Monthly Archives: September 2008

‘Internet sperm’ founder jailed

John Gonzalez, the founding director of a controversial UK-based online company – ‘ManNotIncluded.com’, which delivered fresh sperm to women for DIY-insemination – was sentenced last week at the Wood Green Crown Court in London to sixteen months incarceration for five counts of fraudulent activities. Judge Juliet May QC said that he had ‘siphoned off thousands of
pounds’ in a ‘sustained course of fraudulent conduct’ and banned him from being a company director for five years.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) led the investigation, which uncovered shocking business practices – including one client receiving sperm in a dirty coffee canister, while two former employees describe how women were given sperm from donors with completely different characteristics than requested. Gonzalez was successfully
prosecuted for lying to officials, forging documents and falsifying debts to evade relinquishing assets to creditors while illegally embezzling those funds to support an opulent lifestyle. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent trading, one count of financial misconduct, one count of forgery and one count of perjury.
Gonzalez launched the online business June 2002 amidst stormy criticism, claiming the website was the world’s first to courier fresh sperm and insemination equipment directly to lesbian, single and medically infertile couples who paid to register on the site, charging up to £7,000 for delivery. Some critics viewed the service as a threat to the family unit and dubbed the site ‘morals not included’.
Gonzalez’s service illustrated a loophole in current UK regulation, which governs frozen gamete storage and use, but not ‘fresh’ sperm. Medical practitioners and government authorities warned that this kind of service poses a potential threat to women’s and the resulting child’s health because the fresh sperm is not screened for any diseases. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology 1990 Act requires sperm donations to be quarantined for up to 180 days for testing. Some infections such as HIV may take up to three months to incubate, meaning that an HIV test at the time of the donation may not detect the virus even though the donor might be carrying it.
The service also presented potential legal complications. Under UK law, donors whose sperm is obtained through HFEA licensed clinics are not the legal parents of any resulting offspring. However, the legal position on the parentage of children born via sperm donated outside of HFEA license is unclear.
Gonzalez maintains that ManNotIncluded.com boasted 20 pregnancies and more than 5,000 customers. In December 2004, Gonzalez illegally liquidated the company with debt totalling over £220,000 and then continued to trade under a slightly different name. Meanwhile, he embezzled £185,000 from these company accounts.

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Hair Coloring and Pregnancy

 

Most experts agree that when it comes to hair coloring, safe is better than sorry. So wait out the first trimester before heading back to the salon to retouch those roots. If your practitioner is extra cautious, he or she may advise against hair coloring during your entire pregnancy, but there’s no hard evidence that the chemicals are harmful to your baby. So if you can’t stand those roots, fix ’em. Your best bet: Stick to highlights instead of single-process color so that the chemicals don’t touch your scalp, or ask your colorist about less harsh processing (an ammonia-free base, for instance   It is extremely difficult to be sure whether anything is totally safe during pregnancy. No one wants to conduct an experiment about a potential toxin on a pregnant woman, so many times we have to rely on animal studies or incomplete information ).

 Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Pregnancy and Diabetes

In the past, women with diabetes suffered many problems during pregnancy, including a high rate of miscarriages and birth defects. Today, however, with good prenatal care and careful self-management, there’s no reason women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can’t have a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Risks involved 
While it’s common for diabetic women to have relatively trouble-free pregnancies, some risks still exist for both mother and child. In general, the more diabetic complications you’ve had before pregnancy, the more likely they’ll worsen significantly during pregnancy. Women with severe kidney and eye complications, for instance, can expect that these conditions will be aggravated by a pregnancy. The damage often reverses after delivery, but women with these conditions should discuss potential dangers with their doctors before conceiving. 

Consistently high blood glucose levels increase the chances of miscarrying or going into premature labor. They may also cause the baby’s organs to form abnormally. Historically, diabetes has been associated with a threefold increase in severe malformations. Some examples include neural tube defects (incomplete development of the brain or spinal cord), anencephaly (absence of the brain or spinal cord), and spina bifida (failure of the backbone to fuse over the spinal cord).

Women with diabetes are also more likely to have large babies, with birth weights of 9–12 pounds. This condition can cause a difficult delivery. Doctors will often induce labor a few weeks early or perform a cesarean section if the fetus seems to be too large.

 Other problems can also result. The baby may have immature lungs (respiratory distress syndrome) or low blood levels of calcium and glucose at birth.

