Tag Archives: Ovulation

Easing fertility through lifestyle changes

ls11Couples who have been trying to conceive can easily grow impatient when their plans don’t go exactly, or as easily, as planned. But before concluding that they may have certain fertility problems or that they need fertility drugs or treatments, it is good to first take a closer look into the way they are leading their lives.

 A study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that women have a reduced risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders if they adopt a combination of healthy lifestyle and dietary measures. The study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, was based on 17,544 women who were tracked for eight years as they attempted to get pregnant or became pregnant.   According to Dr Chavarro, the team leader,  ‘as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken’. Senior author on the paper, and chair  of the HSPH Department of Nutrition, Walter Willett, said that ‘the key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation’. Infertility affects one in six couples, according to US studies, with ovulatory problems identified in 18 to 30 per cent of cases.

 There are some steps you can take to maximize your fertility and chances of conception, and have a healthier pregnancy. Simple lifestyle changes like eating healthier and quitting smoking can make a difference, as can regular exercise.

What you can do:

Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of conception and your health before and during pregnancy.

Body Weight:

Being overweight or underweight can affect the chances of ovulating normally in a woman. It has been found that women who have 17% to 21% of their total body weight as fat provide the ideal condition for ovulation. Have less or more body fat may hinder your menstrual cycle, make conception difficult. Women that are underweight may want to consider putting on some weight if they find that menstruation tends to be sporadic. Additionally, being underweight may indicate that you will have a hard time producing the extra amount of energy required for pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight before conception is therefore advisable.

Overweight women with ovulation and menstrual cycle problems may want to lose some weight if they are having troubles conceiving. However, overweight women do not necessarily need to lose a significant amount of weight in order to help their conception rates. Even slightly reducing your weight can increase your chances of conceiving many folds. An Australian study found that, as soon as a group of obese women lost almost 20 pounds, their bodies began to spontaneously ovulate again. 

 

Eat Healthy

ls3A healthy diet is essential to your health — and your baby’s. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least five servings per day), eat low-fat dairy foods, and drink plenty of fluids for optimal health.

A recent study also suggests that woman’s diet around the time of conception can influence the gender of her baby. The study, completed by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, appears in the Royal Society journal Biological Sciences and alleges that a woman who eats a high-calorie diet — and regular breakfasts — might have greater odds of having a boy. Participating in the study were 740 first-time pregnant women in the UK, who provided records of their eating habits before and just after becoming pregnant. Researchers found that 56% of women with the highest caloric intake around the time of becoming pregnant had boys, compared to just 45% among women with the lowest caloric intake.

 

Consider Going Organic

ls2Organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products do not contain pesticides or synthetic growth hormones that many conventional foods may contain. What’s more, studies have shown that organically grown fruits and vegetables are actually more nutrient-rich than their conventional counterparts. Pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, may wish to switch to organic foods for better nutrition.

 

Exercise Regularly

ls4A healthy lifestyle also includes exercise. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that regular exercise (five times a week for at least 45 minutes), as well as a healthy diet, boost fertility by keeping body weight at a normal level and relieving stress and anxiety. In addition, women who are overweight or obese have been shown to have increased perinatal mortality risk when they become pregnant. Exercise regularly for your health and the health of your baby to be.

A new study by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group reports that women can decrease their chances of contracting gestational diabetes by not gaining weight. Women in the study who gained about 5-22 pounds each year prior to the five years before getting pregnant were 2.5 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is marked by glucose intolerance that is first experienced during pregnancy, and can require daily insulin injections. It is also associated with fetal complications. The condition usually resolves after childbirth.

 

Smoking

It has been known for a long time that smoking has a negative effect on conception but many fail to realise just how drastically smoking effects both male and female fertility. In men who smoke, sperm counts average 17% lower than those who do not smoke and it can also affect the health of the sperms.

Women who smoke not only increase the time it takes them to conceive as well as raise their the risk of spontaneous miscarriage, they also jeopardize the health of their baby yet to be born. Female smokers are also at a greater risk for delivering premature or low birth weight babies and developing pelvic inflammatory disease.

Studies have shown that smokers are 30% less fertile and require a much higher dose of fertility drugs if they opt for fertility treatments than non-smokers. Passive smoking, too, is equally dangerous to women and their pregnancy

The effects of reducing or totally stopping smoking can produce noticeable results in days.


Alcohol, Caffeine and Drugs

Regularly drinking alcohol can reduce fertility levels by up to 50%. It can also decrease sperm count while increasing the production of abnormal sperm. Similarly, drugs like marijuana and cocaine have been found to cause disruptions in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Another chemical to avoid in order to improve your chances of conception is caffeine, which can be found in tea, coffee, chocolate and soft drinks. Caffeine reduces the fertility level of both men and women. Some studies have also shown a link between consuming large amounts of caffeine and delayed conception. What’s more, studies have also shown women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day may also be at an increased risk for miscarriage.

