Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty After a Miscarriage

Written by Korin Miller

Experts want you to know that it’s not your fault.

Last week, former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson shared the heartbreaking news that she had a miscarriage just a few days after discovering that she was pregnant. Now, she’s speaking out about the emotional aftermath of her loss in a follow-up YouTube video simply titled, “After the Miscarriage”.

In the video, Johnson says she initially felt, on some level, like she could have done something to prevent her loss. “The day I was told we were miscarrying, I felt guilty. I felt sad,” she says in the 16-minute video. Johnson says she even told her husband, Andrew East, “I’m sorry I lost your baby.”

“I felt like it was something that I did,” she continues. “I didn’t take care of the baby well enough, or I was stressed out too much, or I didn’t take the right prenatal vitamins.”

Unfortunately, guilt is a common and devastating reaction that many people experience after miscarriage.

“Guilt is the most common and most difficult thing for women who have gone through miscarriages,” Tamar Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “There’s just this component of, ‘I failed the baby in some way, so how could I not be responsible?'”

But those feelings, while totally understandable, are usually misplaced, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, tells SELF. “We spend a lot of time with women [to make sure they] understand that it’s not their fault,” she says.

Miscarriages are far more common than many realize and, in most cases, they aren’t preventable.

According to statistics from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Pregnancy Association, somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

About half of all miscarriages can be traced back to chromosomal abnormalities, ACOG explains. Sperm and eggs each have 23 chromosomes and, during fertilization, those chromosomes get matched up. But, if they get matched in a weird way or at least one set is off, the fertilized egg will end up with an abnormal amount of chromosomes. That means that, in many cases, development won’t be able to move forward and the pregnancy will be lost.

“The body does have a way of recognizing when something may not be compatible with life or the pregnancy may not be successful,” Dr. Shepherd says. Meaning, if someone miscarries, it’s unlikely that their baby would have survived outside the womb if it even made it to that point.

There are a few other factors that can contribute to miscarriages that aren’t due to chromosomal issues, G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., an ob/gyn at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF. This includes: poor implantation of the fertilized egg on the uterine lining, a uterine abnormality that makes it more difficult for implantation to happen, and hormonal issues.

When it comes to taking prenatal vitamins, they’re definitely important, but forgetting to take them on any given day or two will not cause a woman to miscarry, Dr. Shepherd says. Additionally, ACOG says that exercising, working, using birth control pills, drinking a moderate amount of caffeine, or having sex will not cause a miscarriage.

“In the majority of cases, it really is something that just happens,” Dr. Ruiz says. Even doctors can’t do much to help before a pregnancy gets to the second trimester, he adds. And even then, there’s no guarantee that they can stop a miscarriage.

While it’s important to realize that you didn’t do anything wrong, you also shouldn’t judge yourself for feeling what you’re feeling after such a difficult experience.

Even though these feelings of guilt are likely misplaced, it’s important to let yourself grieve this loss. “Grief is a normal emotional feeling after having a miscarriage,” Dr. Shepherd says. If you suffer a miscarriage, you should cut yourself some seriously slack and allow yourself to mourn your loss—and it is a loss, even if you suffer a miscarriage early in your pregnancy, Dr. Gur says. “Women know the statistics but finding out about a pregnancy is just an instant connection,” she says. “When it’s lost, it’s just devastating.”

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for those feelings to become more serious—research suggeststhat about 40 percent of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder following pregnancy loss. So if you find that your feelings are getting worse with time, you have a lack of desire to do anything, or you’re struggling to get out of bed, Dr. Gur says it’s time to talk to a professional.

No matter the guilt you may feel, it wasn’t your fault. “These things happen for known and unknown reasons,” Dr. Gur continues, “and in my clinical practice I have yet to meet someone who intentionally or unintentionally caused a miscarriage.”

View original article – https://www.self.com/story/why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-after-a-miscarriage

Skinny women risk early menopause

Researchers say women who are underweight in early or mid-adulthood may be at increased risk of early menopause.

Being a skinny teenager increases a woman’s risk of having an early menopause, new research suggests.

The same association was found for women who are underweight in their mid-30s.

