What You Need To Know About Being Pregnant In Your 30s and 40s

“At 38 years old, I got to thinking that if I didn’t have a baby by then, I might not ever be able to have one,” says Lene Ramirez, now 49 and mother to a 10-year-old. Determined and independent, Lene told her then partner that she wanted to have a baby—and to raise the child as a solo parent. Although they had been seeing each other for two years, they both knew that marriage was not something either of them wanted. He agreed, on the condition that the child would know who he was.
Lene changed her lifestyle: She started taking vitamins, quit smoking and drinking, exercised, and stuck to a healthy diet. One month later, she was pregnant, but it was a difficult one. She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she packed on 56 pounds, and had to take insulin shots, which posed the risk of infant death. Thus, during the last month of her pregnancy, Lene went in for an ultrasound twice a week to check if the baby was moving. “Otherwise they would have to operate right away,” she says. She went into labor the night before her scheduled C-section.
The risks
While more and more women are having or choosing to have children at an advanced maternal age, which refers to women bearing children over the age of 35 at the time of delivery, a later pregnancy is not without its risks. Jennifer Co, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist at the FEU-NRMF Medical Center and obstetrician gynecologist Maren Arabia, M.D. enumerate some of increased health risks:

  • There is 20 to 35% risk of miscarriage due to the increased likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities.
  • The baby may experience developmental problems such as Down syndrome. Studies have shown that women who are in their 40s have a 50% risk of having a child with autism.
  • The mother experiences placenta previa where the placenta is lying unusually low in the uterus, next to or covering the cervix. It can cause bleeding, as well as require an early delivery via C-section.
  • Another serious condition is placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before the baby is born. It deprives the baby of oxygen and causes severe bleeding.
  • Preeclampsia, which causes blood vessels to constrict and reduce blood flow to one’s vital organs as well as the baby’s, can arise during labor.
  • A mother can get gestational diabetes where complications can include excessive fatigue, greater chances of infection, and extra amniotic fluid. Risks for the baby include heavier birth weights, hypoglycemia, jaundice, low blood calcium, and breathing difficulties.
  • Chances are high that the delivery will caesarean to reduce any complications.

 

There are many risks for the baby as well. Jennifer Villafuerte, who is 45, had her fifth child, Jenny, at the age of 42. At 2 months old, Jenny was diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD), and, at 4 months old, had to undergo balloon dilation due to her persistent vegetative state (PVS). She admits that there continue to be challenges, such as keeping up with her child, a greater sense of awareness of the future (“When he’s 21, I’ll be in my 60s”), and the fear—one that keeps her up at night—that he’ll end up an orphan.

 

Not all late pregnancies are difficult
Of course, fears about the future happens to all moms no matter their age. And late pregnancies can also have smooth-sailing experiences. When Michelline Suarez turned 40, she told her husband she wanted to another child despite having four already (they now range from 20 to 29) and the risks involved. But she had a supportive doctor and was confident it would be an easy pregnancy because of her past four healthy pregnancies. She was right. Michelline had an easy pregnancy that she credits to being active before and during the pregnancy. “I loved being pregnant. I loved the feeling of carrying new life,” she adds. She also believes that age and experience have taught her how to trust her instincts when it comes to her health as well as her child’s. She had her son, now 7, a year after she spoke to her husband.

 

Olen Juarez Lim’s fourth pregnancy (with son Tyler) at 42 years old might have not been planned, but it was a welcome and complication-free one. “I was kind of worried, but my fourth pregnancy was my easiest,” says Olen. “I’m lucky that my doctor was open, she doesn’t tell you what’s bad about it. I was able to continue working out until giving birth. I was doing Pilates, I was doing aerobics until siguro the fourth month. I was doing yoga until my sixth month. I didn’t stop kasi my doctor said not to stop,” she says. While Olen agrees that “you cannot argue with science,” she advises women who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant later in life to make a commitment to take care of themselves better.