 

Reducing Stress

Stress can have a big effect on fertility. In women under stress, the reproductive hormone prolactin is over-produced and this can interfere with ovulation. The hypothalamus stops secreting gonadotrophin hormone, which in turn will affect the release of both the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. As these hormones stimulate ovulation – fertility is affected.

 

Know Your Cycle

It is essential to understand your monthly (or not so monthly, in some cases) cycle in order to maximize your chances of conception. Keep track of the days you menstruate and the length of your cycle for a few months, and use an ovulation calendar to track your ovulation to time your intercourse for conception.

 

So, there you have it – a range of natural ways to increase your fertility. Each of these lifestyle changes won’t guarantee that you will get pregnant, but following these changes may shift the odds and help you get the baby a little easier. Good Luck!!

 

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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) : Symptoms and Treatment

Most women feel physical or mood changes during the days before menstruation. When these changes affect a woman’s normal life, they are known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Premenstrual syndrome can affect menstruating women of all ages and backgrounds. The cause of PMS is unclear. However, the symptoms can be managed in many women.

 

The Menstrual Cycle

Menstruation is a normal, monthly process. To understand PMS, it helps to know how the menstrual cycle works. This will help you to predict and cope with the symptoms.

The average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. Normal cycles can range from 21–35 days. During the menstrual cycle, the ovaries produce hormones. These hormones are called estrogen and progesterone.

Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of a period. On about day 5, estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to begin to build up to prepare for a pregnancy. On about day 14, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation.

After ovulation, progesterone levels increase. If the egg is not fertilized by a sperm, the hormone levels decrease. This signals the uterus to shed its lining on about day 28 of the cycle. This shedding, or menstruation, marks the start of a new cycle.

pms-1

Symptoms

Premenstrual symptoms are a common part of the monthly cycle. In fact, at least 85% of women who menstruate have at least one premenstrual symptom. Women with PMS experience a pattern of symptoms month after month. They also find that the symptoms interfere with some aspect of their family, social, or work lives.

Common Symptoms of PMS

 Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms

            Depression

            Angry outbursts

            Being irritable

            Crying spells

            Anxiety

            Confusion

            Social withdrawal

            Poor concentration

            Sleep disturbance

            Thirst and appetite changes (food cravings)

 Physical Symptoms

            Tender breasts

            Bloating and weight gain

            Headache

            Swelling of the hands or feet

These symptoms occur during the 2 weeks before a woman’s period and they get better after the period begins.

Diagnosis

To diagnose PMS, a doctor must confirm a pattern of symptoms. A woman’s symptoms must:

  • Be present in the 5 days before her period for at least 3 menstrual cycles in a row
  • End within 4 days after her period starts
  • Interfere with some of her normal activities

PMS or Something Else?

Symptoms of other conditions can mimic PMS. For instance, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe type of PMS. PMDD affects a small percentage of women with PMS. Your doctor will want to rule out this and other conditions before diagnosing PMS.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

PMDD can cause major strain on a woman’s work and personal life. Symptoms of PMDD may include:

  • Feeling hopeless or sad
  • Feeling tense, anxious, or “on edge”
  • Moodiness or frequent crying
  • Constant irritability and anger that cause conflict with other people
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Having problems concentrating
  • Lack of energy
  • Appetite changes, overeating, or cravings
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Physical symptoms such as tender or swollen breasts, headaches, joint or muscle pain, bloating, and weight gain

Most of the time, symptoms begin the week before a woman’s period and end a few days after her period starts. If you’ve had at least 5 of these symptoms during most months of the past year, see your doctor. A symptom record can help your doctor decide if you have PMDD.

 Depressive and Anxiety Disorders

These disorders are the most common conditions confused with PMS. The symptoms of depression and anxiety are much like the emotional symptoms of PMS. The symptoms of these disorders may worsen before or during a woman’s period. This makes some women think they have PMS.

However, the symptoms of depressive disorders often are present all month long. With PMS, the symptoms go away after a period begins. Some women may have depression and PMS.

Menopause

Women entering menopause may have PMS-like symptoms. These symptoms include mood changes and fatigue.

You can help your doctor decide if the symptoms are caused by menopause or PMS. A record of your symptoms and changes in your monthly cycle can be used to make a diagnosis.

Other Conditions

Your doctor will want to rule out other conditions that share symptoms with PMS. These conditions include chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and endocrine problems.

