infertility device

A new device which is capable of potentially spotting infertility has been developed by fertility specialists from the University of Southampton. Roughly equal to the size of a 5p coin, the device monitors the temperature, oxygen and pH levels within the womb.

Their goal is to identify what a healthy womb environment looks like and use that knowledge to help infertile couples conceive naturally. Here, we’ll look into this exciting new device and the impact it could have on the fertility sector.

Understanding the new infertility device

The new device is essentially a sensor which measures 3.8mm and it’s been designed by engineers and doctors at the University of Southampton. It will be used to monitor pH levels, temperature and oxygen within the womb, for a period of seven days. Up until now, doctors have been unable to monitor these factors which are known to play a role in fertility.

The sensor is inserted into the womb, much like a contraceptive coil. It takes just a few minutes to implant it, then the device will start measuring the PH, temperature and oxygen levels of the womb every 30 minutes. The readings are sent to a transmitter which is sewn into the underwear, wirelessly. From there, the data is sent to a mobile phone or computer.

After the seven days are up, the device is removed, and the doctor can then use the readings to determine the best course of treatment. It could save thousands of couples needing to undergo IVF treatment.

The infertility device could be used to develop new fertility therapies

There are a few reasons why this new device could prove crucial in the fertility sector. Firstly, it could be used to detect fertility issues much quicker than other existing methods. This could greatly reduce the chances a couple could need to resort to IVF. The earlier a problem is detected, the easier it will typically be to try and resolve.

For example, if the pH levels within the womb aren’t within the normal range, it could point to an issue with the gut. This, in turn, could be treated with something as simple as probiotics.

Another benefit of the device is the potential for new fertility therapies to be developed in the future. If the device is proven to work, the doctors and engineers behind it believe that it could pave the way for big changes within the healthcare sector.

What’s next?

So, now the infertility device has been developed, what’s next? Well, first it’s going to need to be tested. Initially, they will test the device on 30 women from the fertility clinic at the university.

If the initial trial goes well, they are hoping to carry out a more in-depth study, enlisting women from fertility and miscarriage clinics.

Overall, the development of the device is exciting and if the trial goes well, it could soon start to be introduced into the NHS. However, while there’s no doubt it could certainly help a lot of couples avoid IVF treatment, it is worth pointing out that your fertility issues may not be caused by a poor womb environment. Therefore, it’s crucial to visit a fertility specialist to determine the exact cause of your fertility troubles.

reassurance pregnancy scan

A revolutionary new brain-scanning project is now underway to see just how our brains develop. Scientists from the Developing Human Connectome Project (DHCP), are scanning the brains of 1,000 sleeping newborns and are hoping the results will help to understand the beginning of neurological disorders.

The study, which is set to continue over the next few years, has already shown some interesting insights into a baby’s brain. Here, we’ll look at what has been discovered so far, the potential challenges of the study and how the results could prove beneficial in terms of understanding of how neurological disorders develop.

The study so far

The DHCP is being led by the Oxford University, King’s College London and the Imperial College London. Its goal is to create a dynamic map of the human brain’s connectivity from 20-44 weeks after conception. It will look at imagining, genetic, clinical and behavioural information shortly before, as well as after, the birth.

After receiving 15 million Euros in funding from the European Research Council, the DHCP is using magnetic resonance imaging along with computer analysis, to capture detailed images which were once impossible to see.

They have already scanned the brains and released the results from 40 babies for other scientists to look at. There is expected to be hundreds of thousands of scans released over the next few years, and they have already scanned the brains of 500 babies in the womb.

Some of the babies involved in the scan, were known to be at a high risk of developing autism and other neurological disorders. So, scientists are focusing on comparing their brains to that of other infants.

What challenges do the scans present?

While these new pregnancy scans are exciting, they certainly don’t come without their challenges. This is especially true when trying to scan the brains of babies still in the womb. There’s the risk that both the baby and the mother could move during the scan, causing the images to be blurred or inconsistent.

Even babies which are sleeping can move around. This was something the researchers discovered early on in the study in 2013. Over 10% of the scans failed initially due to the babies waking up during the procedure. This challenge has been rectified, however, with the baby’s being fed prior to the scan.