 Getting proper care for your diabetes before you become pregnant is an important step toward having a healthy baby. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the rate of major congenital malformations in babies born to women who already had diabetes before conceiving is 5% or less when the mothers received preconception care. But for diabetic women who don’t receive preconception care, the rate jumps to 10%.

Many women with severe diabetes are opting for IVF with surrogacy. 

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Foods That Make You Fertile

Successful marathon runners know that to make it to the end of a race, good nutrition is critical — from the “I’m in training” trail mix to that carb-loading dinner the night before the big run. Like the marathoner, you can use food to boost your chances of making it to the finish line, whether it’s the qualifier race (getting pregnant) or the big event (the 40-week run).

Want to give yourself a head start before you’re even out of the gate? Food can help you get there. Just remember The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown of preconception eating.

·     The Good: Be sure you’re getting enough of these three important baby-making minerals (all can be found in a good prenatal vitamin, as well as the following foods).

·     Calcium (three servings a day) may actually boost your ability to conceive. You can find this important bone-builder (and baby-builder) not just in dairy products, but also in fortified juices, tofu and soy products (including that super-tasty snack, edamame), broccoli, leafy green vegetables, sesame seeds, and canned salmon with bones.

·     Manganese (about 2 mg a day) is important for good reproductive function — in other words, a baby-making essential. Spinach, carrots, broccoli, whole grains, nuts, bananas, and raisins are all good sources of manganese.

·     Zinc is crucial for conception — in fact, severe deficiencies can impair fertility. Get your full share (about 15 mg a day) via a supplement or by eating turkey, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, almonds, beans, wheat germ, yogurt, oatmeal, corn, eggs, fortified breads and cereals, and cooked shellfish, especially oysters. (Could that be why oysters have always been on the hot list when it comes to aphrodisiacs?)

In addition to these big three, don’t forget to get your fill of folic acid.   While it won’t make you fertile, it is critical to your baby’s health — not just in the earliest days of pregnancy but before you even conceive. You’ll find folic in spinach and other green leafies;  citrus fruits; nuts, legumes; and enriched products, such as grains and orange juice — but for insurance, take a prenatal vitamin too.

The Bad: Avoid two big fertility-busters: excessive caffeine (more than three cups of coffee a day) and alcohol (heavy drinking can impair fertility in both men and women).

The Unknown: Lots of herbal supplements and teas are billed as fertility enhancing, but it’s still too early to tell how effective — or how safe — they are. In fact, some herbs touted as conception promoting can even be dangerous to your baby if you do conceive. So be cautious with supplements — check with your practitioner before you use any of them. 

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Smoking damages female fertility

Heavy smoking may reduce a woman’s fertility by directly affecting the uterus, the results of a new study indicate.

According to a team of European researchers, it has long been known that smoking affects female fertility. However this is believed to be the first study to show that the habit actually damages the lining of the uterus, making it less receptive and reducing the chances that an embryo will implant itself in the wall of the womb.

The study looked at the impact of women who had received donated oocytes – the cells from which eggs develop. According to the researchers, this situation allows the most objective assessment of the role of the uterus in the outcome of IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

 They looked at IVF treatments carried out at a clinic between early 2002 and June 2005 – 741 of these were in non-heavy smokers (less than 10 cigarettes a day) and 44 were in heavy smokers (over 10 a day). None of the women’s partners were smokers and none of the oocyte donors were heavy smokers.

The researchers found that ‘heavy smokers have a much lower chance of achieving pregnancy’. However in those who did become pregnant, the multiple pregnancy rate was higher.

“The fact that we see this result in a situation in which the oocytes were donated by other women demonstrates that cigarette smoking negatively affects the receptiveness of the uterus independently of its effect on ovarian function and this is a new finding”, explained lead researcher, Dr Sergio Soares.

He suggests that heavy smoking ‘disrupts the stability of cells in the lining of the uterus differently in some women or triggers a response in the embryo itself’.

“This could result in a reduced general pregnancy rate overall, but an increased chance of multiple pregnancy in those who do become pregnant”, he explained.

He added that while more research is needed in this area, patients who are heavy smokers should be told that even if fertilisation takes place, they have ‘less chance of achieving a successful pregnancy, whether they are trying to conceive naturally or through IVF’.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Many women would ask a male friend to father their child

A survey of 3,103 men and women, has found that 45 per cent of women surveyed would consider asking a male friend to father their child in the absence of a suitable partner.

