This has been a very exciting year in fertility medicine. Scientific advances allowed me to help patients this year that I may not have been able to help previously.
Being a fertility doctor isn’t always about giving people good news. Most days are about giving people hope when they feel like all hope is lost. I’m looking forward to 2017 as another opportunity to continue to do all I can to help my patients achieve parenthood.
Here are the top ten fertility stories of 2016:
1. Zika virus and pregnancy:
When we first heard about the Zika virus, we knew there was very likely a link between the virus and birth defects like microcephaly but as we learned more we found out that Zika could also cause other problems: infertility in men, stillbirth, and miscarriages just to name a few. We also learned that the virus could be transmitted not only from a mosquito bite, but also possibly through sex and even human contact. According to the World Health Organization, Zika is no longer a world health emergency, but as far as fertility doctors are concerned, we continue to ask our patients to avoid traveling to areas with known Zika infections.
This was without a doubt one of the top fertility stories of 2016 as well as one of the most talked about celebrity pregnancies ever. I saw more patients in their late 40’s in 2016 than ever before and I think the spike was probably partially due to Janet Jackson’s news. Regardless of whether her pregnancy was conceived naturally, with her own frozen eggs or with eggs from an egg donor, Janet Jackson helped us have important conversations with patients about pregnancy and age. Celebrities have every right to keep the details about their pregnancies private, but regardless of where their pregnancies come from, every pregnancy is precious and special. I’m thinking this will be a top story in 2017 when she hopefully announces the birth of a healthy baby.
Our society is obsessed with celebrity babies and pregnancies. I can’t imagine how incredibly annoying it must be to have people fixated on whether you’re pregnant or not every single day of your life. In a Huffington Post article, Aniston eloquently shut down all the gossip and rumors about being pregnant. Her quote was shared all over social media: “We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.” Stories about her being pregnant dominated tabloid news. I’ve even had patients tell me that she was pregnant with twins! Her poignant essay was one of the best things a celebrity has done for women with respect to fertility. It was totally unexpected but so good for women everywhere.
This year, we watched Ali Vincent, the first female winner of America’s Biggest Loser as she openly and honestly discussed her weight struggles and her desire to become a mom. Her fertility story was on the
show: Where are they Now. Her struggles brought to light the relationship between age, body size and fertility. Women of all different body sizes learned that infertility does not discriminate and that eggs age no matter how much you weigh. Looking forward to hopefully hearing about her success building her family in 2017.
The announcement of a baby born via 3-parent IVF was definitely one of the most talked about IVF stories of 2016. The announcement led people to believe that this technology was opening the door for designer babies using IVF technology. Not even close! 3-parent IVF isn’t what it sounds like. It’s a nuclear transfer done to prevent the transmission of rare mitochondrial diseases. The nucleus of the mother is transferred into the cell of an egg donor (where the nucleus is removed). It was fun in 2016 to educate people about cell biology (stuff that many people have forgotten from 7th grade!).
Sofia Vergara’s legal battle took a bizarre turn in 2016. Despite having paperwork signed clearly stating that the embryos couldn’t be used if they separated, her ex took her to court stating he wanted to use the embryos to start a family. And the bizarre twist? The embryos recently filed a lawsuit against Vergara! Her fertility story gave docs the opportunity to teach patients about the importance of having contracts in place before embryos are created.
When GloZell Green had a baby in 2016, the world applauded. If you don’t know who GloZell is, you’re missing out. She’s a YouTube star, author, mother of Ozell and cast member in Trolls. She had a baby via a surrogate in 2016 and shared her journey with us all. Her videos are super fun to watch and provide a humorous distraction during your two week wait.
When a Kansas judge ruled that a sperm donor owed child support in 2014, fertility docs everywhere were talking about it. The ruling was appealed and we heard the verdict in November 2016. Here’s what happened: a same sex female couple used a sperm donor they found on Craigslist, did a home insemination and had a baby in 2009. When they split up, one of the moms needed government assistance and the state Department for Children and Families went after the sperm donor for child support. Kansas law is interesting in that it says that if you use a physician to do the insemination, the sperm donor isn’t the father. Sperm donors in Kansas (and probably everywhere) can now take a sigh of relief with the recent outcome.
Chrissy Teigen delivered in April of 2016. She was more public than any celebrity I can think of about her fertility story. After several years of trying they turned to IVF. She even shared that they used a technology called preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) to test embryos for abnormalities. She also shared that she chose a girl embryo to transfer. She was criticized about her decision to do genetic testing and especially for what people assumed she did which was “pick” a girl. She took the criticism in stride and kept on educating people. She talked about how testing gave her a higher chance for pregnancy given everything she had been through. I think sharing her journey likely helped a lot of people realize that you can test embryos pre-implantation and testing them has nothing to do with creating designer babies and only helps with increasing your chance of having a healthier pregnancy.
10. I’m going to close out my top ten list by talking about all the exciting things I see coming in 2017 and beyond! This year we saw FDA approval of INVOcell and the first reported pregnancies in this country. Hoping this means more success in 2017. We also saw success in our own patients using Augment by Ovascience. Please note: this is not FDA approved in this country and US patients need to have their care coordinated with an approved clinic outside the US. New tests like Episona’s seed test and the Cap-Score sperm Function tests were introduced this year. I’m super excited about offering patients new sperm diagnostic tests but also new fertility gene tests in the near future as well! It would be helpful to know when starting your family if you have an infertility gene before even trying to conceive. Celmatix may offer us this sometime soon. They’re in clinical trials. The technologies we took advantage of in 2016 included: next generation sequencing to examine embryos, the mitoscore and we also utilized the endometrial reciptivity assay test on the lining of the uterus to best pinpoint the transfer window for patients undergoing IVF. My hope in 2017 and beyond is more people than ever take the time to #GetAheadofInfertility and get their fertility levels checked sooner than later.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!