The scanner software was also tweaked a little to ensure it didn’t make sudden noises which could wake the baby. Computational techniques are also being used to correct even the slightest of movements, ensuring a clear scan image is produced even if the baby does move.

Helping us to discover how the brain works?

There are still three more years to go with the study and the overall goal is to help us to discover more about how the brain works. Genetic and medical data will hopefully be produced for the babies and they’ll be tested later in life to see how the brain changes. This will help scientists to discover more about the anatomy influence and brain wiring in later life.

There’s still a long way to go, but the study is certainly promising. In the meantime, if you are worried about your baby’s development, there are reassurance pregnancy scans and tests you can undergo to help put your mind at ease.

gender reveal scan

There are a lot of old wife’s tales surrounding the predictability of a baby’s sex. Some appear logical, while others are downright bizarre. One particular method of predicting baby’s sex is listening to the rate of baby’s heartbeat.

While there’s no research to back up this theory, could a baby’s heartbeat really predict their sex?

What’s the theory?

According to some people, the heart rate of a foetus can identify whether it is a boy or a girl. If the heartrate is less than 140 beats per minute, it indicates a boy, whereas if it’s faster then it’s a girl.

If this theory were true, it would be exciting for parents-to-be, given that the heartbeat can be detected much earlier than an ultrasound scan. However, could it actually be true? Not according to research!

Could it be true?

There have actually been several studies conducted which have looked into whether a baby’s heartbeat can reveal its sex.

In 2006, a study found that there was no difference between a male and a female heartbeat. The study ran from 1997 to 2003 and looked at 477 sonograms which were taken within the first trimester. The results determined gender could not be established by a baby’s heart rate.

A further study carried out in 2013, also looked at the heart rate of male and female babies during the mother’s first trimester. Again, no real difference was discovered between them. So, it appears baby’s heart rate isn’t a good indicator of whether you are having a girl or a boy.

Other common gender prediction myths

Of course, heart rate isn’t the only gender detection ‘myth’ out there – although some of those old wives’ tales actually have scientific backing.

Extreme morning sickness, for example, is said to indicate that the baby is a female. Recent research has pointed towards the fact that this could indeed be true. In 2017, it was discovered that women who were carrying a baby girl suffered increased inflammation due to bacteria they were exposed to compared to those carrying a boy. This could in turn increase the severity of morning sickness.

This is one of the few gender prediction myths which does have some scientific backing. Mostly, the myths you come across are exactly that.

Is there any way to predict baby’s sex?

The only reliable way to determine baby’s sex, is to undergo an ultrasound scan. The 20-week scan is the best time to ask for gender reveal. However, it is possible to pay for a private ultrasound scan from 10-weeks into the pregnancy. It may be possible to see baby’s gender at these earlier scans, but you do need to be aware that it isn’t always reliable. Later scans are the best for accurately revealing gender.

Overall, there’s a lot of gender reveal myths out there and the only way to really tell whether you are having a boy or a girl is during an ultrasound scan.

first pregnancy scan

Heading off to your first pregnancy scan can be both exciting and terrifying. It’s the first time you get to see your growing baby, but there’s always a fear something may be wrong. It can also be daunting not really knowing what to expect at the first scan.

If you’re due your first pregnancy scan, below you’ll discover everything you can expect.

Will you need to bring anything to your first pregnancy scan?

You don’t need to take anything with you, unless you’ve already received your hospital maternity notes. These can be used to see how well baby is developing, but they aren’t required. So, all you need to bring is yourself.

What will you be able to see at your first pregnancy scan?

If you choose to undergo the standard 12-week scan, you’ll be able to see a black and white image of your baby. They will have all of their organs, bones, limbs, muscles and sex organs. This means you’ll also be able to discover the sex if you want to.

If you want a higher quality image of your baby, you can opt for a 3D or 4D scan, although you still may not be able to see a whole lot depending upon how baby is positioned. It’s typically best to wait until baby is a little more developed before undergoing a 3D or 4D scan.

How is the scan carried out?

The 12-week scan is usually carried out abdominally. A cold gel will be applied onto the stomach before an ultrasound device is rubbed on top of it. This produces a 2D image onto a computer screen, giving you the first glimpse of your baby.

