryingly, higher concentrations of these chemicals were associated with substantial reductions in the success of IVF, with a lower chance of having a baby.”

He said this method of studying the effects of chemicals on fertility was a good one.

“Studying couples having IVF is a powerful way of carrying out analyses such as this, as it allows each of the steps in conception and pregnancy to be examined, which isn’t possible in natural conception,” he said.

“While this study doesn’t prove that these chemicals are the cause of the lower success rate, it provides a firm basis for further experiments to investigate them.

“It also provides strong support for the need to regulate our exposure to chemicals and test their potential impact on fertility.”

Professor Allan Pacey, of Sheffield University, said the data obtained by the Harvard researchers “seems fairly convincing” and supported the idea of “a link between a woman’s exposure to these flame-retardant chemicals and her chances of getting pregnant”.

However, he also stressed that it did not prove this.

“We should be sensitive to the fact that the urinary metabolite concentration of these chemicals in this study could be a surrogate marker for another aspect of the woman’s lifestyle that is actually causing the effect observed,” he added.

“Ultimately, we need to keep our lives safe from fire and so before men and women undergoing IVF throw away their yoga mats, I think we need a bit more data in larger populations and in various parts of the world.

“We also need some more details about the likely mechanism by which these chemicals could be causing such an effect.”

A paper about the study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

April 19th 2017

The contraceptive pill can reduce the general well-being of healthy women, a study has claimed.

Researchers at the Karolinka Institutet in Sweden and the Stockholm School of Economics studied 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35. The women were either given prescriptions for a combined contraceptive pill containing ethniylestradoil and levonorgestrel (the most common type of contraceptive pill in the country and many others) or a placebo pill.

Neither group knew which pill they were taking but the women who were given contraceptive pills estimated their quality of life to be “significantly lower” than those taking the placebos. The women said their general well-being, along with their moods, self-control and energy levels, were all negatively affected by the pill.

However, despite these side effects the study suggested there was no significant increase in depressive symptoms.

The researchers emphasised that as the changes were relatively small, the results must be interpreted with caution but said the negative effects on the quality of life in individual women may be of clinical importance.

“This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills,” the study’s co-author Niklas Zethraeus said. “This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunctions with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception.”

The authors said the findings could not be generalised to other kinds of combined contraceptive pills as they may have a different risk profile and side-effects.

Last year, a particularly large study suggested a link between women who take the pill and an increased risk of developing depression. The study analysed one million Danish women and found the combined oral contraceptive increased the risk of a woman aged between 20 and 34 being prescribed antidepressants by 23 per cent. For teenage women aged between 15 and 19, the risk of depression was 80 per cent and 120 per cent for those taking the progestogen-only pill (mini pill).

April 11th 2017

A man who froze his sperm more than two decades ago before having twins with his partner has claimed a world record.

The Scottish musician, who did not want to be named, had his sperm frozen when he was 21 before starting chemotherapy treatment for cancer, as doctors warned him he would become infertile.

After his sperm was kept in cold storage for 26 years and 243 days, his partner underwent in-vitro fertilisation in 2010.

“It’s quite a big deal for a woman to take that on,” he told The Times.

The couple gave birth to a girl and a boy the following year. He was 47, and his partner was 37.

Now 54, he knew he held a world record, but did not want to go public.

The previous world record holder, Alex Powell, had his sperm frozen for 23 years and the story was reported around the globe. He was also about to undergo chemotherapy.

But the musician learnt he could be listed anonymously in the Guinness Book of Records, and he agreed to speak to one newspaper to highlight how long sperm can be frozen and used to produce healthy children.

“For people going through chemotherapy, they should keep hope," he said.

Marco Gaudoin, director of the GCRM medical clinic where the treatment took place, said that frozen sperm could theoretically be stored “indefinitely”.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority claims sperm can be frozen for more than 40 years, but not all sperm survive the process.

It has to be frozen for at least six months before it can be used for treatment, to screen the donor for infections.

Sept 26th 2016

Women in UK can now use an app dubbed 'order a daddy' to pick a sperm donor

A mobile app has been launched that allows women to select a sperm donor based on characteristics including race, nationality and eye colour.

London Sperm Bank Donors, dubbed the "order a daddy" app, allows users to narrow down their search and browse through potential fathers and create a "wish list" alert that informs them when a donor with their desired characteristics becomes available.