 

Motherhood is better with age 
Jennifer, Michelline, and Olen also believe that motherhood is sweeter the second (or fifth!) time around. “You’re more prepared,” says Olen. “The parenting is better. The way you deal with things becomes better. It’s not like when I was younger, I was really getting into my career, ang dami ko pang inaasikaso. In your 40s, you already know what you’re going to do.”

 

Michelline says that with her fifth child it wasn’t just about all the firsts, but also about the lasts: the last time she would change a diaper, the last time she would feed her child. She was more relaxed and better able to appreciate every milestone. Being older also allowed her not to take everything so personally; to become more forgiving in errors in judgment (both hers and her child’s)—you realize that “the lessons will be learned at the right time and not our time.”

 

Jennifer believes that her experience with her older children—and the lessons she’s learned along the way—drastically changed her parenting style. While more conscious of criticism during her younger maternal years, Jennifer has learned how to understand each child’s differing interests and unique personalities. This once “strict conservative mom” is now more mellow and a “softy.” And all three women admit to spoiling the last child—and enjoy doing so.

 

Parenting at a later age comes with its own set of questions and fears: Can I still do this? How old will I be when my child goes to prom, graduates, gets married? What will happen to my child if I die? These are very real fears that are on the minds of most mid-life mothers. While daunting at first, it’s also all about perception and proper planning. For Michelline, it’s about knowing that life is fragile and each moment counts. You can’t control everything; that it’s all about enjoying your blessings and having faith. For Olen, planning and making preparations is an important step. “You have to think forward, not in terms of age, but in terms of preparing in the event that something would happen to you,” she says.

 

Whether you’re having your first child or your fifth at an age considered past your prime, there are certainly many factors to consider, but it’s all about making the best choices for yourself. While physical and emotional complications are rife, there are women who have made it work, and work beautifully. After all, (a well-informed) mother—whether in her 20s or in her 40s—knows best.

Cancer drug for mums-to-be may curb baby girls’ future fertility

Chemotherapy treatment during pregnancy may affect the future fertility of unborn baby girls, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that a drug called etoposide can damage the development of mouse ovary tissue grown in the lab.

The drug affects specialised cells called germ cells, which give rise to eggs. Further research is needed to assess whether the drug has similar effects on human tissue.

Experts say their findings may mean that affected baby girls should be warned in later life that they may undergo an early menopause.

Around one in 1000 pregnant women are diagnosed with cancer. Doctors and patients have to make difficult decisions to try and save the lives of both mother and baby.

Etoposide is used to treat several types of cancer and is considered safe for use in the second and third trimester of pregnancy because it has a low risk of miscarriage and birth defects.

Little is known, however, about the longer terms effects of the drug on the unborn baby in later life.

A woman’s reproductive lifespan is determined before birth, while the ovaries are developing in the womb. The second and third trimesters are particularly important as that is when female germ cells form structures called follicles that determine how many eggs she will be able to release in her lifetime.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh studied the effects of etoposide treatment on the development of mouse ovary tissue grown in the lab.

They found that treatment before the follicles had developed wiped out up to 90 per cent of the germ cells, even at doses that are low relative to those given to patients.

Treatment after the follicles were developed had no significant adverse effects, the research shows.

Follicle development begins around 17 weeks into the baby’s development in the womb and is not completed until the later stages of pregnancy.

Lead researcher Professor Norah Spears, of the University’s Centre for Integrative Physiology, said: “If the results we have seen in these mouse studies are replicated in human tissue, it could mean that girls born to mums who are taking etoposide during pregnancy have a reduced fertility window.”

Genes that influence dizygotic twinning and fertility

Twinning has fascinated human beings over the centuries. Twins are relatively common and occur more than 1 time per 100 maternities. Roughly two-thirds of all twin pairs are dizygotic or non-identical and are genetically as alike as other siblings. It has been firmly established that dizygotic twinning has a maternal genetic component, but no one so far has succeeded in identifying the genes for spontaneous DZ twinning after decades of investigations.

