Monthly Archives: December 2008

Vitamin D Deficit in Pregnancy Tied to Caesarean Risk

Vitamin D deficiency greatly increases a pregnant woman’s likelihood of having a Caesarean delivery, U.S. researchers report.

During the two-year study, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center researchers examined the relationship between vitamin D levels in pregnant women and Caesarean section. Of the 253 women in the study, 43 (17 percent) had a Caesarean section.

pregnant_vit-d2The study found that 28 percent of women with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25 (OH) D] less than 37.5 nmol/L had a Caesarean section, compared to 14 percent of women with 25 (OH) D greater than 37.5 nmol/L.

“In our analysis, pregnant women who were vitamin D-deficient at the time of delivery had almost four time the odds of Caesarean birth than women who were not deficient,” study author Dr. Michael Holick, director of the General Clinical Research Center, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics, and an assistant professor of medicine, said in a medical center news release.

He noted that previous research has linked vitamin D deficiency with proximal muscle weakness and suboptimal muscle performance and strength, which may help explain the findings.

The study was published online in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.


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All I Need For Christmas….. Is Jews!!!!

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Our First Astronaut Returns To India On Christmas Day


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Single men turning to surrogates

NEW YORK (CNN) — Jeff Walker says from as far back as he can remember, he always wanted to be a father.


Walker decided to father a second child through surrogacy after he and his parner split. The result: Alexandra.picture-1

“It was always something I knew, from the time I was a child.” Just like his 3-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who says she wants to be a mommy someday, Jeff says, “I knew I wanted to be a daddy.”

Walker, a Manhattan music executive, says he and his partner had talked about adopting a baby years ago. But after three emotionally draining, failed attempts at adoption, they decided to turn to surrogacy. They contacted Circle Surrogacy, a Boston agency that specializes in gay clients. Their child was conceived with a donor egg, and then the embryo implanted in the surrogate, or carrier.

After Elizabeth was born, Walker and his partner separated. He then made a critical decision — to become a dad again, single, and by choice.

“I realized my family, my two-dad family was going to look different than I thought it was going to look,” he said. Without a partner, he would face even steeper challenges raising Elizabeth and a sibling alone. Walker says he gave the decision a lot of thought.

“That was the only part that was really controversial, because I do think there are a lot of challenges that single parents face, but at the same time I felt I was capable of handling those challenges,” he said.

His second daughter, Alexandra, was born two years ago to the same surrogate, implanted with an egg from a different donor.

Walker, 45, is one of a growing number of single men — both gay and straight — who are opting to become fathers alone, with the help of gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy experts say because the practice is not regulated, many surrogacy arrangements are handled privately by individuals. Precise figures are hard to come by, but experts say there’s no doubt the United States is experiencing a surrogacy baby boom.

Celebrities like Ricky Martin and Clay Aiken announced this year they had had babies with the help of surrogates and the the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, representing scores of reproductive clinics, reports that the number of gestational surrogate births in the country quadrupled between 1996 and 2006. 

Surrogacy experts say gestational surrogacy has increased steadily since the advent of in vitro fertilization in the early 1980s, because it provides an extra layer of emotional and legal protection for the client. The egg donor usually does not even know the client, and unlike the legally contentious “Baby M” case from the 1980s, the surrogate is not giving birth to her genetic child.

“It rises as an issue far less frequently with gestational surrogacy, because women never see it as their child to begin with,” said John Weltman, president of Circle Surrogacy.

His agency, which expects more than 70 babies to be born in 2009, has seen a 50 percent growth in the number of single male clients over the past year.

Walker and other men are willing to pay well over $100,000 to have a baby through surrogacy — the final cost depending on the number of IVF treatments necessary and how much is paid by insurance.

Circle is not the only major surrogacy provider experiencing a single-dad surge. At Growing Generations, a Los Angeles, California, agency that facilitates about 100 births a year, the number of single men seeking surrogates has doubled in the past three years, spokeswoman Erica Bowers said.

