Olive's Blog

Dr Beth Taylor MD, FRCSC

Blog

telomeres

Ever notice when you get something in your head you start seeing that thing everywhere? I remember when I was a teenager I wanted a cordless telephone. I begged my parents for one with the claim that "everyone had one."  It did seem like they did: Carrie, my short, rebellous friend would walk around her house on one for hours, Monica down the street had one she'd hide from her brother, Radio Shack had them prominently on display. It felt like I was the only person without one and I had the 1980s version of FOMO.

 

estrogen: good or bad?

Let's talk about IVF paradigms. In a nutshell, IVF involves stimulating the ovaries to produce multiple eggs all at once.  The egg are then removed, fertilized with sperm and embryos are created.  The embryo(s) are then put into a woman's uterus in hopes a pregnancy will occur.

 

1 in 6, really?

#1in6 You've probably seen that hashtag and you probably don't believe it.  Last week was infertility awareness week in Canada and since 1 in 6 Canadian couples experience infertility we promoted that hashtag to raise awareness of how common infertility is.  

 

short supply

About 11  years ago I heard Jonathan Tilly speak at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting.  His research suggested in mice new eggs could be made. This raised the question "what if our understanding that women are born with all the eggs they'll ever have, is wrong?"  What if we could make new eggs for women?  Huh.  A basic premise of human reproduction is that you can't.  All evidence so far has supported the idea that women are born with about a million eggs and rapidly lose them, running out at menopause.

don't wait after a miscarriage

I'll make this brief because it is 10pm on Friday night and Netflix is calling, but: please do not wait to try and get pregnant again after a miscarriage.  We've known for years that you are more fertile and less likely to have an adverse pregnancy outcome if you get pregnant soon (within 6 months ideally) of a miscarriage.  It's "old school" to tell women to wait a few months to get pregnant after a miscarriage, but this message is still being conveyed by some health care providers.

older dads

What about the guy?  As fertility doctors we focus a lot of our energy on investigating the woman and counselling couples about the success rate, risks and outcomes as they relate to the woman.  Partly this is because testing of the male is more straightforward and partly because the success rate is usually more dependant on female factors, but outcomes are different: the male matters more than we previously thought.

tall women

I didn't want my blog to become stale but lately I haven't been writing much.  I blame myself and Facebook and Instagram and Netflix and a few other life distractions. I am sure in the pre-social media years I got a lot more done. Then again, maybe I didn't and I am just glamourizing the olden days.  Anyway, I am on vacation this week so thought I'd put fingers to my keyboard. 

 

after embryo transfer

At least once a month I have a woman in my office crying because her IVF cycle didn’t work and she believes in her heart that she is to blame. Typically she will say she “did too much after the transfer.” Women are so hard on themselves.

happy 2017

Happy New Year’s Eve 2016!  Now that I have eaten my body weight in chocolate and chips, it’s time to make resolutions.  First, stop eating my body weight in chocolate and chips.  My other resolutions are pretty similar to previous years:

inklings

There are a few main infertlity journals I read: Human Reproduction, Fertility and Sterility (F&S)  and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  It is in these journals the latest fertility research is published, useful topics are reviewed and in F&S they have a section called "Inkings."  This is the section I enjoy the most, honestly.  Inklings are short musings, generally by well respected fertility doctors and scientists.  They write about their "gut feelings" or their pet theories about disease or treatments.

pregnancy in older women

The word on the internet is that Janet Jackson is pregnant at 50. This is wonderful news - I am always happy to hear about new life, new light, being brought into the world.  There is something that makes me deeply happy when people grow their families.   It is why I do the work I do. It is why I have children. It is why I tear up at every birth announcement and thank you note I receive from patients.  

 

nice embryo, smart kid

I remember a lovely couple whom I helped conceive with IVF once emailed me to ask about their children's intelligence.  The child was 3 or 4 at the time and, according to the parents, exceptionally good at everything.  They believed their daughter was intellectually gifted, among other gifts.  They asked me if she was so special because, as an embryo, she has been selected from a field of many as the "best looking" and "strongest." 

