Thursday, January 23, 2014

Could I Be Infertile Or Am I Still Recovering From Surgery For Endo?


Question:

Hello. I'm a 29 year old female. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for 7 months now. I had a laparoscopy done in June of 2013, due to an ovarian cyst on my right ovary. As the Dr. was doing the procedure, she said that the cyst had already ruptured ( which I didn't even know, or feel) and she found a little bit of endometriosis, which she got rid of as well. My tubes were wide open with no other complications.
 I'm about 2 1/2 months post op, and we still haven't gotten pregnant. I just saw my Obgyn a few days ago for a progesterone test, and it showed I was ovulatory. I was an 8.4. So the next step is to go get another ultrasound to make sure everything is ok inside, followed by some blood work a few days later. He said we'd check for PCOS. I have no symptoms of that. My periods have been pretty regular all my life. My question is why haven't I gotten pregnant? I thought the laparoscopy was suppose to open things up to help a future pregnancy. Could my body still be recovering from the surgery, and that's why I haven't become pregnant?  Or could there possibly be an underlying problem I have. The Dr. didn't really make me feel that comfortable. I asked a lot of questions, yet I still feel I'm unsure about things. I don't know what to think. He said we might start Clomid, but part of me wants to think I'm still recovering. I really hope I don't have any serious problems. I really just want to be blessed with a child, yet it's been so difficult to achieve.

Any advice/help would be greatly appreciated!  P. from Illinois.

Answer:

Hello P. from the U.S.(Illinois),

Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after 12 months of trying so technically you are NOT infertile.

In terms of your surgery, you are way past that and it is not the reason you are not getting pregnant unless scar tissue was formed from the surgery inside the pelvis.

My first recommendation is to find a new doctor.  Preferably, find one that is a specialist in infertility rather than a general Ob/Gyn.  The reason is that you are on the verge of wasting a lot of time and money.  Your doctor is jumping to things without good reason.  For example, saying that you have PCOS when you have regular periods.  PCOS is defined as an ovulation dysfunction and you have to have irregular or absent periods as the prime criteria for the diagnosis.  Also, going straight to Clomid without a full infertility evaluation is a waste of time and money.  It's like prescribing a treatment before you know what you are treating.

My recommendation would be to start with a basic infertility evaluation:

  • Cycle day#2 or 3 hormone panel (FSH, LH, Estradiol, TSH, Prolactin)
  • HSG

  • Hysteroscopy or Hysterosonogram

  • Pelvic ultrasound #done#

  • Semen analysis

  • Cycle day #21 or 22 progesterone #should be 10 or greater#

  • End of cycle endometrial biopsy

  • Cervical cultures for GC, Chlamydia and Ureaplasma

  • Laparoscopy (which you have done)

Once all these are done, then you can discuss and consider treatment options. Since endometriosis was treated, you need to try to get pregnant within one year of the surgery or the endometriosis will return and possibly prevent pregnancy.
Good Luck,
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

TTC After Surgery For Stage Four Endometriosis


Dear Readers,
As the year draws to a close I want to wish all my readers near and far the very best in their lives as you move forward into 2014. I hope that the blessings of health and peace are with you all and for those of you who continue to struggle with infertility, I can only wish with all my heart that the journey will come to a positive conclusion for you in 2014.
Thank you for following my blog and God Bless.
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D.
 
Question:
Hello,

I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis in 2011 (26 yrs old) after a laparoscopy found a large endometrioma. I've never had painful periods prior so that diagnosis was surprising to me.I then grew back another large endometrioma and had my 2nd lap in June 2013. I am now 29 and have been TTC (trying to conceive) since my surgery in June. I was told to try naturally for the 1st 6 months. I am now on my 7th cycle and beginning to look into other options. I have seen that with stage 4 endo the treatment of choice is IVF over trying clomid / IUI. Can you explain why?  I understand surgery can affect ovarian reserve but am looking for better understanding.
What would you recommend my next steps be? How aggressive should I be in getting pregnant right away since I only had a two years between surgeries was regrowth or large endometriomas?  Thank you.

C. from California
Answer:

Hello C. from the U.S. (California),
Unfortunately, Stage 3 and 4 endometriosis have been found to significantly decrease fertility rates.  This is because endometriosis cause a chronic inflammation of the pelvis that recruits inflammatory cells and these cells attack and destroy the eggs when ovulation occurs (this of course is putting is very simply for ease of understanding).  In stage 4 endometriosis, severe adhesions or scar tissue formation occurs in the pelvis.  These adhesions are like spider webs so that when the egg exits the ovary and moves into the pelvis, prior to finding the tube, the eggs get caught in these spiker webs or the webs block the tubes so that the egg never gets into the tube where fertilization takes place.