Although most of their single male clients are gay, surrogacy providers say a smaller but growing number are straight. Steven Harris, a New York malpractice and personal-injury attorney, says he gave up trying to get married when he realized his primary motive was to start a family.

Harris, 54, says he knew he made the right decision after 21-month old Ben was born.

“I thought getting married was the only way to go, because I did want a family. But having Ben, I feel complete now,” Harris says. 


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Semen Quality and Intelligence : Is There a Link?




Past studies have linked an individual’s intelligence to his or her height, cardiovascular function and longevity, but now a new study suggests semen quality may be added to that list, since it also appears to help predict the level of a man’s intelligence.The findings as a whole suggest that both intelligence and semen quality are fitness traits — characteristics evolved to promote survival — that are influenced by genetics.


Researchers at London’s Institute of Psychiatry have found that more intelligent men have better quality sperm, suggesting a correlation between intelligence and evolutionary fitness, in a study published in the journal Intelligence. 


The research team embarked on the study to test the hypothesis that more intelligent people were healthier, not only due to lifestyle factors, for example that brighter people are less likely to smoke, but in an underlying genetic sense. Some research has rather controversially suggested that intelligence and sperm quality are linked, which historically has served the purpose of putting clever men at an advantage in reproductive terms.

The study analysed 425 former US soldiers, who had served in the Vietnam War, and who had provided semen samples and undertaken intelligence tests. After adjusting for lifestyle factors, it was found that the more intelligent men both had more sperm and sperm that could swim better. Researcher Rosalind Arden stated, ‘we found a small positive relationship: brighter men had better sperm. This association wasn’t caused by habits like avoiding smoking or drinking – the big hitters of health’. 

However, researchers have emphasised that the relationship between intelligence and sperm quality is small, and that it does not mean that bright men are more likely to have more children, nor that undertaking brain-training games was likely to improve sperm quality. Arden commented, ‘this does not mean that men who prefer Play-Doh to Plato always have poor sperm: the relationship we found was marginal’. 

Meanwhile, the team are now interested in the relationship between overall physical health and intelligence, the ‘fitness factor’ idea, which suggests that there might be an underlying relationship between many genetic factors in order to improve chances of longevity and reproduction. ‘We were interested in testing the idea that if most of our genes act on many characteristics there might be a weak but discoverable relationship right across all of our characteristics – from nose to toes’, explained Arden.


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Fate of surplus frozen embryos : a difficult decision

Many infertility patients with unused frozen embryos are dissatisfied with the common options offered to them, such as donating to another couple or discarding the embryos, according to a study to be published Thursday in Fertility and Sterility, the New York Times reports. It is estimated that more than 400,000 embryos are frozen at clinics across the U.S., and many infertility patients grapple with the decision of what to do with embryos after they no longer want additional children, the Times reports.

 picture-25The study, which was conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center, involved a survey of more than 1,000 infertility patients at nine clinics (Grady, New York Times, 12/4). The survey found that donating embryos for research was the most popular option (Rubin, USA Today, 12/4). Among study participants who said they did not want any more children, 66% said they would be likely to donate their embryos for research, but only four of the nine clinics in the survey offered the option. Fifty-three percent of participants who wanted no additional children said they did not want to donate their unused embryos to other couples, mainly because they did not want their biological offspring to be raised by other people or have to address the possibility that their own children could encounter an unknown sibling in the future. In addition, 43% did not want their embryos discarded, and 20% said that their embryos likely would remain frozen indefinitely. Embryos can remain viable for 10 years or more if properly stored, although not all of them survive after thawing, the Times reports. According to the Times, a small number of study participants “wished for solutions that typically are not offered,” such as holding a ceremony during the thawing and disposal of the embryos or placing the embryos in the woman’s body at a time during her cycle when she was unlikely to become pregnant, so that they would “die naturally” (New York Times, 12/4).

