Entries in fertility (20)


Sperm Donor Offers Services for Free, with No Anonymity

Courtesy Trent Arsenault(FREMONT, Calif.) -- You can learn a lot about Trent Arsenault from his web page, which is filled with a meticulous gallery of photos from his baby years to adulthood, all chronologically catalogued.

The Fremont, Calif., 36-year-old is single, blond, athletic, 6-feet, 1-inch tall, half German and one-quarter Irish, and a former U.S. Naval Academy midshipman.  Arsenault also notes publicly that he is free of sexually transmitted diseases -- he includes recent test results on his site -- and is available as a sperm donor.

Since 2006, he has sired 15 progeny, including a set of twins, with a pregnancy history that includes a few miscarriages -- also logged.  And he's willing to let any future offspring contact him.

What does he charge?  Nothing.

"I am a donorsexual," Arsenault told ABC News.  He declined to reveal his sexual orientation but admits it's unlikely he will have a family of his own.

Arsenault has made 328 semen donations to 50 women, mostly lesbians in the San Francisco area.  They are grateful that he doesn't charge and dispenses with anonymity.

He is part of a do-it-yourself fertility movement that caters to couples and single women who say they cannot afford the high cost of sperm banks.  They also want their children to know their biological father.

Three Google sites, at least six Yahoo Groups and a dozen more fee-based websites cater to those looking for free sperm donors, according to a recent article in Newsweek.  Most are in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Arsenault is strict about his donation schedule -- only once in 24 hours.

Fifteen minutes before the "hand-over," he gets a text message from the prospective mother and downs a vitamin-rich slushy made of blueberries, kiwis and flax seed.  Then he ejaculates into a sterile cup, one of 200 a year he buys for $50 online from Amazon.  Women typically do the artificial insemination right afterwards, filling a latex cup with the fresh semen and placing it on their cervix.

Keri and Amber Pigott-Robertson have a 1-year-old daughter, thanks to Arsenault.  The Modesto, Calif., couple arranged a meeting with him recently to introduce her.

"When he saw her for the first time, his face just lit up," Amber, who is in her 30s, told Newsweek.  "He was a perfect match.  He gave us what we had been longing for, what we felt would complete us.  So there's no expressing how much gratitude I have for him . People like Trent come once in a lifetime."

"It's just a service I provide," he said.  "My involvement is limited because I work so much, up to 60 or 70 hours a week.

But according to the Food and Drug Administration, Arsenault's service was not just a private affair.  Last fall, agents arrived on his doorstep and ordered him to "cease manufacture" of sperm.

The government regards him as a "firm" and charges that he doesn't provide adequate protections against communicable diseases.  Arsenault, who is appealing the order, could face a $100,000 fine and a year in prison.  He argues that free sperm donation is a form of sex and not subject to government control.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sperm Donor ‘Super Dads’: The Risks of One Donor 'Fathering' Dozens

Robert Houser/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A woman who conceives a child through a sperm donor has to make her peace with a number of unknowns -- what the donor looks like, what personality quirks he might have or whether big noses run in his family.  But one thing she probably didn’t bargain for was the possibility that her child could have more than 100 half-siblings out there, likely living in the same state, or even in the same city or neighborhood.

This was the outcome for Cynthia Dailey, who, through a little online research and networking, learned that her son had 149 half-siblings, all fathered by the same donor.  Her story, reported by The New York Times this week, highlights a long-held concern among sperm bank critics: Shouldn’t we limit the number of offspring a single donor can sire?

As it stands now, there are no rules in place to monitor or limit how many times a single donor’s sperm can be sold -- a situation that has allowed some sperm banks to oversell their donors, producing clans of more than 100 half-siblings.

ABC News covered this phenomenon last August, when we spoke to Chase Kimball, a sperm donor who, like the one Dailey used, likely fathered “hundreds of children” in the 1970s and 1980s.

It got the point where the clinic told him, “You’ve got too many kids locally, and we can only use your sperm if someone orders it from out of state.”

Having this many offspring is certainly not what Kimball and other sperm donors bargained for, and critics of sperm banks worry that allowing a single donor to father so many children will have negative ramifications for these children.

Because most sperm donations are doled out to women living in the same general area, some critics argue that unintentional incest could occur.

Even more threatening may be what these “superdads” do to the gene pool, say some critics.  Sperm donors are tested for inherited diseases to varying degrees -- what they’re tested for differs from state to state -- but donors may still be passing along genetic abnormalities and diseases.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Selective Reduction: Couples Opting to Reduce Twins to Single Births

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Given the high cost and failure rate of fertility treatments, some couples try to increase their chances of getting pregnant by using multiple embryos during in vitro fertilization and end up facing an unexpected challenge of twins, triplets, or higher multiples -- a challenge some feel they cannot handle, emotionally or financially.

There is a way out of this challenge, but it is one that is seldom discussed among mommies-to-be: selective reduction.