Because of this, the only way to achieve pregnancy is to bypass the tubes, which you cannot do by natural means.  For that reason IVF is the only option.  Now, even I have had patients with stage 4 endometriosis get pregnant, and as a Catholic I believe in miracles, and so don't doubt that this can happen.  However, statistically speaking these cases are very, very few.
In terms of the recurrence of endometriosis or endometriomas, this is a chronic disease and new implants are continuously forming.  For that reason, you can form new endometriomas, despite the previous ones being removed.

Good Luck,
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fertility At 40 After Having Had Children Earlier In Life: Is It Still Good?


Question:
Hello. I just turned 40 years old. I am healthy. I had 1 miscarriage in my early 30s. I waited a few years to conceive after that and conceived two children back to back in the first month of trying so I am hoping my fertility is still good. Obviously Im reproductively old and there is an issue of egg quality. Is it always better to try to conceive naturally. We are worried about chromosomal disorders. I had testing done at a fertility clinic. My AFC was 14, my FSH was 6 point something and my AMH was 5 point something. Can you help me interpret this? Again, is it always better to try to conceive naturally? Thanks!!! S. from the U.S.

Answer:
Hello S. from the U.S.,

Having had children previously does extend your fertility in my opinion so although you are "reproductively old", you may still be quite fertile.
The tests mentioned, AFC, FSH and AMH are all INDIRECT measures of ovarian function and NOT fertility or egg quality.  They give us an idea of how well the ovaries will respond to stimulation, which statistically can increase or decrease your chances of success.  In older women, the more eggs you get in an IVF cycle, the higher the chances of finding a good egg because there are fewer good eggs with increasing age.  That is all that those tests reveal.

In terms of what may be the best way to get pregnant, certainly trying natural has significant advantages: it is more fun and pleasurable, it costs less.  The disadvantages are: there is an increased risk of genetic disorders (based on your age), it may not work, and there is a higher risk of miscarriage.  So, in terms of whether to try naturally or go with a technological means, it depends completely on your personal preference and goals.  Unless you want to do something like genetic testing of embryos for normality or sex selection or want to increase your chance of pregnancy in the shortest possible period, then I would recommend that you try naturally for at least 6 months.   If not successful by that point, then I would recommend that you consider proceeding directly to IVF, which is the recommendation if you say yes to either of the previous criteria.  The downsides of IVF are: cost, not fun, unnatural and it's a medical procedure.  The upside is it is more efficient (higher chance of pregnancy per attempt, you can genetically test the embryos to minimize the risk of miscarriage or genetically abnormal child and you can achieve pregnancy faster.  Because your ovarian testing is so good (more like a 20 year old), you are a very good candidate for IVF and I would probably give you a high chance of success per attempt (50-60%) in a good IVF center.
 
Good Luck,

Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poor Responder Needs To Know IVF Is Not All About Numbers: It 's About One Good Embryo

Question:

Hi Dr. Ramirez,
My name is A. and I am writing from Michigan. I am 33 years old and have DOR with an AMH of <.16, Hashimoto’s and positive ANA’s. I am on day 10 of stims for IVF #2 and responding poorly compared to our first attempt. I am hoping you could answer a few questions regarding the cause of the diminished response (compared to the first) and also give your opinion regarding canceling the cycle.

IVF #1 (March 2013):
BCP suppression 5 weeks
225 iu Bravelle, 150 iu Menopur, Ganirelix days 8-10. Stimmed for 10 days.
Day 5 of stims: 6 follies: 9-10 mm, E2 301
Day 10 of stims: 7 follies: 19-21 mm, E2 724
Retrieved 8 eggs, 6 mature, 4 fertilized with ICSI, 2 transferred (grade B’s, no frag), none to freeze.

