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Let's Talk Babies!

fertility

About half of all pregnancies in the United States are planned, meaning that the couple tried to get pregnant.   It can be an exciting time in a couple’s life, however, at the same time it can bring a lot of frustration, especially if it doesn’t happen right away.  Many people carry the misconception that getting pregnant is easy (I mean people get pregnancy “by accident” all the time) and if you don’t get pregnant right away there must be some underlying fertility issue.  That, my friends, is not the case.  For many couples experiencing a difficulty in getting pregnant the issue is not necessarily infertility, but rather is likely to be a matter of bad timing.

In any given menstrual cycle a woman has a 20% (1 in 5) chance of sperm meeting egg, egg becoming fertilized and implanting and of getting pregnant.  Not really great odds when you think about it, right?  Right.  But, you can make those odds work in your favor if you pay attention to your timing, pay attention to your body.

For the “average” woman a regular menstrual cycle is about 28 days.  Some women will have shorter or longer cycles which is why it is important to pay attention and to know our body.  During a regular 28 day cycle you can expect to ovulate on or about the 14th day of your cycle, however ovulation can occur as early as day 11 or as late as day 21.  This is where timing and paying attention to your body can make a huge difference in how long it takes you to get pregnant once you start trying.

In order to get pregnant the sperm must meet the egg, right?  And in order for that to happen you have to know when you are ovulating.  So, here is where it is all about the timing.  Your chances of becoming pregnant are greatest if you and your partner have sex in the few days leading up to ovulation and for a window of about 24 hours after you ovulate.  Many obstetricians and fertility specialists will recommend that a couple of sexual intercourse every other day while they are trying to get pregnant, this increases the odds that there will be healthy, vibrant sperm present when you ovulate.

So, how do you know when you are going to ovulate.  There are several things you can do to determine when in you are ovulating.  They including:

  • Tracking your basal body temperature. When ovulation has occurred your basal body temperature will rise.  You will need to do this for a few months in order to determine when you typically ovulate during your cycle.  Remember, once you have ovulate you have a window of about 24 hours before you lose your chance of becoming pregnant that month.
  • Checking your cervical mucus.  This involves testing the consistency of the mucus around your cervix.  As you approach ovulation the consistency of your cervical mucus will change making it a more welcoming environment for sperm.   When you are most fertile (just about to ovulate) your cervical mucus will be of an egg white consistency.
  • Using an ovulation prediction kit.  These can be purchased at any pharmacy in the same aisle as home pregnancy kits.  These kits test the LH or luteinizing hormone in our urine.  The LH levels will go up the day before you ovulate.  These tests can be a bit expensive so you may want to try the other options first before trying out the ovulation prediction kits.

85% of healthy, fertile couples will successfully become pregnant within 1 year of trying to conceive.  It is all about your timing and knowing your body.  If you know when you are going to ovulate you can plan to have sex around that time to help increase your odds.  Timing is everything.

If you have not become pregnant after 1 year (after 6 months if you are over 35) of trying talk to your doctor so they can work with you and determine if there may be some underlying fertility issue.

Since posting the news story about the arrival of California’s octuplets last week a lot of new information has come out. When I originally posted the article the big stories were that this was only the second set of live-born octuplets in the United States, all the babies were doing really well, and that the arrival of the babies had renewed debate over the ethical dilemmas surrounding fertility treatments.

My how the plot has thickened…

The grandmother of the octuplets has shared some very interesting information with reporters in the last few days. Including that the octuplets have 6 (yes I said 6) siblings waiting at home for them. They all live together in the grandparents 3 bedroom California home.

The grandmother advised reporters that the mom is a single parent and all of the children, including the octuplets, were conceived using IVF (invetro fertilization). This procedure involves harvesting a woman’s eggs (or using donor eggs), fertilizing them outside of the womb and then implanting the embryos into the mother’s uterus. In this procedure the number of embryos can be fully controlled by the doctor and strict guidelines exist about keeping the number of embryos implanted to a minimum to avoid a potentially dangerous high-order multiples pregnancy. Clearly the fertility specialist in this case choose to ignore those guidelines putting both mother and babies at risk.

In light the the clear ethical implications of the doctor’s decision I definitely think the medical review board needs to take a long hard look at this case and determine if the fertility specialist should be allowed to continue practicing. I mean, clearly he or she let greed cloud their better judgment. No fertility specialist in their right mind would agree to implant 8 embryos into this woman. They probably wouldn’t agree to implant 8 embryos into any woman, but especially not someone who already had 6 children, was not married, and lived at home with her parents. I think both the mother and the fertility specialist dodged a bullet on this one since all 8 babies were born healthy and are doing well so far.

I have to wonder who is footing the bill for the medical care for the octuplets. I don’t think it has been reported yet if the woman worked and we don’t know if she had private medical insurance. If not, then I would guess that California’s medicaid program is footing the bill for that babies’ very expensive medical care. Just another thing to debate about this whole situation. It is definitely going to open up the current guidelines surrounding fertility treatments for debate and discussion. I’m sure new, stricter guidelines will come about as a result of this story.

It will be interesting to see what additional information comes to light about this story in the coming days and weeks. I just hope the 8 little babies continue to do well and that all 14 children are well taken care of. All of those children deserve the best, regardless of the arguably bad decisions made by their mother. I can’t imagine what it will be like for this woman when all 8 newborns come home. 14 children is a lot for anyone to handle, but most especially when 8 of those are helpless little newborns, my goodness.

It has been all over the news this week, on Monday January, 26th a California woman gave birth to octuplets via cesarean section.  The babies are only the second live-born octuplets in the United States.

The six boys and two girls are doing remarkably well for high-order multiples.  The babies were born 9 weeks premature with weights ranging from 1 pound 8 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces.   As with any multiple birth these premature babies face many obstacles as they begin life outside the womb.  They will spend several weeks in the hospital and face challenges including developmental difficulties, breathing problems, eating difficulties and much more.  Although doctors have stated they are doing very well and all the babies were breathing on their own they are by no means out of the woods yet.

The arrival of this latest set of high-order multiples has renewed the debate regarding what responsibility fertility specialists have in trying to prevent the incidents of these risky, high-order multiples.  Being pregnant with high-order multiples puts the mother at significantly increased risk of developing dangerous complications during her pregnancy.  Not to mention the risk to the babies both during gestation and for many years after birth.

With the increased utilization of fertility treatments in this country the incidents of multiples is also increasing.  While most remain twins it is becoming more and more common to hear about higher-order multiples.  There are strict guidelines published by the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology regarding how many embryos should be implanted during invetro fertilization and most fertility clinics follow these guidelines.  However, when ovulation stimulation is used as a fertility treatment it is increasing difficult to limit the number of embryos that implant.  It is up to the doctor to educate their patients about the risks involved with high-order multiple pregnancies and what steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of the pregnancy resulting in 3 or more babies.

My thoughts are with all 8 of those tiny babies and I hope each of them does wonderfully and is home with mommy and daddy soon.