PMS also may make the symptoms of other conditions increase. These conditions include:

  • Seizure disorders
  • Migraines
  • Asthma

Treatment

The treatment of PMS depends on the severity and type of symptoms, and how bothersome they are. For example, if your symptoms are mild and do not interfere with your daily life or personal relationships, then your doctor may suggest that you try one or more of the following lifestyle changes:

·    Start a program of regular exercise (three to five exercise sessions per week).

·    Do not skip meals. Follow a regular meal schedule to maintain a more stable blood sugar level.

·    Eat a balanced diet that is low in refined sugars.

·    Try to get a good night’s sleep. Avoid staying up all night.

·    If you smoke, quit.

·    Cut down on caffeine, alcohol, red meat and salty foods.

·    Practice stress reduction techniques. Take a nice long bath, or try meditation or biofeedback.

Your doctor also may suggest that you try taking supplements of vitamin B6, calcium or magnesium. Always follow the dosage recommended by your doctor. Do not take more than 100 milligrams per day of vitamin B6. Nerve damage has been associated with vitamin B6 at doses higher than 100 milligrams per day.

If your symptoms are moderate to severe and interfere with your normal daily activities, then your doctor probably will prescribe medications aimed at relieving specific symptoms.

For example, if you are troubled by bloating and weight gain, then your doctor may prescribe a diuretic to help your body eliminate the excess water. Oral contraceptives, especially birth control pills containing both estrogen and progestin, may be used to minimize the severity of cramps and the length of your period.

 If you have symptoms of irritability, social withdrawal, angry outbursts or depression that interferes with your work or home responsibilities or your personal relationships, then your doctor may suggest that you try an antidepressant medication. The most effective antidepressants for relieving PMS are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem and others), sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft) and clomipramine (Anafranil). Other antidepressants include nefazodone (Serzone) and venlafaxine (Effexor). These can be taken for two weeks prior to each period or can be taken every day.

For very severe symptoms, or when other medications fail, your doctor may prescribe a medication that causes the ovaries to stop producing estrogen so that ovulation stops. Danocrine (Danazol) is a synthetic androgen that suppresses the hormones in the brain that trigger ovulation. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GRNH) agonists, such as leuprolide (Lupron), create a temporary menopausal state by suppressing hormones in the brain that control the production of ovarian hormones and ovulation. These medications can be used only for short periods of time. They commonly lead to hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. If therapy needs to continue for more than six months, you will also have to take estrogen to prevent bone loss. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, it always helps to have your family’s understanding and support while you are being treated for PMS. For this reason, your doctor will encourage you to speak frankly with family members about your symptoms and your PMS treatment.

When To Call A Professional

Call your doctor if your premenstrual symptoms cause you significant distress or discomfort, if they make it hard for you to function in daily life, or if they interfere with your personal relationships. If you think you are in danger of causing harm to yourself or others, call your doctor for an emergency appointment.

Prognosis

In most women, PMS symptoms begin to subside after age 35 and end at menopause. Women who have PMS or PMDD are at greater risk of developing depression

 

 

 

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Depression and Infertility

Research studies have documented the correlation between stress and infertility  since the 1980s. The usefulness of such information has lagged because the focus has been on vague definitions of anxiety, rather than symptoms of depression. Recently, however, a refined look at depressive symptoms and their impact on biology has been enlightening, offering new hope and a mind/body approach that has proved to be a heartening success for some men and women.

Consider these findings:

0.Women with a history of depressive symptoms reported twice the rate of subsequent infertility (Psychosomatic Medicine, 1995, vol. 57)

0.Women with depression, when treated showed a 60 percent viable pregnancy rate within six months, contrasting with 24 percent when depression went untreated. (Journal of American Medical Womens Association, 1999, vol.54)

0.Women who experienced depression following the failure of their first in vitro fertilization (IVF), had much lower pregnancy rates that their non depressed counterparts during their second IVF cycle (Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1993, vol. 37)

0.A mind/body program can be a helpful adjunct to IVF. A study in Fertility Sterility (1998, vol. 69) suggests that because mind/body programs are effective for reducing negative emotions that may impair IVF success, IVF patients should be offered this type of program.

The Mind/Body Connection Between Depression and Fertility

Stress brought on by anxiety and/or depression can alter immune function. We have all heard about how the effects of depression can lower our immunity, making us more vulnerable to colds and other viruses during emotionally stressful periods. It is not such a stretch to discover that a suppressed immune system can adversely affect our ability to conceive.