Occasionally, internal scans may be required where a small probe is gently placed inside the vagina. These are typically done to measure endometrial thickness and cervical assessments. However, the majority of patients will undergo the non-invasive abdominal tests.

How do I prepare for my first pregnancy scan?

It is better to undergo the scan on a full bladder. Therefore, it’s recommended that you drink a full pint of water an hour before your scan is due to take place. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for the coldness of the gel.

Many women are surprised by how cold the gel actually is and being anxious can make it feel like more of a shock than it needs to be. So, although you’ll understandably be nervous, it’s worth trying to control those nerves prior to the scan.

Who can attend the scan?

You can take anyone into the scan with you. However, as it is your first look at your baby, you’ll obviously want to ensure you’re not too distracted and you can focus fully on the scan.

What does the scan test for?

The 12-week scan assesses your baby’s development to check that everything is as it should be. If a problem is discovered, you’ll be recommended to a fetal medicine consultant. They will either confirm the findings or request more testing to be carried out.

Overall, the 12-week scan is an exciting milestone in your pregnancy journey. It provides the first glimpse at your little miracle and provides peace of mind that all is as it should be. The above are the main things you can expect from the test. However, if you have any concerns or questions, one of our scanning experts will be on hand to help.

endometriosis and fertility link

Endometriosis can be a debilitating condition, impacting many areas of a patient’s life. The endometriosis and fertility link has long been studied and now a new study has revealed the true impact endometriosis has on IVF success.

It revealed patients with worsening endometriosis, had a reduced chance of pregnancy via In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). Here, we’ll look at how the study was carried out and what it means for women suffering with Endometriosis who are considering going down the IVF route.

Understanding the study on endometriosis and fertility

The Israeli and Canadian study, published within The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynaecology, showed that worsening endometriosis in patients undergoing IVF decreased clinical and ongoing pregnancy rates.

There was a total of 216 infertile patients with endometriosis and 209 infertile patients without the condition, participating in the study. Those who did have endometriosis, were classified in accordance with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, with 58 patients in the Stage 1 category, 67 patients in the Stage 2 category, 63 patients in the Stage 3 category and 28 patients in the stage 4 category.

The patients were given a laparoscopy, along with an autologous IVF cycle between 2009 to 2014. After analysing the two groups, it was discovered patients with endometriosis had a consistent decline in ongoing and clinical pregnancy rates. It also identified a link to endometriosis surgery.

Those who waited 13 to 25 months after surgery to undergo IVF, had much better chances of success. The 13 to 25-month group had a 52.4% pregnancy rate, while those in the 7 to 12 month group had a 50% pregnancy rate. Those who waited until after 25 months, or from 0 to 3 months after surgery, had a lower 32.5% pregnancy rate.

Endometriosis and fertility link

Endometriosis is a common condition, and, in most cases, it has no impact on fertility. Those with a mild form of the condition typically have no issues falling pregnant naturally. However, as the condition worsens, it results in increased scar tissue which can decrease the chances of natural conception.

Although there is a link between endometriosis and infertility, the exact cause isn’t yet known. It is also still possible for patients with a severe form of the condition, to fall pregnant naturally. So, just because you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have trouble with fertility.

If you are diagnosed with fertility issues, there are treatment options available and IVF is one of them.

Is IVF a good treatment option?

Although the new research does determine that worsening forms of endometriosis can negatively impact IVF success, it is still considered an effective treatment option. Patients with a mild form of the condition should have similar chances of falling pregnant through IVF as women who do not have the condition.

The study also only assessed women who had undergone surgery to treat Endometriosis. So, it doesn’t apply to those who haven’t needed surgery. The best way to determine whether IVF is right for you, is to book a consultation with a fertility specialist. They will be able to assess the issue and figure out the best course of treatment to improve your chances of getting pregnant.

genetic testing and prenatal diagnosis

Two new studies have indicated that genetic testing could be the future of prenatal diagnosis. Researchers have been working towards improving non-invasive testing for the early detection of genetic abnormalities for years now and it appears they are finally getting closer.