An international collaboration* on the genetics of dizygotic twinning led by Dr Hamdi Mbarek and Prof. Dorret Boomsma from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has obtained a breakthrough in identifying genes that increase the chance for mothers to have dizygotic twins. One of these genes also has significant effects on fertility measures, including the age of a girl’s first menstruation, age at menopause, number of children, and age at first (and last) child, but also on polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a major cause of infertility in women.

The findings appear online today in the international scientific journal The American Journal of Human Genetics. Researchers believe the findings represent a significant advance in the identification of key mechanisms controlling ovarian function and provide a greater understanding of female fertility and infertility.

Mbarek and colleagues report two genetic variants. The first variant is close to the gene coding for the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (the FSHB gene) by the pituitary, the small brain organ that governs almost all major hormonal events in the body. The second variant relates to the so-called SMAD3 gene and is likely to be involved in the way the ovaries respond to follicle stimulating hormone. Both variants result in the multiple follicle growth that is obviously needed for the development of non-identical twins. Non-identical twins develop from 2 separate eggs from separate follicles fertilized by separate sperm cells. Whereas identical twins develop from one embryo that splits in half, dizygotic twinning thus starts with a multiple ovulation, a maternal characteristic.

The research brought together a large number of mothers who gave birth to spontaneous dizygotic twins. The mothers were carefully chosen not to have received fertility treatments, such as IVF, which may also lead to twin pregnancies. Their genetic profiles were compared to those from a large group of people who were not related, either as mothers or as family members, to dizygotic twins. An important strength of the study was that the findings were replicated by the famous deCODE group in another large population cohort from Iceland.

The relative risk of a mother having dizygotic twins is increased by 29% if she has one copy of the twinning gene (or alleles) at both contributing locations in the genome.

“Discovery of the main genes behind the mystery of spontaneous dizygotic twinning was long awaited, and is of great scientific interest and clinical importance,” said senior author Prof. Dorret Boomsma, Ph.D., who specializes in genetics and twin studies and who has worked on the genetics of twinning for most of her career.

“The results will be of importance to investigate ovarian response to hormone stimulation for assisted reproduction such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), making the findings also of great interest to research into female infertility,” said Prof. Nils Lambalk, Prof of Reproductive Medicine at VU Medical Center who is involved in the study.

There are still more genes to be found that influence spontaneous DZ twinning. A genetic risk score based on other variants but excluding the top findings, still additionally predicts dizygotic twinning and having children Mbarek and colleagues found.

“In the future, developing a simple genetic test based on the top hits could assist in the identification of women at risk of a high response to hormonal treatment and allow calibration in order to prevent the severe complication of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome with IVF,” said first author Dr. Hamdi Mbarek, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the paper, who also works at the department of Biological Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. The department established the Netherlands Twin Register nearly 30 years ago and questions about the etiology of twinning are among the most frequently asked by the participants.

* The International collaboration includes researchers from Europe: The Netherlands (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and VU Medical Centre), Iceland (deCODE), Australia (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute) and the USA (the Avera Institute for Human Genetics in Sioux Falls and Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research).

Cannabinoid receptor activates spermatozoa

Biologists  have detected a cannabinoid receptor in spermatozoa. Endogenous cannabinoids that occur in both the male and the female genital tract activate the spermatozoa: they trigger the so-called acrosome reaction, during which the spermatozoon releases digestive enzymes and loses the cap on the anterior half of its head. Without this reaction, spermatozoa cannot penetrate the ovum.

During fertilization, a sperm must first fuse with the plasma membrane and then penetrate the female egg in order to penetrate it. To this end, sperm cells go through a process known as the acrosome reaction which is the reaction that occurs in the acrosome of the sperm as it approaches the egg. In the lab, this so-called acrosome reaction is considered a test for analysing the ability of semen to accomplish fertilisation. A receptor for an endogenous cannabinoid plays a crucial role in this process. A team of biologists from Bochum and Bonn, headed by Prof Dr Dr Dr Hanns Hatt, have been the first one to provide a proof of the so-called G protein-coupled receptors 18 (GPR18) in spermatozoa, following a comprehensive analysis. They published their findings in Scientific Reports.

