Acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine is the stimulation of specific acupuncture points along the skin of the body using thin needles. It is commonly used for pain relief, though it is also used to treat a wide range of conditions. Acupuncture is rarely used alone but rather as an adjunct to other treatment modalities. In Western settings acupuncture is used as a primary intervention for fertility problems. Acupuncture is increasingly used as an adjunct to assisted reproductive technologies and more widely in the complementary health care system.
The Western medical acupuncture approach involves using acupuncture after a medical diagnosis. In traditional acupuncture, the acupuncturist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning the patient to make a diagnosis according to the tradition used.
This method has always been applied to reproductive treatment in China. Western medicine may exert influence on neuroendocrine system, immunological functions and even signal pathway in consideration when discussing the efficacy of acupuncture and these still continue to be studied. The Chinese medicine evaluates the effect of acupuncture from an overall perspective. In Chinese medicine, reproductive function relates not only to reproductive organs, but also to the kidney, the liver, and the heart.
Acupuncture can be used as an adjuvant treatment for unexplained infertility. Although acupuncture did not increase the cumulative pregnancy rate, it decreased the number of control ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) cycles and more patients got pregnant in natural cycles after receiving acupuncture (Tab. 1).
Acupuncture treatment procedures should happen once or twice a week, and will continue for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Remember the process may take more time than just twice a week if you are combining it with medical infertility treatments, like IVF. In general, the acupuncture treatment can be completed in 12 appointments. At each appointment, your acupuncturist will most likely take additional time to discuss your current condition and answer any questions that you may have.
Estrogen and other hormones are given to postmenopausal women in order to prevent osteoporosis as well as treat the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, urinary stress incontinence, chilly sensations, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, and sweating. Fractures of the spine, wrist, and hips decrease by 50–70% and spinal bone density increases by ~5% in those women treated with estrogen within 3 years of the onset of menopause and for 5–10 years thereafter.
Before the specific dangers of conjugated equine estrogens were well understood, standard therapy was 0.625 mg/day of conjugated equine estrogens (such as Premarin). There are, however, risks associated with conjugated equine estrogen therapy. Among the older postmenopausal women studied as part of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), an orally administered conjugated equine estrogen supplement was found to be associated with an increased risk of dangerous blood clotting. The WHI studies used one type of estrogen supplement, a high oral dose of conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin alone and with medroxyprogesterone acetate as PremPro).
In a study by the NIH, esterified estrogens were not proven to pose the same risks to health as conjugated equine estrogens. Hormone replacement therapy has favorable effects on serum cholesterol levels, and when initiated immediately upon menopause may reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, although this hypothesis has yet to be tested in randomized trials. Estrogen appears to have a protector effect on atherosclerosis: it lowers LDL and triglycerides, it raises HDL levels and has endothelial vasodilatation properties plus an anti-inflammatory component.
Research is underway to determine if risks of estrogen supplement use are the same for all methods of delivery. In particular, estrogen applied topically may have a different spectrum of side-effects than when administered orally, and transdermal estrogens do not affect clotting as they are absorbed directly into the systemic circulation, avoiding first-pass metabolism in the liver. This route of administration is thus preferred in women with a history of thrombo-embolic disease.
Estrogen is also used in the therapy of vaginal atrophy, hypoestrogenism (as a result of hypogonadism, castration, or primary ovarian failure), amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and oligomenorrhea. Estrogens can also be used to suppress lactation after child birth.
Egg donation is the process by which a woman donates eggs for purposes of assisted reproduction or biomedical research. For assisted reproduction purposes, egg donation typically involves IVF technology, with the eggs being fertilized in the laboratory; more rarely, unfertilized eggs may be frozen and stored for later use. Egg donation is a third party reproduction as part of ART.
Egg donor may have several reasons for donate her eggs:
First step is choosing the egg donor by a recipient from the profiles on or clinic databases (or, in countries where donors are required to remain anonymous, they are chosen by the recipient's doctor based on recipient woman’s desired trait). This is due to the fact that all of the mentioned examinations are expensive and the agencies/clinics must first confirm that a match is possible or guaranteed before investing in the process.