Here, we’ll look at the two recent studies carried out and what they mean for the future of prenatal diagnosis.

Study #1: The Lab-On-A-Chip device

The first study, involving a Lab-On-Chip device (LOC), was carried out by Russian and Australian biomedical engineers. They developed the small microfluidic device and published their findings within the Advanced Materials Technologies.

The device screens high volumes of blood, helping to distinguish between maternal white blood cells and fetal cells. It’s well-known that after week five of pregnancy, fetal cells that have been shed from the placenta, start to circulate within the blood. However, existing CVS prenatal tests can only be done as early as 12 weeks into the pregnancy. They’re also usually only offered to women over the age of 35 or to women who have a high-risk pregnancy.

There are also Circulating Cell-Free Fetal DNA and Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) technologies available, but these can currently only detect a very small number of genetic conditions.

The hope is, the new LOC technology will be more reliable and able to detect a larger number of genetic abnormalities. During a feasibility study, the researchers were able to isolate 79% of trophoblastic cells using the LOC technology. They then confirmed that the fetal cells could be used in order to diagnose aneuploidy. A second feasibility study the technology was shown to detect single fetal trophoblast, highlighting that LOC could be used with downstream genetic analysis.

A clinical study will now need to be carried out to validate these results. If it does, the LOC device could significantly reduce the number of invasive tests carried out. It could also help to reassure women who are considered to have a low-risk pregnancy.

Study #2: Fetal DNA Sequencing

The US National Institutes of Health’s Institute director and senior researcher, Diana W. Bianchi, has recently published an article on how fetal DNA sequencing could reduce the need for invasive prenatal testing.

Published within the New England Journal of Medicine, the article claims fetal DNA sequencing helps to improve the accuracy or genetic prenatal screening. It is also said to have helped diagnose conditions which would have otherwise been missed.

Carried out by a simple blood test, it is most commonly used to identify conditions which are the result of an additional chromosome. This includes Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome and Patau Syndrome. However, it can also be used to detect conditions which are the result of a single cell mutation. Using fetal DNA sequencing on women who have tested negative for abnormalities, could reduce the need for additional prenatal tests.

Both of these studies show promising results and will hopefully go on to replace the more invasive prenatal tests eventually. The LOC device is especially promising, giving a wider range of women access to non-invasive prenatal testing.

ovarian cancer screening

A groundbreaking ovarian cancer drug has been approved for inclusion for the first time on the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund. According to experts, this new drug could be a game changer for thousands of women in the future.

Not only could the drug prevent ovarian cancer from developing further, but it can also prolong life for those who experience a return of the disease. Here, we’ll look at why this new drug is an exciting development in the treatment against ovarian cancer. You’ll also discover how to protect yourself and identify the signs early on.

What is the new drug?

The new drug, known as niraparib, is a pill treatment designed to help women with fallopian tube, primary peritoneal and ovarian cancers. Prior to be accepting onto the NHS, it has undergone numerous clinical trials.

Results of these trials have proven that niraparib can delay cancer growth by as much as 15.5 months. Patients are required to take the pills just once each day and it’s said to work by inhibiting the two proteins which as ultimately responsible for repairing DNA to restrict cancer growth. As of yet, there is no conclusive data to show the drug’s overall survival rate, but evidence does show it can certainly prolong life.

The potential to benefit thousands of women

As it stands, the drug will be available to up to 850 women each year. This means, that thousands of women could benefit in the long-term.

Previous treatments which have recently been provided, have focused solely on women who meet very specific criteria. This new drug however, is approved for a much wider patient group.

Why early ovarian cancer detection is crucial

The reason this new drug has caused excitement within the industry is because ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest to affect women. It’s even been dubbed ‘a silent killer’, as by the time its symptoms start to show, the cancer has often already developed into its later stages. This makes it incredibly difficult to treat.

It is estimated that approximately 7,400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK. Out of these, 4,128 women die from the condition. It’s also known that up to a staggering 85% of women who have had ovarian cancer, experience a reoccurrence of the disease.

It is a very difficult type of cancer to treat, but the odds of survival are much higher if it is caught early. This is why ovarian cancer screening can prove invaluable.

What is ovarian cancer screening?