Researchers find 223 additional receptors

Specialised in olfaction research, the team from Bochum had detected as many as 60 olfactory receptors in spermatozoa early this year, and has activated and localised ten of them. “In the current study, we have focused on the remaining G protein-coupled receptors, which, rather than being olfactory receptors, bind other substances,” explains Hanns Hatt. Analysing samples by numerous donors, the researchers investigated which genes are expressed in spermatozoa; their conclusion was that the number of receptors totalled 223. The three most common ones include receptor GPR18, a cannabinoid receptor that has recently been described for the first time.

New receptor is more sensitive to NAGly than classical ones

“The receptor reacts to the herbal cannabis agent THC as well as to the endogenous fatty acid NAGly, which is associated with the cannabinoid system,” says Hatt. “It is much more sensitive to NAGly than the classical, long-known cannabinoid receptors.” Activating the receptor, which is situated in the centre of spermatozoa, can trigger the so-called acrosome reaction. In the course of this process, the spermatozoon’s surface is altered as it approaches the egg. Without this reaction, the spermatozoon cannot penetrate the egg cell.

Cannabinoids in female reproductive tract

Scientists know that endocannabinoids occur in both the male and the female genital tract. Studies suggest that in women their concentration increases during the fertile days. “The endocannabinoid activates the spermatozoa for fertilization” concludes Hanns Hatt. The GPR18 receptor also occurs in other tissues in the human body, for example in the brain and in the heart. However, its function was not known until now.

Celebs Who Have Opted For Surrogacy

The new draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016, which makes commercial surrogacy illegal in India and passed today by the Union Cabinet, has sent the nation into a tizzy. Surrogacy has been a way of attaining the joys of parenthood to many who have been unable to achieve it for several reasons. And along with common people, some of our biggest Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities too have children through surrogacy.

Tusshar Kapoor was the latest in the Bolly brigade to opt for surrogacy. The unmarried actor welcomed home baby boy Laksshya earlier this year, much to the joy of his parents.

Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman welcomed a baby girl, Faith Margaret, with husband Keith Urban through a surrogate mother in 2011.

Neil Patrick Harris welcomed twins, Gideon and Harper, with partner David Burtka via a surrogate mother in 2010.

Hollywood celebs have been opting for surrogacy for years now.

The Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker had twin daughters, Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge, with husband husband Matthew Broderick in 2009.

 

Medical scientists discover potent method for improving drug-free fertility treatment

For those facing infertility, IVF has long been the established option to have a baby. Now Australian and Belgian medical scientists have discovered how to improve a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant using a less invasive and cheaper alternative.

The innovation, which has already undergone pre-clinical testing, uses growth factors to enhance an existing fertility treatment known as in-vitro maturation (IVM). The result is improved egg quality and a 50% increase in embryos, with the use of minimal drugs.

The advance has significant implications for infertility treatment and fertility preservation worldwide.

While standard in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) requires women to take follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) to stimulate egg cell (oocyte) growth before they are removed from the ovary, IVM retrieves eggs while they are still in the immature stage, and brings them to maturity in cell culture.This is achieved with minimal hormone stimulation. Until now, most clinicians have recommended IVF because pregnancy rates after IVM have been lower.

While the use of hormone drugs for conventional IVF is a proven fertility treatment, its use comes with significant discomfort for the patient, some medical complications and is expensive to patients and Australia’s healthcare system.

An international research team, led by UNSW Associate Professor Robert Gilchrist, has enhanced the IVM process by adding a combination of a growth factor (cumulin) and cAMP-modulators (small signalling molecules) to the egg cells. Associate Professor Gilchrist’s team recently discovered cumulin and his laboratory is one of only two worldwide that make it.