IVF #2 (in progress):
BCP suppression 4 weeks
225 iu Bravelle, 225 iu Menopur, Ganirelix added day 8 of stims.
Day 7 of stims: 6 follies: 12, 12, 9, 9, 9, 9 mm, E2 243
Day 10 of stims: 4 follies: 15, 14, 11, 10 mm, E2 495
There are five factors that have changed since the first cycle. 1) Menopur was increased by 75 iu. 2) Ganirelix was introduced when follies were smaller at just 12 mm. 3) Slightly less time on BCP suppression; less one week 4) Added Methylprednisolone 16 mg. 5) Discontinued DHEA 50 mg and Myo-Inositol 2 g.
What could be causing the poorer response, loss of follicles and slow growth? Is there anything that can be done to speed up growth and/or catch up the 10 and 11? Does the slow growth speak to poor egg quality?
I am okay with going to retrieval with so few follicles as I realize I have DOR and cannot expect a normal response. However, with having had a better response previously, would you recommend canceling at this point? Why?
This is such a stressful time for us, so I greatly appreciate your attention and feedback.
A. from Michigan
Answer:

Hello A. from the U.S. (Michigan),
First, you should know that ovaries can and will respond differently with each cycle regardless of the protocol used.  That is to say that even poor responders will respond better or worst from one cycle to the next.

In your case, I can make several observations which may be helpful to you:

1.  Despite a low AMH, you have responded pretty well with each cycle.  You had 14 follicles and 10 in the second.  This is not a sign of a poor responder.  Poor responders tend to have less than 10 total follicles.  In addition, your stimulation was not that high, so I would say you are a pretty average (normal) responder.

2.  As mentioned, your stimulation protocol was in the mid-range (375 IU and 450 IU).  The max protocol that most clinics use is up to 600 IU (450 FSH + 150 FSH/LH (menopur).  So in terms of stimulation, you have lots of room to improve.

3.  You mentioned starting Ganerelix when the follicles were 12 mms.  That is way too soon in my opinion.  Based on European studies and over 10 years of use by myself, I do not start Ganerelix until the lead follicles are at least 16 mms and preferably when the 30% or more are between 16-18 mms.  The purpose of Ganerelix is to prevent premature ovulation so I hold it until the very latest that I can to allow the follicles to develop without suppression.  Starting too early will lead the smaller follicles to stop growing.

None of this implies low egg quality or poor outcome.  It is part of the "art" of assisted reproduction and what distinguishes one doctor or clinic from another.  Bottom line is that IVF is not all about numbers.  It is about getting at last one good embryo to attach and lead to a pregnancy.  For that reason, even if there are fewer follicles I recommend that you keep going just in case the perfect embryo is in this group.

Good Luck,
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After Failing 3 IVF, Reader Has Pregnancy Success After Writing To Me


Dear Readers, Sometimes I get great news from one of the many couples I help on AllExperts.com and this is one I would like to share with you. Over a year ago I began corresponding with this woman regarding her failed IVF cycles. Her original questions appear right after the good news I received from her a few days ago. Makes it all worthwhile :)
October 7, 2013
Comment:   Dr. Ramirez helped me conceive from across the country thanks to his blog. We've never met and my husband and I credit him with the birth of our healthy baby boy. When my RE rejected our suggestions, Dr. Ramirez provided facts that played a major role in our "self" treatment which was to try naturally with baby aspirin. More doctors should provide online guidance and provide proven medical facts and suggestions to help those of us who are skeptical of patient forums. 