Each egg donor is first referred to a psychologist who will evaluate if she is mentally prepared to undertake and complete the donation process. These evaluations are necessary to ensure that the donor is fully prepared and capable of completing the donation cycle in safe and success manner. The donor is then required to undergo a thorough medical examination, including a pelvic exam, blood tests to check hormone levels and to test for infectious diseases, Rh factor, blood type, and drugs and an ultrasound to examine her ovaries, uterus and other pelvic organs. A family history of approximately the past three generations is also required, meaning that adoptees are usually not accepted because of the lack of past health knowledge. Genetic testing is also usually done on donors to ensure that they do not carry mutations (e.g., cystic fibrosis) that could harm the resulting children; however, not all clinics automatically perform such testing and thus recipients must clarify with their clinics whether such testing will be done. During the process, which usually takes several months, the donor must abstain from alcohol, sexual intercourse, cigarettes, and drugs, both prescription and non-prescription.
Once the screening is complete and a legal contract signed, the donor will begin the donation cycle, which typically takes between three and six weeks. An egg retrieval procedure comprises both the egg donor's cycle and the recipient's cycle. Birth control pills are administered during the first few weeks of the egg donation process to synchronize the donor's cycle with her recipient's, followed by a series of injections which halt the normal functioning of the donor's ovaries. These injections may be self-administered on a daily basis for a period of one to three weeks. Next, FSH is given to the donor to stimulate egg production and increases the number of mature eggs produced by the ovaries. Throughout the cycle the donor is monitored often by a physician using blood tests and ultrasound exams to determine the donor's reaction to the hormones and the progress of follicle growth.
Once the doctor decides the follicles are mature, the doctor will establish the date and time for the egg retrieval procedure. Approximately 36 hours before retrieval, the donor must administer one last injection of hCG to ensure that her eggs are ready to be harvested. The egg retrieval itself is a minimally invasive surgical procedure lasting 20-30 minutes, performed under sedation (but sometimes without any). A small ultrasound-guided needle is inserted through the vagina to aspirate the follicles in both ovaries, which extracts the eggs. After resting in a recovery room for an hour or two, the donor is released. Most donors resume regular activities by the next day.
Laws by state
The legal status and compensation of egg donation has several models across states with examples:
Fertility preservation procedures are indicated when it's predicted that there will be exposure to a cause of infertility. Mainly cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, may destroy a person's ability to have children later in life, and oncofertility research focuses on increasing fertility preservation options. Oncofertility is a subfield that bridges oncology and reproductive research to explore and expand options for the reproductive future of cancer survivors. It is scientifically proven that the number and quality of sex cells decreases with age. That is why this procedure (known as Social freezing) is also used by healthy men and women who want to postpone their parenting on later for any reason. They want to have the certainty of a young and healthy sperm and oocytes at a later age.
The main methods of fertility preservation are ovarian protection by GnRH agonists, cryopreservation of ovarian tissue, eggs or sperm, or of embryos after in vitro fertilization. The patient may also choose to use egg or sperm from a donor by third party reproduction rather than having biological children.
1. Options for females
Ovarian Suppression by GnRH during Chemotherapy
Chemotherapeutic agents have high levels of ovarian toxicity. Oocytes are contained in ovarian primordial follicles, which are very susceptible to the gonadotoxic effects of chemotherapy. Suppression of ovarian function through manipulation of GnRH has been evaluated as a mechanism to decrease the loss of primordial follicles. This has been studied in animal models with promising results but data regarding effectiveness in humans is limited to small retrospective reports. Unfortunately, it cannot be determined from these studies that the administration of GnRH agonists provided definitive ovarian protection.