In addition, underweight women who lost nine kilograms or more on at least three occasions between the ages of 18 and 30 doubled their chances of ending reproductive life prematurely, the study found.

Early menopause is defined as naturally ceasing to have periods before the age of 45.

Researchers analysed data from 78,759 pre-menopausal women aged 25 to 42 who joined the US Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989. The study was one of a series of major investigations into the causes of chronic disease in women.

Lead scientist Dr Kathleen Szegda, from the University of Massachusetts, said: “Our findings suggest that women who are underweight in early or mid-adulthood may be at increased risk for early menopause.

“Up to 10 per cent of women experience early menopause and it is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions such as cognitive decline, osteoporosis and premature death, so these findings have important implications for women and their doctors.

“Underweight women may want to consider discussing the potential implications of these findings with their doctors.”

Being underweight was defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Human Reproduction.

View original article – http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/10/26/skinny-women-risk-early-menopause

Life expectancy rates continue to rise but fertility rate declines

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What will the babies of today grow up to think of our world? How will their world be different to the one we grew up in, the one that seems to be changing around us? One thing is for certain, today’s children will have longer to figure it all out than we have. The Australian Bureau of Statistics last week reported that females born last year could be expected to live to 84.6 years on average, while males have a life expectancy of 80.4 years. Our boys have the third-highest life expectancy in the world and our girls the sixth. Improvements in quality of life and medicine have done much to increase our lifespan. In the 125 years to 2015, life expectancy in Australia increased by 33.2 years for males and 33.7 years for females — extraordinary gains only now starting to slow down as causes of death shift from infectious diseases to chronic diseases.

The most recent data from the ABS has Australia’s fertility rate, for 2015, at 1.81 babies per woman, down from a 30-year high of 2.02 in 2008 (actual real-life babies come in whole numbers).

Since 1976, the fertility rate has been below replacement level, which is to say the average number of babies born to a woman has been insufficient to replace herself and her partner.

Fertility rates were highest for women aged 30-34 years, while the teenage fertility rate has continued to decline. Fresh data will be released by the ABS in December.

For a variety of factors, including socio-economic status, there are state by state differences in births, fertility and life expectancy: the ACT had the highest median age of mothers (31.7 years), and the Northern Territory the lowest (29.5 years); the NT had the highest fertility rate (2.11 babies per woman) and Victoria the lowest (1.68 babies per woman); and the ACT had the highest male and female life expectancy (81.3 years and 85.2 years) and the NT the lowest (75.6 years and 78.7 years).

Of the babies born as a result of in vitro fertilisation, most come from frozen embryos for the first time, according to a report out this month.

The University of NSW’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit found that in 2015 there were 7412 babies brought into the world as a result of frozen embryos compared with 6628 from fresh embryos.

“This move to more babies being born using frozen embryos reflects changes in clinical practice as well as improvements in IVF success rates using frozen embryos,” says Michael Chapman, president of the Fertility Society of Australia.

There was a 6 per cent increase in the number of IVF treatment cycles performed in 2015, compared with 2014, with 77,721 cycles reported from Australian and New Zealand clinics. A total of 13,344 babies were born following IVF treatment in Australian clinics and 1447 in New Zealand clinics in 2015.

The report also charted a decrease in the rate of multiple deliveries, from 6.9 per cent in 2011 to 4.4 per cent in 2015.

IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies are helping people have babies but not everyone will be successful.

Speaking at the FSA annual conference last week, fertility specialist Bill Ledger said women had a better understanding than men about declining fertility with age “but at times there is an element of self-delusion about their chances of success from IVF”.

“Some older women explain that they have healthy lifestyles, including being fit and having a good diet, but physical health has no influence over egg health or egg reserve,” Ledger said.

Ledger said a woman with normal ovaries had about 80 per cent chance of pregnancy after two cycles of IVF, including both fresh and frozen embryo transfers. This figure falls to about 10 per cent at age 42. “We can’t beat biology,” he said.

Ledger urged health practitioners to rely on the latest evidence, data and statistics to inform individuals and couples, and support them through the process — including, for some, the grief of not having a child.