“The aim of our research has been to restore as far as possible, the natural processes that occur during egg maturation,” said Associate Professor Gilchrist, who is based at UNSW’s School of Women’s and Children’s Health.

“We have demonstrated that it is possible to improve egg quality and embryo yield with next to no drugs, using potent growth factors produced by the egg.”

The innovative technique, which is awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval, has been 15 years in the making. It is the result of a long partnership between Associate Professor Gilchrist and the University of Adelaide (where he was based previously), UZ Brussel at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium and Cook Medical.

In published research, initial experiments using the technique in pigs showed an improvement in egg quality and a doubling of the embryo yield compared to the existing IVM method. In a pre-clinical trial on human eggs, conducted by Professor Johan Smitz from VUB’s Follicle Biology Laboratory in Brussels, the researchers likewise found an improvement in egg quality and a 50% increase in embryo yield.

Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, said the new technique is a significant advance in fertility research.

“While the enhanced IVM treatment is not currently available as a fertility treatment option, if it is accepted into clinical practice it will remove the need for a woman to inject herself with high doses of hormones for up to 12 days,” Associate Professor Thompson said.

“Most importantly, it could give a woman almost the same chance of becoming pregnant as with hormone-stimulated IVF,” Associate Professor Thompson said.

Professor Michel De Vos (UZ Brussel) said the use of IVM also reduces the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) to zero.

“Young women facing cancer treatment, who wish to preserve their fertility but often don’t have time to freeze their eggs, will also benefit from this breakthrough,” Professor De Vos said.

The researchers are currently conducting safety studies to ensure that altering the conditions of egg maturation using this enhanced IVM technique does not affect the long-term health of offspring.

Plastic manufacturing chemical BPS harms egg cells, study suggests

Bisphenol S, a chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate water bottles and many other products such as epoxy glues and cash receipts, is an increasingly common replacement for bisphenol A, the of which was discontinued because of concerns about its harmful effects on the reproductive system. In a new study, UCLA researchers have found that BPS is just as harmful to the reproductive system as the chemical it replaced. BPS damages a woman’s eggs and at lower doses than BPA.

While looking for replacements to toxic chemicals, manufacturers tend to choose substitute chemicals that, while technically different, often share similar physical properties. Due to increasing consumer pressure, companies have replaced BPA with other related compounds now found in many “BPA-free” products. However we do not know how safe these substitutes are. These uncertainties led the researchers to ask whether BPS could impart detrimental effects on reproduction similar to BPA’s.

The researchers exposed a common laboratory model, the roundworm, to several concentrations of BPA and/or BPS that approximate the levels of BPA and/or BPS found in humans. They followed the worms through the duration of their reproductive periods and measured their fertility.

The researchers observed that compared to the controls, worms exposed to either BPA or BPS, or combination of the two, had decreased fertility. Surprisingly, these effects were seen at lower internal BPS doses than those of BPA suggesting that BPS may be more damaging to the reproductive system. This was especially significant when they examined the viability of young embryos.

These findings are also a cause for concern in humans as the same reproductive processes that are disrupted by BPS in roundworms are found in mammals. Furthermore, as noted above BPS products are already found in a plethora of consumer products.

“This study clearly illustrates the issue with the ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to chemical replacement in consumer products,” said Patrick Allard, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and the study’s senior author. “There is a great need for the coordinated safety assessment of multiple substitutes and mixtures of chemicals before their use in product replacement. But the good news is that a number of governmental programs and academic labs are now moving in that direction.”

Ten year time limit on storing human eggs should be scrapped, says new research

The 10 year statutory time limit on the storage of human eggs should be scrapped to allow women to freeze their eggs for longer periods, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Professor Emily Jackson, of LSE’s Department of Law, examined the statutory implications of the development of a new fast-freezing technique known as vitrification which has enabled fertility clinics to start to offer the option of ‘social’ egg freezing to women concerned about their declining fertility.