Ovarian tissue cryopreservation
The basic principle of cryopreservation is to store cells or tissue for future use. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation involves surgically removing all or a part of the ovary, which contains thousands of primordial follicles. The resected tissue is cut into strips, cryopreserved and transplanted back to the pelvis, or other location (arm or abdominal wall) after cancer treatment. This procedure is usually performed by laparoscopy, can be planned immediately after the diagnosis of malignant disease and does not require hormonal stimulation. The advantage is that this is the only fertility preservation technique that is available to pre-pubertal girls or females in whom initiation of treatment cannot be delayed. It is also recommended to healthy women fearing the loss of their fertility.
On the other hand there is a risk of graft failure or reactivation of cancerous cells, particularly in hematologic malignancies after the return of ovarian tissue into the body.
Oocyte and embryo cryopreservation
Embryo and oocyte cryopreservation are both considered non-experimental options for fertility preservation in post pubertal females. Oocyte cryopreservation is the most commonly used for women who want to postpone their motherhood for the time being. Both interventions involve controlled two-week period of ovarian stimulation to produce multiple mature oocytes. Because of hormonal stimulation, this procedure is not optimal for patients with hormone-sensitive cancers (such as breast cancer or ovarian cancer) or those who cannot delay cancer treatment.
Cryopreservation is typically performed by incubation in a low concentration of cryoprotectant to minimize ice crystal formation during freezing; however, cells with a high osmotic content such as oocytes are particularly vulnerable to damage. Embryos are composed of multiple blastomere cells and are more stable for cryopreservation. Due to the difficulties with oocyte cryopreservation, embryo cryopreservation has been the primary modality for fertility preservation.
In embryo cryopreservation the mature follicles are fertilized in vitro with partner or donor sperm and then cryopreserved. In oocyte cryopreservation the oocytes are cryopreserved following their extraction. When the woman is ready to initiate pregnancy, the embryo is thawed and implanted into the uterus for maturation and birth. While this option is the most common fertility preservation method in women, it is not available to pre-pubescent girls, who do not have mature eggs that can be fertilized.
Protection of Ovarian Function
Oophoropexy, the relocation of the ovaries outside of the radiation field, may mitigate ovarian damage, although radiation scatter can still cause follicle depletion. Shielding of the ovaries during radiation therapy should be considered standard of care, when ovaries are not in the treatment field.
2. Options for males
Preservation of fertility in post pubertal males is reliably accomplished by cryopreserving sperm prior to the onset of gonadotoxic therapy which may lead to testicular failure or ejaculatory dysfunction. Semen can be used successfully indefinitely after cryopreservation.
The most common method to obtain sperm is through masturbation, which can be done in the in-patient or out-patient setting, or via referral to a sperm bank. Optimal procedures for the collection of sperm include abstinence 48 h prior to collection and the collection of multiple specimens, at least 24 h apart. The semen sample is evaluated for sperm count, morphology and motility prior to cryopreservation. Limitations to this form of cryopreservation are related primarily to an inability to masturbate, whether secondary to age, illness or cultural mores that prohibit masturbation. Emotional and practical issues may also be present that limit success. Alternative approaches exist when masturbation is not possible. Electroejaculation involves the placement of a transrectal probe while the patient is under general anesthesia. Electrical stimulation is applied until ejaculation occurs and sperm is collected.
After cryopreservation can potentially increase the risk of mutations in offspring DNA. In long-term follow-up studies, no evidence has been found either of an increase in birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities in people conceived from cryopreserved sperm compared with the general population.
Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation
Sperm banking is not possible for pre-pubertal boys as they cannot yet produce mature spermatozoa. However cryopreservation of gonadal tissue offers hope to childhood cancer survivors and also post-pubertal males who cannot produce a sperm sample. Immature boys at risk of losing their spermatozoa, mostly cancer patients, are the main target group that may benefit from testicular tissue cryopreservation and spermatozoa autotransplantation.
Procedure is similar to ovarian tissue cryopreservation - testicular tissue is surgically removed and frozen.
Success has been reported in cryopreservation methods of testicular tissue but more research is still needed in how to use the frozen-thawed tissue and obtain mature spermatozoa in vitro.
Protection of the Testes during Treatment
The testes should be shielded during radiation therapy to try to minimize the exposure to scatter radiation. Consideration can also be given to moving the testes out of the radiation field.