View original article – http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/life-expectancy-rates-continue-to-rise-but-fertility-rate-declines/news-story/5f961ee982f74ad6b4a6fd33346eabeb

20 things every twenty-something should know about their fertility

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Whether you’re planning on falling pregnant, or family planning is the LAST thing on your mind, you’ve probably wondered at some point about your fertility. But which fertility issues are actually worth thinking about in your twenties, and which are nothing more than scaremongering about our biological clock? We spoke to fertility experts Zita West and Dr Geeta Nargund to find out more.

1. First off, you SHOULD care about your fertility and reproductive health

While it’s difficult to even think about your fertility when babies are a long way off, both experts insist that it’s super important to be aware of your reproductive health, aka what’s going on in your ovaries, from periods to hormonal changes.

Geeta says that if having children is one of your priorities, then being aware of your reproductive health is crucial. “Lifestyle choices you make in your teens and twenties, as well as genetic health issues, can have a significant impact on your fertility in later life. Being aware of this now will increase your chances of falling pregnant naturally later on” she says.

2. Your fertility can decline after 35 – but it’s not all doom and gloom

Many people believe their biological clock runs out as soon as they hit 30 – but it’s just not true.

“Some women will have better fertility than others for their age”

“Don’t believe the hype” says Zita West. “Everyone is different – and some women will have better fertility than others for their age.”

Geeta adds: “Biologically speaking, the quality and number of eggs a woman has usually declines quite rapidly after 35. We are born with a finite number of eggs that deplete as we age. However, every woman is different and will have a personal fertility timeline that could be earlier or later depending on health, medical and family history.”

3. There is no ‘normal’ amount of time to try for a baby

Geeta says that the time it takes varies from person to person, and couple to couple. There are a number of influencing factors including your age, reproductive health, general health and of course the amount of times you have sex that mean some couples will fall pregnant within weeks, others may take months or years. But she advises a visit to the GP if after 12 months of trying naturally you haven’t managed to conceive.

4. But it might not be as instant as you’d think

Zita says that “Quite often, women will come and see me at the age of 30 and say that they’re going to wait a year or two before they start trying. I always encourage them to start as soon as they can, because it can take a while to conceive and a miscarriage is really common when you first get pregnant, which means you have to pick yourself up and try again”.

5. Missed a period? Don’t freak out – but keep an eye on it

Irregular periods happen to many women, and for most, it’s not a cause for alarm. There’s a myriad of reasons why you might miss a period, from weight gain, to being underweight, a bad diet, new medication and even stress.

“Missed periods do not necessarily mean you are infertile or cause infertility”

But Geeta advises that if you start to miss periods regularly you should see your GP: “Missed periods do not necessarily mean you are infertile or cause infertility, but could indicate underlying health issues that could affect your fertility, such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

6. The same goes for irregular bleeding

When starting hormonal contraception, such as the pill or implant, irregular bleeding is common for the first 3 months. There are many different causes of bleeding between periods, most are not anything to worry about, but seek medical advice if it lasts longer than 3 months.

7. Your painful periods are probably normal – sorry!

Sadly, discomfort during menstruation isn’t uncommon, especially in young women. However, if your cramps are stopping you from going about your normal life or not responding to over the counter painkillers then you need to see your GP.

8. Fertility tracking apps have their place

There has been an explosion of fertility-related app technology in recent years. Geeta says that while they are useful for tracking your cycle, they shouldn’t be relied upon in isolation of specialist medical or fertility advice.

9. Certain lifestyle factors actually DO impact your fertility

Geeta says that lifestyle factors such as your BMI, diet and smoking have a significant impact on fertility health and “it’s important to be conscious of the longer-term damage you can do to your fertility health, even at a young age”.

When it comes to smoking – time to give it up! The advice from the NHS is that “smoking may reduce fertility in women by reducing egg quality”.

10. Caffeine should be treated with caution

Zita says that “For women, caffeine can put stress on the adrenals and cause blood sugar to rollercoaster with high peaks and low troughs which also affects energy levels, mood and irritability”.

However, researchers don’t yet know for certain how caffeine levels relate to conception itself. Coffee, tea, over-the-counter medications, chocolate and fizzy drinks all contain caffeine – so her advice is to try to cut back on caffeine-containing foods and drinks during the week, treating yourself at weekends. If you do need a shot of caffeine, take it from tea, which has much lower caffeine levels than coffee.

