Entries in Infertility (7)


Surrogate Mother, 61, Gives Birth to Her Grandson

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Kristine Casey is not just any grandmother to her grandson, Finnean. She is also his surrogate mother.

Casey, then 61, gave birth to Finnean in February 2011 after her daughter, Sara Connell, struggled with infertility. Connell’s egg and husband Bill’s sperm were used in the in vitro fertilization procedure, making the couple Finnean’s biological parents, and Casey the gestational carrier of their child.

“The idea, we never could have fathomed,” Connell, 36, said Tuesday on ABC's Good Morning America. “I felt so connected with Finn and with my mom and yet it was a completely surreal, really fantastic situation.”

Connell tells the story of their family’s unconventional journey to motherhood in a new book, Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story.

Connell struggled for years with infertility before her mother stepped in as a surrogate. “My husband and I had always wanted children,” Connell said on GMA.

“We were ready to start a family. I came off the birth control pill and I wasn’t having a cycle, so we tried holistic treatments, acupuncture, yoga and then went to a fertility specialist who said, ‘You’re not ovulating, you’re likely going to need help having a child.’"

“We moved onto fertility treatments, IVF, I lost twins at almost the third trimester, late into the pregnancy, which was really hard. Then we got pregnant one more time and had a miscarriage,” she recalled.

Casey, who had given birth to Connell and her two sisters 30 years earlier and gone through menopause 10 years ago, offered to act as the surrogate.

After months of tests and soul searching, they decided to go ahead with in vitro and after the second IVF cycle, Casey became pregnant.

When it comes to surrogate parenting, the Connell’s arrangement is not as uncommon as one might think.  In August, 49-year-old Linda Sirois of Maine gave birth to her grandson Madden when her daughter Angel Herbert, 25, and son-in-law Brian Herbet were unable to conceive.

While age is a limiting factor for the safety of such late-in-life surrogacy, hormonal supplementation and the use of donor eggs make pregnancy possible even in women who have gone through menopause. (Click here to read more on the medical aspects of late-in-life pregnancies).

“The doctors were very clear that the percentages [of complications] did increase with my age being a factor, but still the odds were pretty overwhelming that we would be successful,” Casey said Tuesday on GMA. “I just felt like it was a journey we needed to take.”

Casey, who likened carrying Finnean to babysitting for nine months, said the late-in-life surrogacy was “amazing.”

“It was so amazing to feel that little heart beat and the little movements inside of me,” she said. “To feel, the confidence, for some reason, I felt confident I could do this and we could have this wonderful grandson.”

[Click here to see photos of Casey and Sara through the pregnancy.]

Nine months later, Casey delivered the greatest gift a mother could give -- a healthy, 7-pound boy who has grown from baby to toddler -- and created an infinite bond between a mother and daughter.

“My gratitude really can’t even be described in words,” Connell said.

Connell, a writer and life coach, lives with husband Bill in Chicago, Ill., where they are raising Finn. Casey lives in Alexandria, Va., but the families visit each other often. Although they have not decided when or how they will tell Finn about how he came into the world, Connell says it’s something they celebrate.

“This is really something we want to celebrate in our family,” she said. “It feels like a miracle that we got to really witness. So when he’s old enough to understand those things, we’d love to find a way to share what the experience was like, but it’s also just how he got here and his life is his own now.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egg Yolk, Soybean Oil Drip to Treat Infertility?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Four rounds of in-vitro fertilization couldn’t help Sara Conyers conceive, according to the U.K.’s  Daily Mail.

But the fifth time was the charm for Conyers, 33, who now has twins. Conyers says the only way she could get pregnant was with the help of an experimental fertility method called intralipid infusion, Conyers, who lives in the U.K., told the Daily Mail.

The procedure, more commonly used in the U.K. than in the U.S., is used to supplement another fertility treatment, such as in-vitro fertilization.  The woman is intravenously given a fat solution consisting partly of soybean oil and egg yolk.

Some experts who tout its success say it can prevent miscarriage by limiting activity of overactive so-called natural killer immune cells found in the body that would otherwise destroy the embryo.

But many fertility experts in the U.S. are not so sure about its effectiveness, since there are no definitive studies to suggest that the method works or is even safe.

“Before I can endorse this theoretical therapy for my patients, I need at least some evidence,” said Dr. Michael Murray, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northern California Fertility Medical Center.

This procedure is one of many that some of Murray’s patients ask him about, who are “grasping at straws for a solution to their recurrent miscarriages,” he says.

And some experts agreed, comparing the fertility-boosting procedure to others that are seemingly inexpensive with unknown risks for side effects, such as herbal supplements.

Previous studies done on animals or in lab dishes have found conflicting results about whether intralipid infusion works. Studies are also conflicted about the role that natural killer cells play in fertility.