Reproduction is one of our most delicately balanced biological systems. Psychological stress can affect our ability to get pregnant on multiple levels, including inhibition of the hypothalamus that helps regulate hormonal levels, or over activation of the hypothalamus which can change the pituitary and adrenal responses. Since the pituitary regulates both how much of a hormone is made and how much is released in the body, its alteration can have dramatic effects on the hormonal balance necessary for ovulation, fertilization, tubal functioning or even successful implantation of the egg once it reaches the womb.

Infertility causes depression, but what about prevention? The bad news is that even when women have not been depressed previously, depression often occurs by the second to third year of infertility and does not return to normal levels until six years later. The good news is that researchers have recently become proactive in studying the effects of treatment for non depressed women BEFORE they get depressed.

A study reported in Reproductive Endocrinology (April 2000, vol. 73, issue 4), treated women who were in their second year of infertility and not yet depressed. The women who received group psychological interventions to stem the tide of depression caused by infertility, had significantly increased viable pregnancies compared to those who did not receive preventative treatment for depression.

5 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

The following activities were part of the treatment program that the women in the prevention study received.

Consider these five guidelines for a mind/body approach to help you conceive — whether or not you suffer from depression:

1. Practice Relaxation Techniques Yoga, meditation, and visualization increase the body’s resources for achieving balance. Consider a daily activity that calms the mind, but do not stop there. I have had success in my own psychotherapy practice using a body-centered hypnosis, which utilizes imagery, not only for childbirth, but for infertility, too. The hypnotic effects of visualization, coupled with relaxation can be a powerful technique for communicating with the emotional center of the brain (limbic system) that regulates hormonal activity and balance.

Visualize your womb in a state of fertile health and readiness. Make a relaxation tape, or have a professional assist you in creating an audiotape in which imagery and sound helps you experience the sensation of conception and pregnancy.

2. Allow Yourself Emotional Expression
Releasing feelings is essential for deep relaxation. Do not use visualization as a form of “positive thinking” alone. Without releasing the “negative” feelings and fears you experience, you will be likely to repress your fears and disappointment, resulting in depression.

Acknowledge your anger, grief, disappointment and fear. Share your anxieties and feelings with others who may feel similarly. Cry when you are disappointed and verbalize anger when it arises, rather than hold it in. Releasing feelings will allow you to feel better later, allowing you to be hopeful instead of hopeless.

3. Take a Fresh Look
Practice cognitive restructuring. Write your feelings in a personal journal, but with an eye towards releasing your disappointment and continuing towards your desired goal. For example: When writing you may find yourself saying, “I will never have a child”. When you are tempted to express your feelings as a negative projection of your destiny, remind yourself that you are deeply disappointed, even angry. Stop short of crystal-ball interpretations that lead to depression. Acknowledge the feelings, rather than project them onto a future event. Instead, bring yourself back to reality and write the truth of your actions, “I am doing everything I can to conceive.”

4. Get the Support You Need
Your desire to become pregnant and your inability to “make it happen” may bring up emotions that surprise you. It is common for women to harbor feelings of inadequacy that effect their self esteem and performance at work as well as their marital relationships. Anticipate your needs. Do not let these feelings overwhelm you. Instead, use this opportunity to get the support you need from others, friends or professionals, to make this an opportunity for learning and growth.

Supportive group therapy was a part of the treatment in the study correlated with increased pregnancy. Sharing feelings can help you feel less alone and allow you to work through discouragement. These groups focused on the impact of infertility on self esteem, marriage, family, friends and work. Find ways to share your feelings rather than hold them inside.

5. Do Not Delay!
Seeking treatment may not only help you conceive, but may prevent an even greater spiral of depression that can result from protracted infertility. Treating your depression now may help stem a vicious cycle.


Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

 

 

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Human egg makes accidental debut on camera

A doctor about to perform a partial hysterectomy on a patient has inadvertently caught the moment of ovulation on camera. The pictures have been published in the New Scientist magazine, and will also be reproduced in Fertility and Sterility.
Observing ovulation in humans is very difficult, and previous images have been very fuzzy.  Jacques Donnez, of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, observed the process, and commented, ‘the release of the oocyte from the ovary is a crucial event in human reproduction’.
The pictures have changed the perception of human ovulation, which was thought to be an explosive affair, whereas, in reality, the process takes about 15 minutes. The follicle, a fluid-filled sac on the surface of the ovary, contains the egg. Prior to the egg’s release, enzymes are released that break down the tissue in the follicle, causing a red protrusion to appear. A hole becomes visible in the protrusion out of which an egg is released. The egg then moves to the fallopian tube, which transports it to the uterus. When the egg is released it is only about the size of a full stop.
There are no immediate scientific findings resulting from the pictures, but they do give a greater insight into the ovulation process. Professor Alan McNeilly, of the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Unit, said ‘it really is a pivotal moment in the whole process, the beginnings of life in a way’.

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