The report by the company reveals that both men and women have concerns about fertility issues, with two thirds of the women polled that were not in current relationships expressing doubts over their ability to conceive naturally, and 26 per cent of men voicing similar concerns.

The most intriguing trend to come out of the survey was women’s willingness to consider alternative means to conception in the absence of a suitable partner. Women between the ages of 28 and 31 were most likely to entertain the idea of turning to a male friend in absence of a partner, while half of the single female survey respondents thought about meeting a partner on a frequent basis. Many women questioned also made it clear that they would consider a ‘second best’ option in the event that they were unable to find their ‘ideal’ partner.

Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos commented on the changing social norms of parenting, which were challenging the conventional nuclear family unit. She stated that ‘reconstituted families, same sex families, and single parents are much more prevalent these days, and rather than ascribing to the ‘norm’ it seems that women and men are more flexible with their definition of ‘family”.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Uterus Size May Predict Risk for Premature Twins After IVF

The size of a woman’s uterus can predict whether she is at risk of having very premature twins after IVF treatment, researchers have discovered.

IVF is a treatment given to women to increase their chances of getting pregnant. During treatment, a woman is given drugs to stimulate ovulation and her eggs are removed from the ovaries. The eggs are then combined with sperm in a laboratory, before being implanted back into the woman.

This new French study claims that by using ultrasound to measure the height of a woman’s uterus, doctors can predict whether or not she is at risk of having babies born prematurely if she becomes pregnant with twins after IVF.

The findings could help medical professionals and women make objective decisions about how many embryos should be transferred in one IVF attempt. 

“Twin pregnancies account for between a quarter and a third of pregnancies obtained during IVF, and 8% of them are complicated by the babies being born extremely premature, leading to medical complications and sometimes foetal mortality,” said Dr Raphaël Hirt of the Hôpital Antoine Béclère, Paris. 

Dr Hirt added that for this reason, single embryo transfer is promoted as the best way of avoiding twin pregnancies. However, in some cases, this can alter the overall likelihood of pregnancy.

“An evaluation of a woman’s individual risk of perinatal adverse outcomes from a twin pregnancy may help to select those women who have a lower risk of having twins born severely prematurely, and who could consider a double embryo transfer if that is what they want,” Dr Hirt advised. 

Women who already have children are less likely to give birth prematurely, probably because the uterine cavity has been distended by previous pregnancies. 

Dr Hirt and his team decided to see whether the height of the uterus, as measured by transvaginal ultrasound (a process called hysterosonometry or HSM) could predict the outcome of twin pregnancies after IVF.

The team measured the uteruses of 79 women who were receiving IVF treatment, dividing them into three groups according to uterus size. 

Women with the smallest uteruses (group one) were significantly more likely to have babies born severely premature, with an increased number of foetal deaths. The average gestational age of babies born in group one was just 33.7 weeks, compared to an average age of 37.5 weeks for the other two groups.   

There were seven foetal deaths in the first group compared with one in the second group and none in the third group. Six of the deaths in the first group were linked to being born prematurely, while the one death in the second group was not.

“This is the first time that uterine length has been used to predict which women are more likely to have twins born prematurely. Our results show that HSM is a reliable and non-invasive method for predicting twin-related severe prematurity and neonatal mortality,” said Dr Hirt. 

HSM can be used before conception to help with objective decision making about the number of embryos to transfer. 

Dr Hirt advised that for women with a HSM measurement of less than 62mm, a single embryo transfer is indicated, but in those with a longer uterine cavity, a double embryo transfer can be considered, if it is acceptable to the patients. 

He stressed that transvaginal ultrasound is a common, easy and inexpensive examination. Furthermore, it is already practiced in many fertility clinics and would not increase IVF costs. 

“Although we suggest that further, larger studies should be conducted, we believe that even with the restricted number of patients in our study, the results are dramatically significant and HSM could be included in the criteria that clinics currently use when advising about the number of embryos to transfer,” he concluded. 

Dr Hirt and his team will be using HSM as new criteria and will be studying whether this results in a significant decrease in foetal mortality. 

They are also planning to study the impact of a short uterine cavity on singleton pregnancies, to see whether it could help to identify those women who will need intensive neonatal care.

The research was presented at the 24th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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