Egg-cellent News

The last thing any woman wants to hear is that she isn’t getting any younger.  Along those lines, most young women who would eventually like to become mothers generally don’t appreciate being reminded about their biological time clocks (even when coming from the mouths of well-meaning grandmothers).


The fact that a google search of the words “freezing eggs” yields more than thirty two million results indicates that this is a hot topic on the minds of many.  Unfortunately, many women feel a certain amount of pressure and stress when it comes to the topic of family planning.  However, recent research indicates that women may actually have more time than they originally thought.  And, fascinatingly enough, this research was discovered by accident.


Many a medical breakthrough have been discovered “by accident.”  One famous example is when Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming’s fortuitously discovered penicillin in 1928.  Similarly, our discussion today surrounds another similar medical finding that was seemingly chanced upon magically.


Until present, it was medically accepted that females are born with a finite number of eggs which gradually diminish as a woman ages. However, researchers at the University of Edinburgh (link to article) now posit that the human ovary may be able to produce new eggs later in life.  This was first observed in a population of women being treated for cancer with a type of chemotherapy called ABVD (adriamycin bleomycin vinblastine dacarbazine).


Unlike many other types of chemotherapy, ABVD mysteriously does not adversely affect fertility.  Professor Evelyn Tefler and her team initially undertook the task to explore this mysterious phenomenon, and they stumbled upon an altogether different and completely shocking revelation.  When these women underwent ovarian biopsies, it became apparent that their ovaries contained significantly greater quantities of eggs compared to similar aged women who had not undergone the same medical treatment.


Other scientists are skeptical about these preliminary findings, and they remain circumspect about this circumstance until further replication of the results.  They prefer to establish harder evidence before raising hopes and expectations.  However, it is hard to deny that clearly, the ovary is a much more complex and compelling organ than we previously realized.  Further research is warranted to analyze its full potential.  If in fact new eggs can be produced by the ovary later in life, the future of fertility treatment may completely shift gears from egg freezing to egg production.  Until then, may the current science and technology available to us help many women achieve their family planning goals and dreams with the least amount of stress.

Morning Sickness- A Hidden Blessing

One of the many unpleasant symptoms that often accompanies the first trimester of pregnancies is morning sickness.  Typically, the strong feelings of nausea (at times accompanied by vomiting) is worst at the start of the day and towards the beginning of pregnancy.  But is morning sickness all bad?

For decades, researchers have attempted to answer this question and find the silver lining in the nausea.  Hook and Profet proposed that morning sickness protects the developing fetus harmful chemicals in foods by physically forcing the pregnant woman to expel them.  Examples of such chemicals are toxins in certain strong-tasting vegetables, alcohol, and caffeine.  In fact, this may explain and be linked to certain food aversions experienced by some pregnant women.

It has also been proposed that women who experience morning sickness, especially accompanied by vomiting, are less likely to miscarry.  This possible inverse relationship was recently explored at the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  The goal of the study was to provide hard core evidence that morning sickness indicates a healthy developing pregnancy and decreased risk of miscarriage.

In the study, Dr. Hinkle and her team investigated data from a previous clinical trial called the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) trial (for more information, please refer to this link).  The EAGeR trial attempted to answer the following question: If a woman has experienced one or two previous miscarriages, does taking prophylactic aspirin prevent miscarriage in future pregnancies?  This innovative research was the first in its kind, as it had participants keep a detailed account of nausea and vomiting symptoms early in pregnancy in a population of women who had all experienced previous miscarriage(s).  Participants kept meticulous journals during weeks 2-8 of their pregnancies documenting nausea and vomiting.  After the eighth week, the women kept track of the same symptoms on a monthly basis through the 36th week of pregnancy.

The results of the study supported the aforementioned hypothesis.  Of the 797 women who participated in EAGeR, 76.4% of the participants completed their pregnancies.  Unfortunately, the remaining 188 women (23.4%) experienced miscarriages.  Researchers found that 57.3% of the participants reported symptoms of nausea and 26.6% of the participants reported nausea with vomiting.  Ultimately, these women were 50-75% less likely to suffer a miscarriage compared to the women who did not experience the same symptoms.  Although the women probably did not appreciate their unpleasant and undesirable symptoms at the time, those very symptoms were benefiting and protecting their babies.  In other words, that which was previously viewed in a negative light was actually extremely positive.

Hopefully, this ironic research discovery will help pregnant women withstand and, dare I say, appreciate the hidden blessing which we call morning sickness.  In the words of Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning), “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”  May this newfound understanding of morning sickness, one of the many sacrifices mothers make for their children, provide tolerance, encouragement, and meaning to expectant mothers.