July 2012
Question:
Hello Dr. Ramirez,
I am writing from the United States.  I have been TTC for 2 years.  I began RE treatment 6 months after trying to conceive naturally at 34 yrs old. I am 36 now. I have failed 6 Intra Uterine Inseminations and Three IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycles. Below are the details: (for privacy purposes I have omitted the precise details of each cycle…except for the transfer details)
First IVF: 7 mature eggs, All ICSI 1 fertilized, transferred 4 cell Grade AB on day 3
Second IVF: 17 mature eggs, 9 fertilized, transferred 2 Grade AA on Day 3, one made it to blast and freeze (poor quality)
Third IVF - 18 mature eggs, 14 fertilized, 9 made it to blast, transferred 2 Grade AA, froze 6 good quality blasts ranging from Grades AA - BB
I never had a positive beta or urine test.  I've done all the preliminary testing, water sono, bloodwork, HSG, etc. everything is normal.  My husband’s tests and sperm are also normal.
I asked about immunology testing and Doctor said there is nothing to support that treating it helps.
I don't believe the early bleeding is normal. My luteal phase naturally is about 11 days long.  Dr said the PIO is plenty for me and would not recommend increasing it.
I asked about baby aspirin and heparin. They said baby aspirin is ok, but heparin can be dangerous.  I've read in your posts that you recommend that if there is one IVF failure.
Is there harm in taking heparin? I don't know what else to do to make them implant.  What are your thoughts considering my history?  I do not want to transfer any frozens unless the protocol is changed. I feel like continuing the same PIO / medrol protocol is setting me up for failure again.  I appreciate your advice. Thank you!
Answer:
Hello,
Since you have had decent embryos to transfer in at least two of your three IVF cycles, this would be regarded as implantation failure.  Thanks for reading my posts.  I also discuss these issues in my blog.
Your doctor is right in that the correct general opinion, kind of like being politically correct, is that the studies do not show any benefit to treating for immunologic problems in IVF.  However, it remains to be seen and depends which studies you prefer to believe.  There are certainly studies that show that immunology plays a role in miscarriages and some studies that show immunological treatments help with IVF.  I don't think it can be discounted completely but at the same time, don't believe in every treatment that is offered.
I certainly advocate low dose aspirin, low dose medrol and low dose heparin in my patients that fail two cycles of IVF for no clear reason.  I have had many be successful thereafter with that protocol, which I have been using for the past 18 years.  There is NO danger in using low dose heparin.  Full dose heparin is another matter.
I think that the dilemma you now face is whether to continue with this doctor or not.  If you want more, such as using the protocol mentioned, then you'll probably have to find a doctor that will provide that to you.  I certainly think your doctor needs to reevaluate and consider what else he/she can do since what is being done so far has failed.
You certainly can always fly out to California. :)  For an FET cycle, you would only need to be here for one day.
Good Luck,
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Follow-Up Question:
Hello again,
We consulted with our RE again regarding the transfer and he suggested doing nothing differently and chalked it up to bad embryo genetics.  Again he reiterated no baby aspirin so we pleaded for him to do immunologic testing, cytogenetics (on us) and blood clotting work ups to which he agreed.
Everything came back normal, including cytogenetics on my husband, with the exception of my protein s free antigen level. It was 151 and regarded as "high" by the lab that ran it.  He referred me to a hematologist who ran protein s activity testing which thankfully came back normal. He said a high level protein s is not concerning and that only a low level would be.
So here we are again with his recommendation of transferring with the same protocol.  I asked again how about baby aspirin and he remained firm on "no".  I told him 3 doctors, including one at his practice, the hematologist and an online doctor i have emailed have said there is no harm in using it along with my friends who have used it with no pre-existing blood clotting disorders and went on to have successful IVFs.
He said taking baby aspirin with no blood clotting problem can cause more complications than help.  He said it can interfere with the growth of the placenta.  Is this true?  So far he is the only doctor that has said no to baby aspirin including the doctors of everybody I know who has gone through ivf unexplained.
Are there any facts you know of with baby aspirin and placental defects?
Again, I truly appreciate your knowledge and advice and thank you for your responses.  There should be more doctors like you who help others online with honest, professional opinions!
Follow –Up Answer:
Hello Again,
There are no studies that show any adverse affects of low dose aspirin on embryo or placental development.  In fact, and either you or he can look this up in any Infertility textbook, low dose aspirin is an approved and advocated treatment for recurrent pregnancy loss (now why would they endorse it if it caused placental problems?).  We have extrapolated its use in failed IVF with the same idea that it increases blood flow to the implantation site and reduces the formation of micro-clots in the tiny vessels supplying the implantation site.  There is no way to test for these. 
Since this doctor is not willing to work with you on this very simple and innocuous treatment, which may or may not help, I think you should seriously re-consider using him.
Good Luck,
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D.
Follow-Up Question:
QUESTION: Hello again
Have you noticed this email is more than nine months after your last reply?
Our RE did not budge again on the baby aspirin so we decided to wait on the next transfer and try naturally with baby aspirin.
That month I became pregnant for the first time. I went to my RE and he confirmed it with blood though the levels were low and I was bleeding and he did not offer progesterone cream. He said he doubted the pregnancy was due to the baby aspirin. At 5 weeks I miscarried, and although it was sad, I was elated at the fact that I did get pregnant. So we tried again naturally the following cycle with baby aspirin (2 weeks after miscarriage) and what do you know?
I got pregnant again.  I went back to RE and he confirmed with a blood test. I started bleeding again so he suggested progesterone cream.  I told him we did the baby aspirin thing again and if I should continue taking it and he said YES! 
He followed my progress until 2 months and referred me to my obgyn to monitor the pregnancy. I continued the progesterone cream until the end of the 3 months and continued taking baby aspirin until 37 weeks. Yes, 37 weeks.
Our healthy baby boy was born at 41 weeks, weighing 9lbs, 4oz and measuring 20.5 inches.
If I did not read your blog, he would not exist. My husband and I attribute his existence to your blog and cannot thank you enough.  Please continue your public advisement as it made our dreams come true.
Thank you!!!!!!
 