 

good genes

We all have genes in the DNA of our cells. Genes determine our hair colour, eye colour, height, and about 20,000 other things about us including which diseases we will develop.  Over the past decade scientists have figured out the "spelling," or sequence of nucleotides, of every gene in humans.  This project was called the Human Genome Project.  Since this project of sequencing of all human genes was completed, the focus shifted to figuring out which gene mistakes, or mutations (or misspellings), cause which diseases.  

 

ICSI

Lets' talk about intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), pronounced ick-see.  During IVF treatment a woman takes medication to grow multiple eggs at once.  We then extract the eggs and fertilize them.  You can fertilize an egg in one of two ways:

  • Insemination - several thousand sperm are placed in a dish around the egg 
  • Intracytoplastic sperm injection (ICSI) - one sperm is injected into the egg

 

Vacation

I just got back from a family vacation in Nova Scotia. There I gained about 10 lbs, never exercised, and listened to countless funny stories about relatives I've never met. I do the same thing every summer and while it objectively sounds boring, it's actually quite fun. Food is love and the more sugary and buttery the food they serve, the more a maritimer loves you. So visiting old friends and family on vacation meant eating plenty of butter-soaked lobster, ice cream, and potato chips. Again, a lot of fun. Now I have a rich-food hangover and jet lag.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Maybe it's my mother's influcence but I do think things happen in threes. Yes, since my birth, my mother has been warning me that after two relatives die, it's only a matter of time before a third one bites the dust too. After two stubbed toes, two bad hair cuts, two car accidents, two divorces, two failed anything, a third one is inevitable. I am not sure why bad but not good things run in threes, but it's best not to question superstition too much anyway.

 

Good and Bad

Every job has good days and bad days. Today was 90% good and 10% bad. 

A couple brought their 6-month-old daughter from IVF by to meet us, a woman who has been trying to conceive for a few years brought us a gift to say "thanks for trying so hard" for her, a couple who has twins on the way sent a "thank you" note, and a box of chocolates came from another successful couple.

Whole grains are good for you

Is there a diet you should follow to promote fertility? The Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study is trying to answer this question. Since 2006, women at a Boston IVF program are being studied with questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, and other environmental factors that might impact fertility. Some results from this work are starting to be released.

Vasectomy

Friday night I was watching Dax Shepard, the actor, on the Jimmy Kimmel show. He and his wife, Kristen Bell, have two young children. He was describing how quickly and unexpectedly they conceived their second child after their first. He said that just a few days after learning Kristen was pregnant with their second child, he had a vasectomy, not wanting more than two children. I gasped. What if something had happened in the pregnancy and the baby hadn't survived?  What if they had changed their minds later and wanted a third child?  What if...?

 

Twins

When you've been trying to conceive for months or years, twins seem like a good thing. After all, many people imagine their family as having two children. When you've waited for so long to have a child, having two children at once seems ideal. I agree, except twins have risks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states the risks of a multiple pregnancy as follows: 

How Many Eggs?

How many eggs am I going to get? This is a good question and nearly every IVF patient will ask me this at some point during their treatment. While I've been doing IVF for a decade, I still stammer when trying to answer this question. Why don't I know how many eggs a woman is going to get in IVF when I am looking at the egg sacs (aka follicles) on ultrasound?

Frozen Donor Wggs

Let’s talk about donor eggs.  When a woman’s eggs are too low in number or quality to produce a healthy child, using donated eggs is an option. You can obtain donated eggs from a woman you know or from an anonymous woman through an egg bank. The use of egg banks has exploded over the past few years as the techniques of freezing and thawing eggs have improved dramatically.  As a result, eggs can be donated, frozen, and then used weeks, months, or even years later.  These frozen donated eggs can be shipped anywhere.