 Lead author Anne Drapkin Lyerly — a bioethicist and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University — said a significant factor impeding embryo donation for research is the Bush administration’s 2001 restrictions on federal funding for research on new embryonic stem cell lines (USA Today, 12/4). Brigid Hogan, chair of the department of cell biology at Duke, said there is insufficient funding to fully research existing embryonic stem cell lines, leaving minimal use for the hundreds of thousands of embryos available. Hogan said, “Even if somebody said, ‘I’ve got 100 embryos I’m donating tomorrow,’ I think there are many places that would just say, ‘We don’t have the funding'” (Collins, Raleigh News and Observer, 12/4). Sean Tipton — a spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, which publishes Fertility and Sterility — said researchers are reluctant to accept embryos donated from other medical centers because of concerns about violating informed consent procedures. Lyerly added that the process of shipping frozen embryos also presents a challenge (USA Today, 12/4).

 Lyerly said, “The national debate presumes that if you care about and respect a human embryo, you would want that embryo to have a chance at life.” She added, “What we found was that people cared very much about what happened to their embryos, but one of their significant concerns was that their embryos not become children in families other than their own” (Collins, Denver Post, 12/3). Mark Sauer, director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Care at Columbia University Medical Center, said choosing what to do with the leftover embryos is a “huge issue” for couples, adding that some patients ask to be given their leftover embryos, while others pay storage fees for years and years. The Times reports that some patients stop paying for storage and “disappear, leaving the clinic to decide whether to maintain the embryos for free or to get rid of them.” Sauer said patients who do that “would rather have you pull the trigger on the embryos. It’s like, ‘I don’t want another baby, but I don’t have it in me; I have too much guilt to tell you what to do, to have them discarded.'”

 According to Lyerly, many patients create as many embryos as possible to increase their chances of having a child. She added that more information needs to be given to patients early in the in vitro fertilization process to inform them of their options for unused embryos and letting them know that deciding what to do “may be difficult in ways you don’t anticipate.” She said that discussion about the embryos should be “revisited and not happen just at the time of embryo freezing, because people’s goals and their way of thinking about embryos change as time passes and they go through infertility treatment” (New York Times, 12/4).


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British surrogacy ruling saves baby twins from Ukraine orphanage

A British couple this week won custody over a pair of twins born to a
surrogate mother in the Ukraine. The twin babies were caught in a legal
loophole whereby the expectant British couple were unable to bring the twins
into the UK, as they were not recognised by English law as the parents.
Simultaneously, the Ukrainian biological mother no longer had any
responsible for, or even rights over, the children under Ukrainian law as
this (in contrast to UK legislation) gives binding effect to surrogacy
arrangements. Consequently, had the British couple failed to gain the
‘parental order’ for custody of the children, the twins would have been
returned to the Ukraine and placed in an orphanage.
The situation arose as a result of the couple being unable to find a
surrogate mother in the UK, where it is illegal to pay a woman more than her
expenses in a surrogacy arrangement, were advised to look abroad to a more
permissive jurisdiction, and subsequently employed the services of a
commercial surrogacy organisation in the Ukraine for a fee of around
£23,000. However, as the surrogate mother was married, the UK father, who
supplied the sperm, is not considered to be the father under UK law
(specifically s.28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990) and
thus was unable to bring the children to the UK after birth. Though the Home
Office gave special leave for the children to enter the country pending the
High Court ruling, had the application for custody failed. The peculiar
legal effect of the disparity between the two legal systems is that the
children had, until the date of the court order, no legal parents and no
The case highlights the ongoing problems surrounding the legal status of
surrogacy in the UK. Mr Justice Hedley, in his judgement on the case, stated
that ‘surrogacy remains an ethically controversial area’ and that
international surrogacy arrangements raise potentially difficult problems of
a kind not experienced with domestic agreements. However at present it is
impossible to enforce a surrogacy arrangement in the UK and the couple’s
solicitor, Natalie Gamble, stated that the UK surrogacy law requires urgent
updating to reflect the realities of modern fertility practices and that
currently it provides inadequate protection to vulnerable children. This
view was reflected in the court’s judgment, which noted the case
‘highlighted the wisdom’ of a review to surrogacy law (as proposed during
the debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, earlier this
year) and expressing a hope that the problems experienced by the couple ‘may
alert others to the difficulties inherent in this journey’.

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