Follow-up Answer:
Hello,
I am absolutely delighted for you.  Congratulations :)  I'm saddened to see that you had to prescribe a therapy for yourself, but glad that it might have done the trick.  No one will ever know for sure if it helped or not and what the mechanism is, but it seems to help many people with your type of history.  I now put all my infertility patients on low dose aspirin from the beginning, IVF or not. Another possible factor is that you tried soon after your miscarriage--studies show that there is a higher chance of pregnancy after a miscarriage.
I'm shocked and a little disappointed that your Ob doctor allowed you to go post-dates (41+ weeks) because that posed significant risk to the baby such as a fetal demise, fetal distress, etc.  I NEVER let my infertility or IVF patients go past 40 weeks.  The sooner the baby was out the safer it was at that point.
Thank you for reading my blog and using this service (AllExperts) as well.  I do it in tribute to the task and gifts that God has given me, which is a part of the love he has for us.  Your baby is also a gift from God for you to treasure and teach of his ways.  Devote your love to this son and shower him with Goodness so that when he grows up, he will shower others with goodness as well, and thereby contribute toward making this world a better place.  It is not often that I get feedback of successes attributed to my writings, but know that your feedback reinforces my dedication to this task.
Congratulations!
 
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Protect Your Fertility!

Dear Readers,
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has launched a campaign with the aim of educating women on how to protect their fertility by avoiding certain risk factors. The Society has made available a number of fact sheets, graphics and brochures that are all downloadable on their "Protect Your Fertility" page. At our center we also offer the ability to extend the fertility of a woman by either freezing her eggs or her embryos. See "Fertility Preservation" for more information.

Check out the selection of fact sheets, infographics and a brochure on the ASRM page, including:
  • "Advancing Age Decreases Your Ability To Have Children"
  • "Smoking and Infertility"
  • "Protect Your Fertility Brochure"
  • "Impact of Age on Female Fertility"
  • "Practicing Safe Sex Now Protects Your Ability To Have Children Later"
To quote ASRM: "At the risk of sounding like your high school health teacher, the decisions you make today really can impact your fertility and ability to have kids later. That's why it's so important to learn how to take care of your body. After all, there's a huge difference between choosing not to have kids and physically being unable to conceive if and when you want to."

Be proactive about your fertility health!

Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Follicles Too Big In Clomid Ovulation Induction Cycle

Hello,
I am writing from San Diego, CA.  I was on 100mg Clomid on Cycle Day 3-7, then 2mg estradiol on cd 8-12. I went in for an ultrasound to check follicles on cycle day 13.  My RE said that this was most likely a lost cycle because I had 2 dominant follicles at 26 and 31 mm.  He gave me an HCG trigger because he did not want the follicles to get bigger and become cysts.  My uterine lining was 14 mm, and my RE was happy with that.  My husband and I had intercourse the day of the trigger and the day after, then skipped a day and had intercourse one more time.  


Were the follicles too big?  Do we have any chance of conceiving this cycle?  I have also been feeling cramps since yesterday at 7 days after the trigger.  Is this normal?  

Thanks for your input. L. from San Diego

Answer:
Hello L. from the U.S. (San Diego),

I don't have the ability to foresee the future, and certainly exceptions can occur, however, the follicle sizes were too big.  Usually once the follicle is greater than 24 mms, the egg within is overmature and therefore no longer viable.  Ovulation may occur but that is the main problem.  Also, it is highly likely that these follicles will turn cystic (persist) and have to be suppressed with birth control pills. You need to make sure a baseline ultrasound is done to evaluate for this at the start of your next cycle.

So, statistically and physiologically speaking, this cycle is probably a bust.  Unfortunately, your doctor missed the appropriate point by not doing the ultrasound early enough.  Next cycle he should begin looking at cycle day #9 or 10, which is what I do.  If I'm too early that's okay because nothing is lost and gives me a better idea of follicular development.  If you're too late, as in your cycle, then then cycle is lost; a big price to pay.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

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