3. Options for both
Many patients diagnosed with a malignancy or another disease requiring treatment that may impair their fertility consider alternatives to bearing biological children, such as assisted reproductive technology (ART) using in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs or donor sperm. The resulting embryo can be implanted into the woman's uterus after her endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is stimulated with hormones to prepare for the development of the embryo.
Sperm donation is the donation by a male (known as a sperm donor) of his sperm (known as donor sperm), principally for the purpose of inseminating a female who is not his sexual partner. Sperm donation is a form of third party reproduction including sperm donation, oocyte donation, embryo donation, surrogacy, or adoption. Number of births per donor sample will depend on the actual ART method used, the age and medical condition of the female bearing the child, and the quality of the embryos produced by fertilization. Donor sperm is more commonly used for artificial insemination (IUI or ICI) than for IVF treatments. This is because IVF treatments are usually required only when there is a problem with the female conceiving, or where there is a “male factor problem” involving the female's partner. Donor sperm is also used for IVF in surrogacy arrangements where an embryo may be created in an IVF procedure using donor sperm and this is then implanted in a surrogate. In a case where IVF treatments are employed using donor sperm, surplus embryos may be donated to other women or couples and used in embryo transfer procedures.
On the other hand, insemination may also be achieved by a donor having sexual intercourse with a female for the sole purpose of initiating conception. This method is known as natural insemination.
Donor sperm and fertility treatments using donor sperm may be obtained at a sperm bank or fertility clinic. Here, the recipient may select donor sperm on the basis of the donor's characteristics, e.g. looks, personality, academic ability, race, and many other factors. Sperm banks or clinics may be subject to state or professional regulations, including restrictions on donor anonymity and the number of offspring that may be produced, and there may be other legal protections of the rights and responsibilities of both recipient and donor. Some sperm banks, either by choice or regulation, limit the amount of information available to potential recipients; a desire to obtain more information on donors is one reason why recipients may choose to use a known donor and/or private donation.
A sperm donor will usually donate sperm to a sperm bank under a contract, which typically specifies the period during which the donor will be required to produce sperm, which generally ranges from 6–24 months depending on the number of pregnancies which the sperm bank intends to produce from the donor. Donors may or may not be paid for their samples, according to local laws and agreed arrangements. Even in unpaid arrangements, expenses are often reimbursed. Depending on local law and on private arrangements, men may donate anonymously or agree to provide identifying information to their offspring in the future. Private donations facilitated by an agency often use a "directed" donor, when a male directs that his sperm is to be used by a specific person. Non-anonymous donors are also called known donors, open donors or identity disclosure donors.
A sperm donate must generally meet specific requirements regarding age (most often up to 40) and medical history. Potential donors are typically screened for genetic diseases, chromosomal abnormalities and sexually transmitted infections that may be transmitted through sperm. The donor's sperm must also withstand the freezing and thawing process necessary to store and quarantine the sperm. Samples are stored for at least 6 months after which the donor will be re-tested for sexually transmitted infections. This is to ensure no new infections have been acquired or have developed during the period of donation. If the result is negative, the sperm samples can be released from quarantine and used in treatments.
Preparing the samples
A sperm donor is usually advised not to ejaculate for two to three days before providing the sample, to increase sperm count and to maximize the conception rate. A sperm donor produces and collects sperm by masturbation or during sexual intercourse with the use of a collection condom.
Sperm banks and clinics usually "wash" the sperm sample to extract sperm from the rest of the material in the semen. A cryoprotectant semen extender is added if the sperm is to be placed in frozen storage in liquid nitrogen, and the sample is then frozen in a number of vials or straws. One sample will be divided into 1-20 vials or straws depending on the quantity of the ejaculate and whether the sample is washed or unwashed. Following the necessary quarantine period, the samples are thawed and used to inseminate women through artificial insemination or other ART treatments. Unwashed samples are used for ICI treatments, and washed samples are used in IUI and IVF procedures.