The search function on the app provides a list of potential fathers - titled by number such as "Donor 1000" and Donor 1004" - with their physical characteristics listed below.

The user can then choose to "Find out more", which brings up more detailed information about the donor, including medical information, personality and a written description of their characteristics.

The description gives an insight into what the donor is like. One states: "Pleasant, charming and easy to get on with, this donor was a cheerful intellectual teeming with positivity," while another reads: "He is a well mannered, well spoken and very likeable individual".

Applicants listed are from a wide range of professions including law, medicine, finance, engineering, hospitality, the performing arts and creative work.

Users can buy a donor's sperm sample by making payment of £950 via the app, and the sample is then delivered to the fertility clinic where the woman is being treated.

The app, which promotes itself as a way to "Plan your family on the go", is legal and meets the requirements of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the IVF regulator. About half of Britain's IVF clinics are said to have registered to use the service.

Critics have claimed the app trivialisesparenthood. JosephineQuintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, told The Times: “How much further can we go in the trivialisation of parenthood?

“This is reproduction via the mobile phone. It's digital dads. Choose Daddy. This is the ultimate denigration of fatherhood.”

But Dr Kamal Ahuja, scientific director of the London Sperm Bank, said the app was in keeping with the rise in online transactions, saying: “You make all the transactions online, like you do anything else these days.

"This allows a woman who wants to get a sperm donor to gain control in the privacy of her own home and to choose and decide in her own time. We think this is the first of its kind in the world.”

Sept 14th 2016

Smallest baby

A little girl born with feet the size of a fingernail is being hailed as the world's smallest surviving premature baby.

Emilia Grabarczyk was only 8.6 inches (22cm) long and weighed 8 ounces (229 grams) when she was born at a hospital in the western German city of Witten nine months ago.

Her tiny foot was only 1.2 inches (3cm) long.

In comparison, a large banana weighs about 7 ounces while an orange is 6 ounces.

Doctors have described her as the "little fighter" and her survival as a "medical sensation" while German media said she was the lightest premature baby ever born in the world.

The early birth was followed by a period of uncertainty. Emilia was born so early that it led to subsequent complications.

There was an increased risk of hyperactivity and learning difficulties. Emilia even survived abdominal surgery at a weight of just 12 ounces.

Yet luckily for the girl, there are no signs of serious disability.

She was initially fed with a tiny tube. The doctors used a cotton bud soaked in sugar water to soothe her and relieve pains.

Her birth at the Maria Hospital came after doctors decided with her parents Lukas, 34, and Sabine, 30, to deliver the baby by Caesarean section at the 26th week of pregnancy.

The record for the smallest baby was said to be held by Rumaisa Rahman, who was born in the Loyola University Medical Centre in the US city of Chicago in 2004 when her mum was only 25 weeks pregnant.

At birth, Rumaisa was 8 inches tall and weighed 8.6 ounces.

Professor Dr Sven Schiermeier, chief physician of obstetrics, said that Emilia would have died in the womb if they hadn't delivered her early as the placenta was not sufficient for her nutrition.

For comparison, the doctor said that usually a foetus in the 26th week of pregnancy would have weighed around 21 ounces.

For Lukas and Sabine, there was no question as to whether they would give the child a chance even if the odds for survival were low.

"There were many difficult days and many tears, but she clearly wanted to survive," the mother said.

Right now, Emilia weighs 106 ounces and seems to be in much better physical condition.

Dr. Bahman Gharavi, Head of Children and Youth Clinic at the hospital, said the Emilia's birth was truly unique.

The doctor said that the survival of the baby was only possible thanks to the joint effort of paediatricians, gynaecologists and paediatric surgeons.

"Even children with a birth weight of 14 ounces rarely survive. We have to thank Emilia as well for her own survival," he said.

"She is a little fighter.

"For more than six months, it was unclear whether she would survive. Only in recent weeks she is getting more robust."

Infertility is a very worrying problem for couples who are trying to increase their family but are being unsuccessful for no apparent reason, and it’s not very reassuring when your friends and family say that as soon as you stop worrying about it then it will happen, but there’s a lot truth in that, the wondrous thing that happens when a baby is conceived will only happen when your body decides that you are relaxed enough for motherhood.