11. And the same goes for booze.

According to Zita, alcohol may contribute to irregular periods, irregular ovulation and luteal phase defects, reducing chances of conception.

“Studies show that if neither you nor your partner drinks at all you will typically get pregnant more quickly than couples who drink regularly” she says. “However, I’m a realist – it’s fine if alcohol forms part of your normal life, as long as you drink at the lower limits of what is recommended for your age and gender.”

12. Exercise is good for your fertility – but don’t overdo it.

“Being underweight or overweight affects fertility in both women and men, so I advise that you try to do 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily” Zita says.

This is because regular exercise ensures that endorphins circulate your body and improves general circulation. Better circulation means that more nutrients can reach your ovaries and will improve your blood-sugar balance, which will be good for your fertility.

“Being underweight can be more detrimental to fertility than being slightly overweight”

But weight fluctuations can also have an impact – and it’s important to remember that being underweight can be more detrimental to fertility than being slightly overweight.

13. Endometriosis *might* affect your chances of having a baby later on

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes inflammatory changes, scarring and cysts in the ovaries. And Geeta says that whilst endometriosis may not necessarily cause infertility, it is associated with fertility problems. However, even with severe endometriosis, natural conception is still possible.

14. As can PCOS

PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal condition that can affect your ovarian function. Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of small follicles, or immature egg sacs. If you have irregular periods and are overweight, your ovulation can be affected, which makes natural conception difficult.

Geeta advises that if you are showing symptoms of PCOS, but have not yet been formally diagnosed, see your GP for a referral to a specialist. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to avoid IVF and other invasive treatments. Zita adds that “Many women with PCOS worry they will never be able to conceive because of it but PCOS is a treatable condition, but many women with PCOS do get pregnant”.

15. But there are other factors to consider

Thyroid issues, ovulatory issues, premature menopause and high prolactin levels can also have an affect on your fertility. Both Zita and Geeta advise taking a fertility MOT test or speaking to your GP if you are concerned.

16. Ask your Mum about her period history

Geeta says that understanding your family’s medical history can give a good indication of your own fertility, a factor that is often overlooked. “If your mother struggled to get pregnant naturally or had recurrent miscarriages or early menopause, the likelihood is you will as well. Conditions such as PCOS, that have an impact on your fertility, also tend to run in families, so it is worth asking your female relatives a few personal questions!”

17. The pill won’t ruin your fertility

The pill affects all women differently. Most women find that their normal cycle will return within a few months of ending the pill, which is something to be aware of when trying to fall pregnant. Some women find that their usual cycles begin again very quickly after stopping, but for others, it can take longer.

Zita also advises that the first month after you stop taking the pill is usually a particularly fertile cycle. After this ovulation can be disrupted for a few months in most women, but normally returns back to a more regular cycle.

18. IVF is not an insurance policy

Geeta stresses that while IVF can work, it is not guaranteed to give you a baby. “Fertility education needs to be taken seriously to avoid the misconception that you can put off having a baby into your late 30s and early 40s and ‘fall back’ on IVF if you struggle to fall pregnant naturally.”

20. But don’t lose hope

Zita adds that the biggest myth about fertility that both young and older woman think is that there’s a “cut off point” for fertility, and that you’re either fertile or infertile. In reality there are many more shades of grey.

Professor Geeta Nargund is the Medical Director at CREATE Fertility.

View original article – http://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a13027645/fertility-in-30s-20s-facts-advice/

Two of Australia’s first IVF babies launch petition to include fertility in high school sex education

Written by Liz Walsh, Parenting writer, The Advertiser

TWO of Australia’s first IVF babies — both born in the early 1980s — will launch a national petition seeking public support for their plan to completely overhaul the way fertility is taught to high school students.

Candice Thum, born in 1980 as Australia’s first IVF baby, and Rebecca Featherstone-Jelen, born in 1983 after being conceived in England, want Year 11 and 12 students to learn about fertility as part of sexual health programs.

That includes teaching them that one in six couples experience infertility, that it is as much a male problem as it is female and that age affects pregnancy success.