Many women rely upon their regular pelvic exam at the doctors to determine the health of their ovaries. However, ovarian tumours which are in their early stages can be extremely difficult to detect through a pelvic exam alone. This is why ovarian cancer screening is often recommended.

The screening includes a TVUS, or Transvaginal ultrasound, along with a CA-125 blood test. The ultrasound delves into the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, checking for any masses. Although it can detect a mass, it cannot determine whether that mass is cancerous. The majority of masses found on ultrasound screening do turn out to be non-cancerous. The blood test measures the level of the CA-125 protein as women who have ovarian cancer tend to have much higher CA-125 levels.

While this new drug is great news for women suffering from ovarian cancer, it does highlight the importance of detecting the condition early. Having regular ovarian cancer screening tests will ensure any changes are picked up quickly, increasing your chances of survival.

fertility check and optimising fertility

It is estimated that 1 in 7 couples in the UK have problems conceiving, with many not realising it until they’ve been trying for over a year. There are a lot of things which can affect fertility and according to experts, 35%-50% of couples experience trouble due to sperm-related problems. This means it’s no longer considered a largely female-only issue.

However, the good news is there are ways to optimise your fertility. Below, you will discover just 5 ways to increase your chances of conception.

  1. A fertility health check

If you’ve tried and failed to get pregnant within a year, it’s a good idea to undergo a fertility health check. This is open to single women and couples of all ages.

You’ll be assessed by a gynaecologist, who will help you determine the case of the problem. They’ll also be able to help you decide what the next steps should be in terms of treatment if it’s needed. Having a fertility assessment can really boost your confidence and help you to see there is hope, regardless of what the issue may be. They’re minimally invasive too so no need to worry about extensive, invasive testing.

  1. Keep your weight in check

If you’re underweight or overweight, it’s going to have a significant impact on your fertility. This is because both can lead to issues with hormone imbalances. Even if you do manage to get pregnant, an unhealthy weight can increase the risk of miscarriage, as well as complications with both the pregnancy and birth.

If you don’t already, now’s the time to get into a regular exercise routine and ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet.

  1. Be wary of infections

If you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, you’re going to have had regular unprotected sex. It’s a myth that sexually transmitted diseases only come from having sex with people you don’t know, or with multiple partners. The truth is, you can develop a sexually transmitted disease, even if you are only having sex with your partner.

The trouble is, some sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, have no symptoms at all. So, you could have one without even realising it. These infections can block your fallopian tubes, making conception pretty difficult. So, it’s best to get screened for any infections you may have.

  1. Quit smoking

Did you know that smoking is said to be responsible for around 13% of fertility issues worldwide? In terms of fertility, smoking can age you by as much as 10 years. So, if you’re a smoker, you’re going to be up to 30% less fertile than a non-smoker. It’s also going to make it three times more likely that you’ll need to try to get pregnant for over a year. This provides pretty compelling evidence to quit.

  1. Avoid undertaking extreme lifestyle changes

Finally, although you do need to lead a healthy lifestyle to increase your fertility, it’s important not to try to be too healthy. Extreme lifestyle choices can ruin your chances of getting pregnant. So, stay away from overly-strict diets and excessive exercise.

These are just 5 of the best ways you can optimise your fertility. Remember, it’s best to undergo a fertility health check to determine the best way to increase your chances of conceiving and to address any issues which may be present.

fertility treatment

As IVF celebrates its 40th birthday this month, it’s hard to believe just how much the fertility treatment has achieved over the years. From its first ‘test tube baby’ in 1980, to now over 8 million babies born worldwide through the treatment, IVF has had a remarkable journey.

Here, we’ll look at some of the major changes seen within this groundbreaking fertility treatment since it all began.

1969: Acceptance of petri dish conception

Assisted reproduction may be widely accepted today, but in the 1960’s when it all began, there was a lot of opposition against IVF techniques.

Pioneered by Robert Edwards, a physiologist from Cambridge, the first human egg cell fertilisation in vitro, was reported successful in 1969. This caused a lot of controversy, with many experts claiming the research was worthless and ethically questionable. Thankfully, they continued on to refine the petri dish method which resulted in the birth of the very first test tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978.

