Should we do intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ISCI)?

With more and more Ovally patients undergoing IVF, we’ve been focusing on how to best support you and ensure you’re fully informed to make treatment decisions that are right for you. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is often a part of IVF that isn’t discussed much in doctor’s appointments. It is a fertilization technique that has been used during in vitro fertilization (IVF) since the early 1990s. A single sperm cell is selected and injected directly into an egg. ICSI stands in contrast to conventional in-vitro fertilization, when a mature egg is combined with a sample consisting of many sperm, allowing natural fertilization to take place. Many fertility clinics, particularly in the US, now use ICSI for any IVF procedure, or recommend and charge an extra ~$1.7k on average for ICSI to be performed. That’s why we dove into the research to identify when it’s advantageous to use ICSI, and what potential risks or downsides there are to consider.

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How much can stress affect fertility?

Intuitively, you may assume that stress affects fertility, and the existing research confirms this hunch: Higher levels of stress are linked to longer time to conception and a higher risk of infertility. Similarly, treatment outcomes appear to be worse in fertility patients that suffer from stress and anxiety, particularly if it’s affecting the hopeful parents’ relationship. That’s one of the reasons we created Ovally – to provide you with the emotional, logistical, and educational support you deserve, and to turn your treatment into a relaxing getaway. The research on fertility and stress also had a few surprising findings:

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Does my weight affect my fertility?

With New Year’s resolutions still going strong, your weight in relation to your fertility may be on your mind. Research shows that a body mass index (BMI) between 20-25 is ideal to conceive, and losing or gaining weight to fall into that range can significantly improve your fertility outcomes. Most research uses the BMI as a function of weight and height – if you’d like to figure out yours, here’s an easy calculator to do so. Since BMI is not a perfect measure (e.g., it doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle), we recommend you also discuss your weight with your doctor. Here’s the more detailed high-quality research on weight and fertility:

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The diagnoses behind fertility issues (2/4): Diminished ovarian reserve

Earlier this year we began looking into the diagnoses behind fertility issues, starting with ovulatory dysfunction. In this post, we’ll be digging into the most common diagnosis, “diminished ovarian reserve”, affecting 31% of cases in the CDC’s report, which is based on ~260k IVF cycles performed in the US. Diminished ovarian reserve does not only affect IVF treatment but any kind of fertility (preservation) treatment, making it particularly relevant for the Ovally community.

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How does smoking affect fertility?

We’ve been getting more questions about smoking and vaping from Ovally patients and therefore decided to add to our series on lifestyle factors and fertility. Unlike for other factors, the evidence for an effect of smoking on natural conception and the success of fertility treatments is pretty clear cut: It significantly lowers chances of success. While there’s been research on smoking, the effects of vaping are just starting to be investigated.

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How can PCOS affect fertility, and which treatments are most effective?

In our previous post about PCOS, we talked about its common symptoms and diagnostic criteria. One of those symptoms are infrequent or missing periods and irregular or missing ovulation, which interfere with the ability to conceive. According to the CDC, 16% of diagnoses in patients with fertility challenges are due to issues with ovulation. Below we’ve summarized the literature on PCOS and fertility treatments to give you an overview of how issues with ovulation can be overcome most effectively.

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Which vitamins and supplements help improve my fertility?

Today’s post in our series on lifestyle & fertility focuses on vitamins and supplements. Taking vitamins and supplements in preparation for fertility treatment is something that we can control and that’s easy to do. But what’s been shown to help fertility outcomes? What has been tested but shown no or inconclusive results? We’ll discuss folic acid, vitamin D, and antioxidants below – some of the results surprised us. As usual, ask your doctor prior to your treatment for their recommendations and guidance, as they may be aware of even more recent unpublished research.

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Can I drink alcohol before or during fertility treatment?

The question of drinking before and during fertility treatment tends to bring out strong opinions. It also comes up a lot with our Ovally customers: “Can I have at least a little Spanish wine during treatment?”. For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on alcohol consumption before and during fertility treatment until conception only, and leave out any research on pregnancy and alcohol. As usual, check with your doctor on their guidance regarding alcohol intake during any fertility treatment. We’re summarizing the findings of high-quality research studies for you, but your doctor may have access to relevant, yet to be published findings.

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How does exercise affect my fertility?

We’re surrounded by positive messages about exercising, yet there are surprisingly few quality studies that have looked at a potential link between exercise and fertility. We know that female athletes often have irregularities with their cycles, and that high levels of exercise seem to be associated with longer menstrual cycles. Research on fertility patients has been inconclusive – one study showed that moderate exercise was correlated with a lower likelihood of having a baby, another showed the opposite.

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