Anonymous sperm donation occurs where the child and/or receiving couple will never learn the identity of the donor, and non-anonymous when they will. Non-anonymous sperm donors are, to a substantially higher degree, driven by altruistic motives for their donations.
Even with anonymous donation, some information about the donor may be released to the female/couple at the time of treatment. Limited donor information includes height, weight, eye, skin and hair color. In Sweden, this is all the information a receiver gets. In the US, on the other hand, additional information may be given, such as a comprehensive biography and sound/video samples.
Information made available by a sperm bank will usually include the race, height, weight, blood group, health, and eye color of the donor. Sometimes information about his age, family history and educational achievements will also be given.
Different factors motivate individuals to seek sperm from outside their home state. For example, some jurisdictions do not allow unmarried women to receive donor sperm. Jurisdictional regulatory choices as well as cultural factors that discourage sperm donation have also led to international fertility tourism and sperm markets.
A sperm donor is generally not intended to be the legal or de jure father of a child produced from his sperm. Depending on the jurisdiction and its laws, he may or may not later be eligible to seek parental rights or be held responsible for parental obligations. Generally, a male who provides sperm as a sperm donor gives up all legal and other rights over the biological children produced from his sperm. However, in private arrangements, some degree of co-parenting may be agreed, although the enforceability of those agreements varies by jurisdiction.
Laws prohibits sperm donation in several countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Hong Kong, Jordan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Libya, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, UnitedArab Emirates, and Yemen.See full description of Sperm donation
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body: in vitro . The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman's ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid in a laboratory. The fertilised egg (zygote) is cultured for 2–6 days in a growth medium and is then implanted in the same or another woman's uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.
IVF techniques can be used in different types of situations. It is a technique of assisted reproductive technology for treatment of infertility. IVF techniques are also employed in gestational surrogacy, in which case the fertilised egg is implanted into a surrogate's uterus, and the resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate. In some situations, donated eggs or sperms may be used. Some countries ban or otherwise regulate the availability of IVF treatment, giving raise to fertility tourism. Restrictions on availability of IVF include to single females, to lesbians and to surrogacy arrangements. Due to the costs of the procedure, IVF is mostly attempted only after less expensive options have failed.
The first successful birth of a "test tube baby", Louise Brown, occurred in 1978. Louise Brown was born as a result of natural cycle IVF where no stimulation was made. Robert G. Edwards, the physiologist who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010. With egg donation and IVF, women who are past their reproductive years or menopause can still become pregnant. Adriana Iliescu held the record as the oldest woman to give birth using IVF and donated egg, when she gave birth in 2004 at the age of 66, a record passed in 2006.
Surrogacy describes an alternate means of conception for individuals who are unable to conceive a child naturally. In surrogacy, one woman (surrogate mother) carries a child for another person/s (commissioning person/couple), based on an agreement before conception requiring the child to be handed over to the commissioning person/couple following birth.
Traditional surrogacy is defined as a woman who agrees to carry a pregnancy using her own oocytes but the sperm of another couple and relinquish the child to this couple upon delivery. The surrogate is naturally or artificially inseminated via IUI, IVF or home insemination. With this method, the resulting child is genetically related to intended father and genetically related to the surrogate mother.
Gestational surrogacy, by contrast, involves a couple who undergoes IVF with their genetic gametes and then places the resultant embryo in another woman’s uterus, the gestational carrier, who will carry the pregnancy and relinquish the child to this couple upon delivery. The resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate. There are several sub-types of gestational surrogacy as noted below.
Currently, the use of gestational carriers is far more common than that of surrogates.
A surrogacy contract is a contract no different to any other contract as it essentially relates to the agreement or promise made by both parties: contract law is primarily concerned with agreements that involve one party, or each party, giving an undertaking or promise to the other party. The rights and duties of the surrogate stem from two basic promises that she makes to the commissioning couple. First, she promises to be treated with the commissioning couple's genetic material (partial/full surrogacy) and carry the child to term. The surrogate will also give an assurance that she will attend regular prenatal appointments so as to ensure the health and safety of the foetus.