If a woman freezes her eggs before her fertility starts to decline, IVF using her own frozen eggs will be more likely to work into her late 30s and 40s. However, Professor Jackson, points out that a woman would be ill-advised to freeze her eggs at the optimum clinical time because the statutory storage time limit will require her eggs to be destroyed after 10 years. This, she says, “represents an interference with her right to respect for her family life, which is neither necessary nor proportionate.”

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, updated in 2008, allows eggs to be stored for up to ten years. Extensions are allowed only if a woman is facing premature infertility, such as early menopause. As a result, says Professor Jackson, most 30-year-old egg freezers would not be eligible for an extension at the age of 40, and they would therefore be unable to use their frozen eggs at the age of 41 or 42, even though this is precisely the age when they are likely to benefit from having frozen their eggs.

The limits were originally introduced because the risks of long-term storage were unknown at that point. “It is now clear that time limits on storage are not required on safety grounds,” says Professor Jackson in her paper ‘Social’ egg freezing and the UK’s statutory storage time limits, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics. The limits have been retained so that clinics are not obliged to store eggs indefinitely. But this could easily be achieved by allowing for rolling time-limited extensions, as happens for women who are prematurely infertile.

She concludes: “Because social egg freezing is in its infancy, we do not know what practical impact the 10-year time limit will have upon women who have frozen their eggs. If a woman has 3 years of storage left, at what point should she give up on meeting a suitable partner and attempt IVF with donor sperm, for example? It seems likely that women faced with the imminent destruction of their eggs will feel under pressure to use their eggs before time runs out for them, ironically perhaps creating a newly ticking non-biological clock.

“Nor do we know if the statutory time limit is shaping women’s decisions about when to freeze their eggs. For example, are women putting off freezing their eggs until their mid-30s in order to ensure that their eggs will be usable until their mid-40s? More research is needed into how the 10-year time limit shapes women’s decisions about the freezing and subsequent use of their eggs.

“The 2009 Regulations were not passed in order to accommodate the interests of women freezing their eggs as insurance against age-related fertility decline. Their impact upon this patient group is therefore inadvertent. Nevertheless, it is clear that, in relation to social egg freezing, the 2009 Regulations are a backward and regressive step which, contrary to the Minister’s reassurance in parliament, leave some women demonstrably worse off than they would have been under the previous Regulations. By mandating the destruction of a woman’s eggs during her reproductive lifespan, unless she happens to be prematurely infertile, the rules are illogical and their effects perverse.

“The current rules allow for extraordinarily long extensions of storage, for up to 55 years, at the same time as ruling out short extensions for women who suffer natural age-related fertility decline. Prematurely infertile men can therefore store their sperm well into old age, while a woman who freezes her eggs at the age of 30 will not be able to use her own eggs in treatment when she is 41.”

How Surrogacy Is Redefining What It Means To Be A Mother

The concept of incubating a human life in your body and then giving it away to someone else was difficult for me to grasp at first — this idea of the severance of the primordial bond between mother and child. And that’s one issue the people who protest surrogacy claim in their arguments.

I also didn’t realize that a woman could have a baby who was not at all genetically related her. This is called gestational surrogacy, a common type of surrogacy that women enter.

Jenna Mancuso is a 30-year-old dental assistant from Pennsylvania who lives with her husband, Phil, and her three kids. She recently gave birth to twin babies for an intended father, Michael Oppedisano, who is a dentist living in Texas.

Jenna was a gestational surrogate, “Gestational surrogacy uses In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to create an embryo using the ova/eggs from the prospective mother or donor and sperm from the father or donor that is then implanted in a surrogate.”

Jenna describes the feeling of disassociation, “It’s a total disconnect, like the ultrasounds. I look at them and think ‘aww they’re cute’ but not like how it is emotional when it’s your own baby and it’s so amazing and like ‘oh my God it’s my baby on the screen!’”

Jenna and her husband, Phil, decided to go into surrogacy after Jenna was “feeling the urge to be pregnant again.” Jenna freely admits she enjoys the pregnancy and that the process comes easily for her. The sad reality is that many people struggle with infertility and this is a way surrogates can give back.

