Tag Archives: Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health

Worried about Your Eggs?

This scene is something that a lot of women can relate to as they age. More specifically, egg freezing is a trending topic that we are also seeing more and more of in the news. Most recently, Apple and Google announced that each would be providing special benefits to women who would like to freeze their eggs. Many believe that women are waiting longer to have children because they are focusing on their careers, and progressive corporations like these see it as a way to give back to them for their dedication. 

I reached out to Michael Thomas, M.D., a respected Professor and Division and Fellowship Director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to get his take on this topic…

Dr_Michael_A_Thomas

All women are born with over one million eggs, which is all she will ever have.  These eggs decrease in number from birth and are all gone by the time she is 50 years old…also known as the menopause.  Though the age of menopause varies from woman to woman, it is usually the same age that your mother or your older sister have or will go into the menopause. Between birth and menopause, a woman loses about 1,000 eggs each cycle.  Also, as a woman gets older her eggs start to develop problems in their chromosomes that increase the risk of miscarriage, or developmental problems in the baby.  These chromosomal abnormalities especially increase when a woman is over the age of 35.  Therefore, it is easier for a woman to get pregnant in her 20s or early 30s.

Because of this, fertility doctors are now giving women the opportunity to retrieve their eggs at an early age, then to either freeze them or mix them with male partner or donor sperm to freeze embryos.

How does it work?

Eggs are obtained by in vitro fertilization (IVF).  During an IVF cycle, women are given medicines to rescue some of the eggs that would have died off during a normal menstrual cycle.  These eggs are obtained by using a catheter through the vaginal tissues directly into the ovaries.  Once the eggs are removed, they can be frozen immediately (future pregnancy rate is 2-12% per egg) or mixed with male partner or donor sperm to make embryos or fertilized eggs (future pregnancy rate 35-60% per embryo).  The biggest advantage of frozen embryos over frozen eggs is that embryo survival after thawing may be higher, which increases the chance of future pregnancy.

The advantage of freezing eggs without fertilization is that they can be fertilized with the sperm of a future male partner or donor sperm no matter what your age may be at that time.  Another way to look at this is that if you freeze your eggs at age 24, you will always have a 24-year-old version of yourself waiting for you while you continue to complete your career and/or find the right time in your life to have a child with or without a partner.  Some patients opt to freeze half of their eggs and fertilize the other half.

Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not pay for egg freezing.  But if egg freezing is being performed to store eggs prior to taking chemotherapy or radiation because of a recent diagnosis of cancer, some insurance companies may cover this procedure. (Chemo and radiation destroys eggs that are developing in the ovaries.)

Egg freezing is not a guarantee that a future pregnancy will take place.  Many things factor into a successful pregnancy, including the age of the woman and/or the quality of the eggs at the time of egg freezing.

I applaud companies like Google and others who are paying for employees who aren’t ready for a pregnancy now, but would like to in the future. There are many professional businesswomen who are now in their 20s and 30s who don’t want to force a pregnancy before they are ready; it’s also common for women to freeze their eggs when they simply have not found the ideal partner yet; that being said, it’s a great resource for those who want to have a family, but also do not want to settle!

If you have questions or for more information, you can contact your local fertility practice or reach me at Michael.Thomas@uc.edu or www.ucfertility.com.  Follow us on Twitter at @ucfertility.  More information for any reproductive health topic can be obtained at www.reproductivefacts.org.

Vulvovaginal Pain Disorders

This post is part one in my series about the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health.


The first focus of the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health in which we’ve played a large role is in the exploration of the first of our focuses, Vulvovaginal Pain Disorders. We’ve partnered with the National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) to create an online tutorial for women and healthcare providers alike. Everything You Need to Know about Vulvodynia is viewed by more than 200 women every single day.

Additionally, in 2010 we began funding a National Vulvodynia Treatment Outcomes Registry in conjunction with NVA to discover what treatments suit what subtypes of vulvodynia. This will help eliminate the numerous treatments women often try before finding what’s right for their specific subtype. Only two of the 25 therapies used to manage the painful symptoms of vulvodynia have undergone rigorous scientific evaluation, leaving medical professionals with little scientific data on which to base their treatment recommendations. As the NVA’s objectives state, goals are to:

  1. Collect preliminary data on the long-term efficacy of the most commonly utilized treatments, including, but not limited to: topical medications (e.g., anesthetics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and/or hormones); oral “pain-blocking” medications (e.g., anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin-norephinephrine reuptake inhibitors and/or muscle relaxants); physical therapy; and surgery for Provoked Vestibulodynia, a major vulvodynia subtype;
  2. Differentiate vulvodynia subtypes based on physical findings and treatment response;
  3. Formulate multidisciplinary treatment plans for different vulvodynia subtypes;
  4. Determine which factors can predict treatment success.

Though more funding and research needs to be put into vulvovaginal pain disorders, the issue is gaining more coverage. Dr. Mehmet Oz (yes, the famous Dr. Oz) recently discussed the causes and symptoms of vulvodynia on his show. Dr. Oz says:

“The pain of vulvodynia can occur unprovoked or it can be triggered by direct contact. It can be constant or intermittent, mild or excruciating, and it can last for 6 months or longer. Childbirth, physical trauma, past surgery, scarring, and certain neurological conditions are known to activate vulvodynia.

The actual cause has eluded researchers but a genetic, hormonal, muscular, or neurological component that causes nerves to become overstimulated, overabundant, or entangled has been proposed. Some researchers have suggested that whatever is at work with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome is at work here, causing intense and frequent firing of nerve signals.”

As you can see, researchers are still unaware of the exact cause of vulvodynia. The Patty Brisben Foundation seeks to resolve the cause and symptoms so women can lead happy, healthy sexual lives. What we can do now is share as much information as possible. We can aspire to give women hope that someday they not only can, but will, feel like themselves again. One of the most powerful tools every human has is their mind; if we seek the positive, we will find the positive. Believing in yourself and your health is almost as important as the research itself.

With the help of our sponsorship of the National Vulvodynia Treatment Outcomes Registry, there will be multiple treatment plans in the future. Making women aware of what resources there are to assist them during this time is the Foundation’s duty, and I believe the results of this registry will benefit every woman suffering a vulvovaginal pain disorder.

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. With the assistance from doctors on our Board combined with research, the blog posts this month have been created.