Secondly, the surrogate will promise to surrender all rights in the child to the commissioning couple. This latter promise may become complicated if the surrogate is married, as the law presumes that a child born to a married woman is the child of the woman and her husband. However, this presumption is rebuttable and thus, the commissioning couple should from the outset, make it a term of the contract that the surrogate and her husband explicitly agree to make no claim to the resulting child; without this statement, the intention of the parties may be undercut. Such a provision would help reduce emotional strain and the probability of litigation, and would avoid harming the child by involving it in custody proceedings.
A surrogacy arrangement based on contractual intention should not be designed to commodify offspring. Surrogacy arrangements do not deal with fungibles and must not encourage a system where children are treated as goods that may be contracted in and out of. While the notion of surrogacy could understandably figure centrally in the arena of family law, when examining the matrix of relationships embraced by surrogacy, one may see that surrogacy also has a basis in contract law. As with all contracts, they are designed to protect the interests of both parties as well as to bring to fruition, the express and implied terms of the contract. This perspective derives from the basic agreement made between the surrogate and the commissioning couple; the surrogate agrees to carry the foetus to term, for the benefit of the commissioning person/s and, the latter agree to re-compensate the surrogate for her time and expense in carrying out said procedure, of which, would not be possible without her agreement.
There are 2 types of surrogacy arrangement:
If the jurisdiction specifically prohibits surrogacy, however, and finds out about the arrangement, there may be financial and legal consequences for the parties involved. Some jurisdictions specifically prohibit only commercial and not altruistic surrogacy. Even jurisdictions that do not prohibit surrogacy may rule that surrogacy contracts (commercial, altruistic, or both) are void. If the contract is either prohibited or void, then there is no recourse if one party to the agreement has a change of heart: If a surrogate changes her mind and decides to keep the child, the intended mother has no claim to the child even if it is her genetic offspring, and the couple cannot get back any money they may have paid or reimbursed to the surrogate; if the intended parents change their mind and do not want the child after all, the surrogate cannot get any reimbursement for expenses, or any promised payment, and she will be left with legal custody of the child.
Jurisdictions that permit surrogacy sometimes offer a way for the intended mother, especially if she is also the genetic mother, to be recognized as the legal mother without going through the process of abandonment and adoption.
Often this is via a birth order in which a court rules on the legal parentage of a child. These orders usually require the consent of all parties involved, sometimes including even the husband of a married gestational surrogate. Most jurisdictions provide for only a post-birth order, often out of an unwillingness to force the surrogate mother to give up parental rights if she changes her mind after the birth.
A few jurisdictions do provide for pre-birth orders, generally in only those cases when the surrogate mother is not genetically related to the expected child. Some jurisdictions impose other requirements in order to issue birth orders, for example, that the intended parents be heterosexual and married to one another. Jurisdictions that provide for pre-birth orders are also more likely to provide for some kind of enforcement of surrogacy contracts.
Additionally, the rights of the surrogate or gestational carrier to not relinquish the infant following deliver are not well described.
A parentage order is a court order that transfers parentage from the birth parent/s to the intended parent/s - as part of the surrogacy arrangement. This means the birth mother and her partner (if she has one) no longer have a legal parental relationship with the child and the intended parents become the child’s legal parents. A prebirth form of parentage order could be used.
Surrogacy laws by state
Surrogacy is completely prohibited in Finland, France, China, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland.
Countries where a commercial surrogacy is legal and a woman could be paid to carry another's child through IVF and embryo transfer included Georgia, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and a few US states.
Chances of conception after menopause are very small but possible. In some cases, early diagnosis by genetic investigation may instead lead to advice for early conception or oocyte harvesting and preservation. Hormone defect may be substituted by estrogen/progestin preparations. Moreover, sexual hormone defects represent an important risk factor for frequent and severe neurological, metabolic or cardiovascular disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, hypercholesterolemia or ischemic diseases. The only solution presently available for the fertility defect in women with absent follicular reserve is represented by ovum donation. Gestation after menopause is with complications. The health of the mother and of the baby is at risk.