“Most of the time when IVF fails, it is due to the quality of the embryos that were transferred and not the immune environment in the uterus,” said Dr. Tamer Yalcinkaya, section head of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

If the scientific evidence supported the claims, intralipid infusion may benefit women with good quality embryos who have undergone previous IVF cycles but haven’t yet been able to conceive, said Yalcinkaya.

As for Conyers’ multiple unsuccessful IVF tries followed by one supplemented by intralipid infusion that worked, some experts say it’s hard to tell what part of that equation turned out to be the tipping point for Conyers.

“Success of a repeat IVF cycle may be a chance event and does not necessarily indicate that the need of an intervention was the cause of that improvement,” said Yalcinkaya.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Artificial Testicle Could Make Sperm for Infertile Men

In-vitro fertilization. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Researchers in California are attempting to make an artificial testicle that will produce human sperm.

Dr. Paul Turek, director of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco, which specializes in male infertility, said the goal is not to create a testicular implant for men, but a “sperm-making biological machine” that will help scientists learn more about just what causes male infertility.

“We’re trying to recreate the process of sperm production in a three-dimensional system,” Turek said. “Simple laboratory conditions can’t get it done in humans. Our concept is to actually recreate the testicle itself.”

Turek and his team will build the faux testicle by first growing cells that nurture sperm in the lab and then adding a man’s stem cells to hopefully create new sperm cells. Turek said the “holy grail” of his research will be to produce sperm for infertile men that could be used in IVF treatments to conceive children, but achieving that goal will likely not happen for many years.

Dr. Rick Paulson, director of the fertility program at the University of Southern California, told ABC News that if Turek and his team are successful, it could be an exciting step forward for men who lose their testicles to cancer, accidents or other factors that leave them without the ability to make sperm.

But the team will face a few hurdles, Paulson said.

“The processing of DNA is very complicated to go from a regular cell to a germ cell” like sperm, which have half the number of chromosomes as other cells in the body, Paulson said. “Not only do you have to split the chromosomes in half, but you also have to package the DNA in a very specific way. I think it will be quite challenging.”

Approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile, and in about half of those cases, the man is the source of the infertility, according to the Mayo Clinic. Scientists are already able to harvest sperm from the testicles of men who produce their own sperm, just not enough to be fertile.

Paulson said the next, far more challenging task for researchers will be to create eggs from stem cells to help infertile women.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fertility After Cancer Treatment Aim of New Free Program

Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many woman who battle cancer, also face the loss of their fertility.

Age is a large factor in fertility in general, and how that fertility is affected by cancer treatment is no exception.  The types of drugs used to treat the cancer are also factors, but overall, the older the woman is, the less likely it is that her fertility will not return.

But what about younger women facing cancer treatment? According to Dr. Drew Tortoriello, medical director for the Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine, nearly 70,000 women under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer every year and Tortoriello hopes to offer them a chance to rescue their fertility.

Tortoriello estimates that nearly 50 percent of women lose their ability to have children a few months after chemotherapy and radiation.

For many women, the only possibility of holding on to their fertility lies in a cycle of harvesting their eggs, scheduled in between the cancer diagnosis and the on-set of chemo and radiation treatment.  And this safety net comes at a price.

“A cycle of IVF for the most part costs in the range of about $10,000 to $15,000. So it can be very cost prohibitive for people. Unfortunately, insurance is very, very hit or miss in terms of its coverage,” Tortoriello explains.

But Tortoriello and his colleagues at the Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine came up with a way to try to help. “Fertility Rescue is something that the physicians at the Sher Institute got together about maybe six months ago, and decided it was going to be our way of dealing with the infertility issue facing cancer patients…those who can never afford it, are actually going to be able to afford it because we are offering it essentially completely free.”

Vianney Ferdinand was the first patient to participate in the Fertility Rescue Program at the Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine.

After her bi-lateral mastectomy, but before beginning chemo and radiation, Ferdinand underwent a 10-day process to harvest her eggs and fertilize some of those eggs with her husband’s sperm.

Most oncologists recommend that women wait two to five years before trying to conceive, either naturally or otherwise. Ferdinand is aware that there are no guarantees with fertility, but she is optimistic and plans to add to her family in a few years.

Because this program is so new, Tortoriello does not have any statistics on the Fertility Rescue Program producing children to cancer survivors, but he remains confident that he will be helping many women in the months and years to come.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Eating Junk Food Make Men Infertile?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- Junk food adds weight, clogs arteries and, according to a new study, may make young men infertile.

The Sun reports a new joint study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Murcia in Spain shows men who eat lots of junk food, particularly items containing trans fats, have poorer quality sperm.

The study examined sperm from hundreds of men between the ages of 18 and 22.  Men who ate a high proportion of junk food had poorer quality sperm than those guys with a healthy diet.

The study also found the sperm of men with junk food diets remained poor and were less likely to fertilize an egg, even if the subjects exercised and maintained a healthy weight.

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

ABC News Radio