Circle Surrogacy was the agency that handled Jenna and Michael’s agreement. The agency receives approximately 1,200 applicants per month from women who want to be carriers; however, the vetting process is extremely thorough as they only accept around 1.7 percent of them into the program.

Michael was actually the first intended parent that Jenna and Phil matched with. They began sussing each other out through Skype calls. It was extremely important for both parties to bond and to get to know each other’s motives before signing a contract together. When you’re dealing with an agreement that’s based on the exchange of human lives, great care and attention is needed.

Michael is a gay, single man who has been trying to have kids for roughly the past five years. Much of the tone in Michael’s main interview is very revealing of the long, difficult journey he has had in getting to this point. He initially looked into adoption and fostering children, but the prospect of having to give them back to the original parents deterred him from this route.

Another obstacle for Michael was that he encountered surrogate agencies who do not support gay families.

I think a lot of people will say that allowing singles or gay people to have children will cause a collapse in the family structure. The traditional family structure has been collapsing for 40 years. People aren’t getting married; people are getting divorced. There’s a lot of kids out there that don’t have two parents.

The commodification of a woman’s body and the idea that children are being “bought and sold” fuels more stigma around surrogacy. A surrogate typically gets a base rate of $25,000-$30,000 to carry a child on top of additional monthly stipends to cover things such as medical bills, travel, maternity clothing, etc. But you simply cannot put a price tag on the amount of sacrifice or emotions that a woman gives while carrying a child.

As Jenna’s husband Phil says, “For people that can do this, and do it for the right reasons, it’s a beautiful thing.”

There is an odd feeling when you think about the fact that attorneys, contracts, screenings, egg donors and sperm donors are involved in having a family. However, when you realize so many people are coming together and truly have the best intentions to help one another, it is a fascinating miracle.

This documentary contains one example of a surrogacy story, and it happened to be a positive and endearing one. I can imagine that not all surrogacy stories have happy endings, but a lot can be learned from this example.

The Oppedisanos and the Mancusos plan on staying in touch, and even going on vacations together. They truly have re-defined traditional family dynamics.

Stress negatively affects chances of conception, science shows

What many have long suspected, has been scientifically confirmed — women’s high stress reduces their probability of conception.

Scientists found that women who reported feeling more stressed during their ovulatory window were approximately 40-percent less likely to conceive during that month than other less stressful months. Similarly, women who generally reported feeling more stressed than other women, were about 45-percent less likely to conceive. The results of the study recently published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

In the study, 400 women 40-years-old and younger who were sexually active recorded their daily stress levels measured on a scale from one to four (low to high). The diaries also contained information regarding menstruation, intercourse, contraception, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Urine samples also were collected throughout the study, and women were followed until they became pregnant or until the study ended, for an average of eight menstrual cycles.

Researchers calculated mean stress levels during each phase of the menstrual cycle, with day 14 as the estimated time of ovulation. They found the negative effect of stress on fertility was only observed during the ovulatory window, and was true after adjustments for other factors like age, body mass index, alcohol use and frequency of intercourse.

“These findings add more evidence to a very limited body of research investigating whether perceived stress can affect fertility,” Taylor said. “The results imply that women who wish to conceive may increase their chances by taking active steps towards stress reduction such as exercising, enrolling in a stress management program or talking to a health professional.”

The study also found that women who did conceive experienced an increase in stress at the end of the month in which they became pregnant. Taylor hypothesizes this could be the result of two factors: women became stressed after taking a home pregnancy test and learning they were pregnant, and/or most likely the increased stress was the result of changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy itself.

“Some individuals are skeptical that emotional and psychological attributes may be instrumental in affecting fertility,” Taylor said. “I hope the results of this study serve a wake-up call for both physicians and the general public that psychological health and well-being is just as important as other more commonly accepted risk factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or obesity when trying to conceive.”