In cases of high multiple pregnancies, doctors will often recommend selective reduction for purely medical reasons.  Early in the pregnancy, one or more of the fetuses are aborted from within the womb to increase the likelihood that the remaining babies (and the mother) will survive and thrive.

There are numerous health concerns to both mother and infants associated with carrying multiples.  Thus for decades obstetricians have offered the option of reducing down to twins, which tend to have safer outcomes.  This procedure can only be done with fraternal twins, as identical twins share a placenta and cannot easily be separated.

In the past years, however, some obstetricians and their patients have turned to selective reductions even in the case of twins -- not necessarily for medical reasons, but because the couple does not feel emotionally and/or financially prepared to have two babies when they had planned to have just one.

Fertility message boards such as are filled with parents-to-be discussing the moral dilemma of reducing to singletons, with many couples admitting that they reduced to one infant simply because they only wanted one.

New York City obstetrician and leading expert in selective reduction, Dr. Mark Evans, says that reductions from twins to a single fetus make up about 10 percent of the reductions he performs in his office, and that number is slowly increasing.

Evans wrote the recommendations on selective reductions 25 years ago, but at the time, he advocated for reductions only down to twins, barring extenuating circumstances.

"The rationale was that we knew that we could take care of twins and have good outcomes, and we were generally seeing couples with no kids.  So parents often wanted two or more kids ultimately anyway," says Evans.

But in 2004, Evans published a paper that overturned his past recommendations, arguing instead for the safety of reducing to singletons, even if the original pregnancy was only twins.

"The data forced me to change my opinion.  We now know that twins are not twice the risk of singletons, they are more like four times the risk.  For instance, there is a 1 in 700 chance of cerebral palsy with a single birth, but 1 in 100 with twins.  If you define success of a pregnancy as a healthy baby and a healthy mother, it's safer to reduce to singleton.  Women should be aware that this is a possibility," he says.

Though Evans argues that reducing twins is medically justifiable, this procedure remains highly contentious, especially considering that some couples admittedly choose to undergo reductions for personal, not medical reasons.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Genetic Cause of Male Infertility Identified

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Human infertility affects about 14 percent of the world’s population. In about half of the cases, the cause lies with the male partner.  Although the culprit of male infertility is often a low sperm count, or abnormal sperm motility or morphology, researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine identify a new cause in their paper published in Science Translational Medicine.  They say a genetic variation not uncommon in both European and Chinese men may also cause male infertility.  

Turns out that if men have a particular variant of a gene called DEFB126, their sperm have an 84 percent reduced ability to move through cervical mucus, thereby reducing their likelihood of ever reaching and fertilizing the egg.  The authors found that wives of men with this genetic variation were much less likely to become pregnant and were 30 percent less likely to actually give birth compared to wives of men without the genetic variation.

The author of an accompanying editorial writes that “if replicated in future studies, these findings promise to guide choices about the timing and type of assisted reproduction interventions, and further hint at the possibility of treating sperm from [men with this genetic variation] to promote fertility.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Breast Cancer Patients Fight to Stay Fertile Post-Chemo

Jeffrey Hamilton/Lifesize/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ga.) -- Carly Byrd's worst fear isn't dying from the cancer that has claimed both her breasts and invaded her immune system; it's that the treatment she needs to live might crush her dreams of having children.

Byrd is still battling for her life four years after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25.  Despite multiple lumpectomies, a double mastectomy and radiation therapy, she now needs aggressive chemotherapy -- a cocktail of toxic drugs that causes her to lose her hair and appetite, and could rob her of her fertility, too.

"My oncologist told me there was a 30 percent chance that the chemo I had to have would toss me into early menopause," said Byrd, who said she has dreamed of being a mom her whole life.  "When cancer and the procedures to treat it start taking real things away from you, it's a big pill to swallow."

Roughly 12 percent of breast cancer patients are under 45, but the chemotherapy they need to beat their illness can push them into early menopause.  Cryopreservation, a procedure that freezes and stores eggs, embryos or ovaries until the cancer is gone, can help patients put motherhood on ice.  However, it takes time, money and forethought -- all of which may be in short supply for women fighting for their lives.

But a new drug that suppresses ovarian function could help breast cancer patients, like Byrd, preserve their fertility without delaying chemotherapy or breaking the bank, according to an Italian study.  Patients who took triptorelin, an injectable gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) analogue, one week before chemo and every four weeks throughout their treatment were 17 percent less likely to experience early menopause than patients who did not.

The results were published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In comparison with cryopreservation strategies, GnRH analogue-induced ovarian suppression has the advantages that it does not require a male partner, is simple to administer, does not require delaying chemotherapy, and is less invasive and less expensive," Dr. Lucia Del Mastro, an oncologist at the National Institute for Cancer Research in Genoa, Italy, and colleagues wrote in their report.