1978: The birth of Louise Brown

When Louise Brown was born, it completely changed public opinion of the procedure. It was clear to see that a test tube baby was just like any other. She was even described by newspapers at the time as ‘the baby of the century’.

The shift in public opinion enabled IVF to become what it is today. Further research and developments were made, setting the UK up as an embryology world leader.

1983: Donor eggs used for the first time

Initially, IVF was only available to women with their own eggs. This was because women with no ovaries or who had suffered through early menopause, didn’t have the right conditions to host donor eggs. However, researchers worked on developing a way to make the womb receptive to donor eggs.

They produced a solution by giving the women a cocktail of hormones to improve and develop the womb’s lining. Then, in 1983, this method helped an Australian woman with no ovaries to give birth. It was a breakthrough which opened up the door for many other women.

1992: Fertility treatment extended to help infertile men

Up until 1992, fertility treatment largely focused on women. However, experts recognised that approximately half of fertility issues were down to male-related fertility. So, they developed a procedure which was performed in Belgium in 1992, which in turn, revolutionised the fertility industry.

The procedure is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and it’s known to fertilise up to 70% of eggs that it is used on. Rather than mixing the sperm and the egg in a petri dish, the sperm is instead injected directly into the egg. These days, it is considered the most successful treatment for male-related infertility issues.

The above are the main significant milestones IVF has reached throughout the years. Compared to when it was first introduced, the techniques and success rates have improved enormously. Couples who are experiencing fertility problems now have more choices than ever before. So, there’s certainly a lot to celebrate as IVF turns 40! Couples who are experiencing fertility issues are encouraged to seek help from a fertility specialist. The solution might be easier than you thought.

acupuncture and IVF

With an estimated one in three women in the UK experiencing reproductive health issues, it’s unsurprising many turn to alternative fertility treatments available on the market.

Acupuncture is one treatment which claims to improve fertility and treat reproductive issues in a natural and safe manner. However, a new study has revealed acupuncture actually has no impact on the success of IVF.

Acupuncture study reveals just 0.5% difference in effectiveness

In order to determine how successful acupuncture is at boosting IVF success, a study provided women with both acupuncture treatment and a sham treatment to compare results. The sessions were provided prior to fresh embryo transfer, as well as on the actual day of the transfer.

It involved a total of 848 women from 16 different IVF centres in Australia and New Zealand. Some were given real acupuncture sessions, while others were given a sham acupuncture treatment. The sham sessions involved using non-invasive needles placed further away from true acupuncture points.

The study ran from June 2011 to October 2015 and interesting discovered just a 0.5% difference in effectiveness between the real and sham acupuncture sessions. It was revealed that 18.3% of the women who underwent true acupuncture, went on to have a live birth through IVF. However, those who were provided fake acupuncture had a 17.8% success rate.

The results of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Conflicting evidence can prove confusing for patients

This latest study is sure to produce confusion in patients looking into acupuncture as a boost for fertility. While the results of this latest study show acupuncture does not improve live birth rates in IVF, previous studies have shown it can be effective at boosting fertility.

Indeed, this alternative therapy has been proven to have a positive impact on fertility. Largely, it has been shown to reduce stress, improve the lining of the womb and also increase blood flow to the womb. Patients also appear to undergo a Psycho-social benefit of acupuncture. This means they feel more relaxed and better about themselves after the sessions.

So, could acupuncture still be worthwhile?

Although it doesn’t appear to have a major impact on live birth rate success during IVF, that isn’t to say acupuncture can’t prove useful. The fact it relaxes patients prior to their fresh embryo transplant procedure can have a positive impact on its success. It can also have a positive impact on self-esteem, which can also help women undergoing IVF, who typically experience feelings of inadequacy and poor self-esteem.

As it’s a natural, alternative treatment, there are no risks involved. That is, of course, provided patients choose an experienced and qualified therapist. The practice also offers numerous other health benefits, so it certainly can’t hurt to give it a go.

All in all, while acupuncture doesn’t appear to improve live birth rate success, it has shown to have other benefits in terms of fertility. Therefore, it can prove useful, even if just to relax patients prior to the treatment.