March 18, 2015

Assessing Fertility Potential with a Fertility Awareness Checkup

Infertility affects some 15% of the reproductive age population, which is currently estimated at 7.5 million people. Because of the high prevalence of this disease, as well as media and online attention to the problem, young women and men are becoming more aware and educated regarding their own fertility potential. A Fertility Awareness Checkup can be an easy and beneficial next step in helping couples understand their current fertility potential.

At Fertility Centers of Illinois, our Fertility Awareness Checkup is a simple combination of four tests to check for ovarian reserve and semen quality. The cost is $90, and a nurse will call with results within one week. If the patient decides to further consult with a physician, the fee is credited towards future treatment services.

The Fertility Awareness checkup includes three different tests for women and semen analysis for men.  

Testing for Women

The single most important factor in predicting pregnancy is the age of the female partner. It is commonly known that as age increases, the chance of pregnancy decreases. At the same time, the rate of spontaneous miscarriage and chance of having a child with chromosomal abnormality increases as a woman ages.

Women today are waiting longer to get married and to have children. A recent study by the CDC showed that women in the U.S. and other developed countries are waiting significantly longer before becoming pregnant than women of a generation ago. The average age of first-time mothers in the U.S. jumped from 21.4 in 1970 to 25 in 2009. The average age of marriage has similarly increased from 23 in 1970 to 28.2 in 2010. As women choose to delay marriage and childbearing, the likelihood of future infertility increases. The monthly chance of achieving pregnancy gradually but significantly begins to decline at age 32 and decreases more rapidly after age 37.

During your Fertility Awareness checkup, we will look at your ovarian reserve. Your ovarian reserve refers to the ability of your ovary to provide egg cells that are capable of fertilization, resulting in a healthy and successful pregnancy.

There are several methods to test for ovarian reserve.

“Day 3” FSH
This blood test can be done between day 2 and day 4 of your menstrual cycle. The “Day 3” FSH blood test measures ovarian function and correlates to fertility potential. FSH is the acronym for Follicle-Stimulating hormone. This hormone is released from the brain and stimulates the ovary to mature an egg. FSH levels increase as your supply of eggs decreases.

Your Estradiol level helps validate the FSH level. The best time to have these tests performed is between day 2 and 4 of the menstrual cycle.

During your same visit, we will also perform a vaginal ultrasound which will help measure the ovaries, uterus and number of follicles on the ovary through an antral follicle count

Testing for Men
Since male infertility comprises approximately 40% of all couples with difficulty achieving pregnancy, a semen analysis is an important step in assessing male factor fertility. In order to get accurate results, men must abstain from sexual activity between 2 to 5 days before producing the specimen. An abnormal test will most likely result in a recommendation to repeat the semen analysis with further follow up as indicated.

These tests can provide an overview of your fertility potential, and will assist us in creating a treatment plan that will help you achieve your dream of parenthood.

Author Bio: Dr. Meike Uhler is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and she has been practicing medicine since 1992. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University in Chicago, followed by a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at University of California, Los Angeles. Most recently, Dr. Uhler was Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology on the faculty at Loyola University School of Medicine. Her research interests and scientific publications focus on the evaluation and treatment of female and male infertility.

March 11, 2015

Preconception Checklist: What You Need to Do Prior to Pregnancy

Feeling ready for a baby?

Before trying to conceive, it’s important to make sure that your body is ready for a baby too.

There are some basics that can make your pregnancy go more smoothly for you and your child. These include going to your annual doctor visit, undergoing some basic lab work, taking the right supplements, evaluating any current medications and managing chronic medical conditions.

I typically recommend that before trying to get pregnant, women should schedule a consultation with their OB/GYN for a physical and routine screening for cervical cancer (pap smear). It’s important that before your body takes on the challenge of pregnancy, you are cleared medically for any problems.

I also recommend getting some basic lab work done prior to attempting pregnancy. Depending on your specific medical history, your doctor will determine what lab tests are necessary.

These lab tests include:

1.     Blood Type: Obtaining this information can be important for pregnancy management. If you have a negative blood type, you will need a special medication during pregnancy or if you have a miscarriage to prevent antibodies forming against the baby. 
2.     Vitamin D Levels: We get most of our Vitamin D from the sun, and depending on where you live, most people are deficient and need supplementation (unless you drink a large amount of Vitamin D fortified milk). Normal Vitamin D levels help with embryo implantation and decrease pregnancy complications. 
3.     Vaccinations: There are many viruses that can cause devastating birth defects if you become infected during pregnancy. Some of these viruses are unpreventable, but it’s a great idea to be checked for available vaccinations. These include Varicella (Chicken Pox) and Rubella (German Measles, part of the MMR vaccine).  About 5% of people will need a booster for these. If its flu season, get a flu shot as pregnant women are susceptible to complications that arise from influenza.
4.     Blood Count: We need to make sure you aren’t anemic prior to getting pregnant because growing babies need a lot of blood to bring them oxygen. You should choose a prenatal vitamin that contains iron, which is a building block for any new blood that you need to make during pregnancy. Having a normal blood count prior to becoming pregnant can reduce pregnancy complications.
5.     Genetic Carrier Screening: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that everyone should consider getting screened for Cystic Fibrosis. This is a recessive genetic condition that is very common and easily screened for with lab work. Depending on your family history and background, your doctor may want to screen for other conditions as well. 

Also, what you’ve heard is true - it’s important to be on folic acid supplementation.  Being on folic acid supplements at time of conception decreases the risk of neural tube defects (spinal cord).  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a minimum of 400 mcg of folic acid daily for all women who might become pregnant. Almost all prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, and most have much more than 400 mcg. Taking more won’t hurt you, the extra folic acid will simply come out in your urine.

If you are on any prescribed medications, it’s a good idea to see if they are dangerous for a developing baby. Sometimes your doctor can switch you to a medication that is safer. 

Lastly, if you have any chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of cancer, it is best to see your doctor to address and manage these conditions prior to pregnancy.

Once all of these items are out of the way, you can move on to the fun part of having a baby – trying to conceive. Best of luck!

Author Bio:

Dr. Allison K. Rodgers is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and has been practicing medicine since 2004. She completed her residency at Case Western Reserve-Metrohealth Medical Center/Cleveland Clinic, followed by fellowship at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dr. Rodgers' personal experiences with both secondary infertility and pregnancy loss have given her a unique insight into reproductive medicine, and she is well known for her compassionate and individualized patient care. She has published many original research articles in top medical journals on topics such as endometriosis, tubal factor infertility, in vitro fertilization, and donor sperm. Her special interests include in vitro fertilization, male infertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, unexplained infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, and premature ovarian insufficiency.

March 1, 2015

March 2015 Patient Education Events!

If you are interested in participating in any of our complimentary education sessions, you may register online by following the "LEARN MORE" links after each event.  Many events require registration & spots fill up fast -- so sign up as soon as you can!

3/5 | Nutrition and the Underlying Causes of Infertility | Online Webinar | 6 PM | LEARN MORE

3/12 | Egg Donation: Your Journey Starts Here | Online Webinar | 5 PM | LEARN MORE

3/16 | Cracking the Door to Adoption | Chicago | 7 PM | LEARN MORE

3/22 | Egg Donation as Your Path to Parenthood | Glenview | 2 PM | LEARN MORE

3/26 | Egg Donation: Your Journey Starts Here | Online Webinar | 7 AM | LEARN MORE

All FCI Patient Education Programs are open to the community. We continue to support your fertility journey by offering a selection of  complimentary patient education seminars, holistic healing seminars, and support groups. If you have any questions or comments please contact us at (877) 324-4483.