The pair launched Fertility Matters in 2015 and are in Adelaide for the annual Fertility Society of Australia conference, at the Convention Centre this week.

Ms Thum said it had been nearly two decades since she left school and yet little had changed in the way students were taught about fertility.

“We need to change the school curriculum to teach facts, not myths of reproductive health,” she said.

Ms Featherstone-Jelen said contraception was an important part of sex education, but there was a real need for young people to be better educated generally on the factors that could affect their fertility.

“For instance, there is poor understanding that fertility declines with age and with young people increasingly choosing to delay parenthood to pursue career or personal goals, it is important to know that IVF is not a guaranteed way to become pregnant,” she said.

Ms Thum said the pair recently conducted a survey of more than 600 people, which found a “disturbing” lack of information, including that more than 100 people believed infertility was genetic and a further 14 per cent believed infertility affected only women.

“We know that the earlier people understand fertility and their bodies, the more informed they go into that part of their lives,” she said.

Both women pointed to the fact that when they were born during the early years of IVF, there was a 5 per cent chance of conception, but now at least one child in every classroom was conceived through assisted reproductive techniques.

“We’re not advocating for unprotected sex, but rather wanting to educate people about their bodies, about the process, to understand that it doesn’t happen quickly for everyone and … the signs to look out for if it isn’t working,” Ms Featherstone-Jelen said.

It can be signed online at: www.fertilitymatters.org.au

View original article – http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/two-of-australias-first-ivf-babies-launch-petition-to-include-fertility-in-high-school-sex-education/news-story/b333aa75bc4ef4c771fe7d89bde94a70

How you reheat your takeaway could affect your fertility, researcher warns

New research has found common chemicals used in cleaning products, foods, cosmetics and plastic containers could be impacting on fertility in both men and women.

How to reduce exposure:

  • Don’t re-heat food in plastic take-away containers
  • Avoid re-using soft plastic water bottles
  • Avoid handling receipts
  • Reduce your consumption of canned food

Melbourne University expert in reproductive biology Dr Mark Green examined how endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) could negatively effect reproductive health.

He told ABC Radio Melbourne you could get chemical exposure from multiple sources, including the lining of tin cans and receipts.

“Overall there’s probably about 800 chemicals throughout different products that are used through our industry and all our household items. But the main ones you may have heard of, things like BPA,” he said.

“Then we’ve got things called parabens, which are sort of preservatives, those are the ones that are in our shampoos and conditioners, but also in some of our food products.

“The other class [is] probably the phthalates … they’re the things that are making plastics soft and flexible … the ones that are in soft squeezy plastic water bottles or take-away containers,” he said.

He said the chemicals were particularly prone to be ingested if the food contained in the containers were fatty.

“These chemicals love to jump into that food, so over time if we’re consuming low levels of that, then it can be built up in our bodies,” he said.

While the research was conducted on animals, Dr Green said there was evidence of a similar effect on humans.

“We know that people who have high concentrations of these chemicals take longer to conceive, also those people that go into fertility clinics, they’re having even higher levels in their blood and reproductive tissues,” he said.

“Unfortunately throughout the years there have been a number of accidental exposures, in terms of people being exposed through their workplace, and we know that’s going to have downstream effects on their health and their children’s.

“Sadly there’s quite a bit of human data out there in terms of high level exposure, but it’s really what we’re trying to make people aware of is that everyday we’re getting this low-level exposure.”

He said prospective parents should not be alarmed by the research, but could make small changes to avoid the chemicals.

“We know that all sorts of things like a sedentary lifestyle or a poor diet, all these things can impact our fertility, this is just another one of those things,” he said.

“So it’s not really about being alarmist, because we can’t really do much about these chemicals they’re everywhere in our society, but we can do minor things to reduce our exposure.

“It’s really just about education in terms of, don’t leave that plastic water bottle in the sun and then go back and drink it. Or don’t heat your food in those takeaway containers, put it into a bowl and then heat it.”

Dr Green is due to present his findings to a Fertility Society of Australia conference on Sunday.

View original article – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-14/reduced-fertility-rates-common-chemicals-food-cleaning-products/9050212