Have you ever wondered why female has two ovaries, and are they the same? do they both produce an egg every month? this is unlikely or there would be more twins in the world, they do take turns at releasing an egg? yes they do and what happens if one of the ovaries is not functioning for some reason, does that mean you only get one chance every two months? yes it does. As you can see it’s a very complicated subject that produces more questions than answers.

The first step is a very thorough examination by your medical expert to see if there’s any obvious reason why you are not clicking, if there is nothing obviously wrong with you then will have to consider the health of your partner, if the sperm sample he produces has no obvious defects then will have to turn our attention to the technique and mechanics of your mating.

It is not a good idea to refrain from sex until the particular day that you have calculated to be your best time, there are several reasons for this firstly making this day special increases your stress level and that’s not a good thing if you are trying to be relaxed, it should be a stress free, every day event, well perhaps not every day, there are a few people with that much drive and stamina.

Then we have to consider the health of the little swimmers, there are constantly being produced and if they are not used the body reabsorbs them if they have nowhere to go, it’s obviously much better to use a supply of the freshly produced sperm and frequent ejaculation ensurers that what you’re getting is top quality, or at least as good as it gets.

Apparently female orgasm does not come into this calculation according to Masters and Johnson who have stated there is no indication that this helps the actual conception, or as a state in their book there is no indication of upsuck.

Also interesting

Australian scientists are designing a condom that actually feels goodReplacing latex with prosthetic skin.


It's no secret that a lot of people don't enjoy using condoms. Sure, we appreciate their disease- and pregnancy-preventing benefits, but let's be upfront about the fact that no one really likes to wear them.But there's hope, because scientists at the University of Wollongong in Australia are working with an ultra-tough material called hydrogel that could be used to create condoms that can feel even better than nothing at all.Hydrogels are strong and flexible solids that have been used for decades, but have more recently been engineered to have a range of different properties. One of the most promising is the fact they can be made to feel and act like human tissue, and are already being widely used in prosthetics to create things such as blood vessels and even eye implants.But the Australian team, led by materials scientist Robert Gorkin, decided to take things one step further, and investigate whether hydrogel could replace latex to create condoms that people actually want to use (no offence, latex).University of WollongongThey entered the idea in a recent Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation call-out for a Next Generation Condom, and won one of 52 grants on offer, giving them access to US$100,000 to research the viability of their hydrogel condoms. Nine months on, and things are looking extremely promising, with the material not only able to physically act like a condom, but also able to block biological material.“Our original idea was just to try to prove that an original material could replace latex," Gorkin told ScienceAlert. "We were starting from scratch, we had an idea that these new materials would have the same properties as rubber with a nicer feel, but we weren't sure if they had the right properties for a condom."“The early indications are that the materials are strong enough and actually do prevent against the transfer of small biological molecules," he said. You can see some of their durability tests in action below:Even more impressive is the fact that hydrogels can be engineered to perform all kinds of different functionalities, such as self-lubrication, topical drug delivery, biodegradability and even electric conductivity. For example, imagine a condom that delivers its own dose of Viagra, or responds to stimulation just like human skin. Depending on how you fabricate the material, you can potentially open up a whole new world of pleasure.The team is not just relying on their own opinions on what feels good, however, they're now partnering with Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, to conduct biometric testing that will be able to measure the body's response to the material."We'll be able to look at brain activity to see whether it really feels better than latex," explained Gorkin. "If you make them so pleasurable that people can't wait to put them on, then more people will use them, and we can hopefully stop the spread of disease. It's as simple as that."University of WollongongThe next step is to prove that hydrogel is a potential material for the Gates Foundation Next Generation of condoms, and receive the next round of funding to start making and testing them more broadly. Of course, the aim is to one day be able to create something that does what no condom has been able to do yet - improve uptake and regular use.Although a lot of the focus is on regions such as sub-Saharan African and southeast Asia, the outcome would be just as important in countries such as the US, which, despite having plenty of access to birth control, has the highest rates of accidental pregnancies and HIV transmission in the developed world.Gorkin also wants to look beyond the science and make sure that cultural and social needs for birth control influence how they design their condom. "It's a branding exercise as much as a scientific one," said Gorkin. "A material alone can't change the way we look at sex, but we believe it can definitely help."We're already sold - bring on the future of birth control.

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