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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5 messages to remember on your fertility journey, particularly over the holidays

The holidays are in full swing, it’s about to get a little quieter, and you’re likely to see some friends and family you haven’t seen in a while. This can be a great time for relaxation, self-care, and loving support, but it can also be a difficult time full of unwanted questions, others’ pregnancy announcements, and nagging rumination. Whether you’re on a journey to preserve your fertility or are undergoing infertility treatment, we wanted to send you off into the holidays with 5 messages to remember:

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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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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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How does my doctor figure out if my egg freezing or IVF cycle will be successful?

Doctors perform a series of tests and ask a number of questions as you prepare for and undergo the stimulation phase of egg/embryo freezing or IVF. These tests and questions help determine whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure, whether you’re able to proceed or have any risks, and what your outcomes may be. To make the process a bit more transparent, we’ve included some of these questions below (note that they’re neither comprehensive nor prescriptive). Keep in mind that every doctor will have their own protocols, and we recommend asking them about their process:

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Why might an egg freezing or IVF cycle result in few or no eggs?

It’s always heartbreaking when an egg freezing or IVF cycle does not work, or the outcome isn’t as good as you’d hoped. Even though Ovally patients complete a battery of pre-treatment tests to make sure to the extent possible that they’re a good candidate for the procedure, these tests still cannot rule out some risks that a cycle might be unsuccessful or less successful, with either no or few mature eggs retrieved. Below are some examples of such situations that we’ve observed, backed up by scientific literature. These examples are not comprehensive, and we advise you to always ask your doctor for what risks might exist in your specific case.

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Can my diet improve fertility outcomes?

Relatively clear answers and quality research can be hard to come by in fertility research. However, when it comes to how food relates to fertility outcomes, there are some decent data! The short answer is: Avoid fast food, and instead embrace fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3, such as nuts. This goes not just for women undergoing fertility treatment, but also those hoping to conceive naturally. This “Mediterranean diet” has also been linked to higher sperm count and sperm quality in men. And yes, the literature actually refers to it as a “Mediterranean diet” – we swear we didn’t make it up because Ovally‘s partner clinics are in Spain :)!

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