The rate of early menopause was 8.9 percent in patients who took triptorelin, compared to 25.9 percent in patients who did not.  The study authors, and authors of an accompanying editorial, suggest the drug could broaden the options for breast cancer patients who hope to have children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Costs of Infertility Treatments Can Bankrupt Couples

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Couples wanting to become parents are heartbroken to learn they are unable to conceive.  That emotional letdown is compounded when fertility treatments become financial burdens for the couple.  But financial assistance is available.

Fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, range from $10,000 to $15,000 dollars.  If more than one treatment is needed -- for example, because the embryo does not survive or the woman miscarries -- that cost can soar.

Since most insurance doesn't cover fertility treatments, couples have mortgaged their homes and even sold their cars or property to raise money for the procedure.  Others have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy in their efforts to try to have a child.

While some loans and grants are available, couples can also apply for an IVF scholarship.  According to an NPR report, a nonprofit Virginia organization matches qualifying recipients with fertility clinics, and gets doctors to donate their services and drug companies to provide free medication.

Scholarship recipients agree to contribute $3,500 of their own money to help the organization, know as INCIID -  The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination -- stay in business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Breakthrough: Japanese Researchers Grow Sperm in Lab

BananaStock/Thinkstock(YOKOHAMA, Japan) -- Researchers in Japan have grown functioning mouse sperm in a laboratory dish, a breakthrough that has been decades in the making and holds out new hope for millions of infertile men.

The research, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, could help scientists understand several steps of spermatogenesis, or sperm formation, at the cellular level and ultimately lead to new treatments for male infertility.

Researcher Takehiko Ogawa of Yokohama City University not only grew healthy mouse sperm in the laboratory, but also used them to produce fertile offspring, according to the study.  The sperm were produced in a test tube from the cells taken from newborn mouse testicles, and then injected into eggs to produce to twelve healthy babies, four male and eight female, which were all fertile and able to have their own babies in adulthood.

"It's really exciting," said Mary Ann Handel, a reproductive genetics research scientist at Maine's Jackson Laboratory.  "I really do think that he's really achieved a goal that a lot of people have tried over the years."

"It is a significant breakthrough," said Martin Dym, a professor of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown University.  Dym was part of a team that tried, and failed, to accomplish in vitro growth of functional sperm ten years ago.  "We did make sperm, but could not succeed in getting the sperm to make pups.  [The Japanese team] has better sperm."

The potential practical applications in humans would include treating infertility, which affects an estimated 8 to 12 percent of the male population.

"So far it's been done in mice," said Dym.  "You have to show that it can work in humans."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Says Stress Doesn't Reduce Female Fertility

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CARDIFF, United Kingdom) -- A new study published in the British Medical Journal brings good news for women having trouble conceiving children.

Analyzing data from more than a dozen previous studies, it casts doubt on the idea that stress undermines the effectiveness of fertility treatments.

Over 3,500 women undergoing fertility treatments were tested for pre-treatment anxiety or depression.  The authors found that women who were more anxious or depressed before treatment were just as likely to become pregnant as emotionally unstressed women.

The researchers concluded that "feelings of tension, worry or depression experiences as a result of their fertility problem or other co-occurring life events are unlikely to further reduce chances of pregnancy."

The study's findings, however, do not answer whether or not emotional distress lowers pregnancy rates in women who are not undergoing fertility treatments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Antioxidants May Increase Male Fertility

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- There are people who swear by the effects of antioxidants for everything from anti-aging to protection from cancer -- whether or not science supports these claims.  Now, a new study found that the tiny molecules may even boost the chances of making a baby.

Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand reviewed 34 clinical trials that involved more than 2,500 couples undergoing infertility and subfertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization and sperm injections.  The retrospective analysis found that men taking antioxidant supplements were more than four times more likely to get their partners pregnant than men who did not take the oral antioxidants.  The antioxidants were associated with more than a five-fold higher rate of live births

"When trying to conceive as part of an assisted reproductive program, it may be advisable to encourage men to take oral antioxidant supplements to improve their partners' chances of becoming pregnant," said lead researcher Marian Showell of the University of Auckland in New Zealand in a press release.

The researchers said further information is needed to confirm the findings.  And some fertility doctors dismissed the study entirely, discouraging patients from putting all their eggs into the antioxidant basket.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dad's Weight May Affect Fertility

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DENVER) --  Among couples using assisted reproductive technology, a retrospective study reported on MedPage Today has shown an overweight male partner may reduce the chances of pregnancy.

Multiple factors were taken into account, such as the mother's body mass index.  Then, researchers found every 5-unit increase in the father's body mass index was associated with a 28 percent decrease in the chances of pregnancy. 

Dr. Zaher Merhi of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City says there were no differences in the quality or concentration of sperm or day-three embryo quality between couples with an overweight male partner and those with a normal-weight male, some unknown factor must explain it.   Merhi was speaking before the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver.

The relationship may involve a factor that cannot be seen with a microscope at the embryo stage.  It could be something like an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation, which has been demonstrated previously in obese men.

If further research confirms these findings, doctors may start counseling men as well as women about losing weight before undergoing in vitro fertilization.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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