08/15/2006

Give me 45 seconds, I'll give you the world

News from around the reproductive world:

  • A new study reveals that men get postpartum depression, too, in numbers similar to women.  Like mothers suffering from PPD, depressed fathers "engage in less positive interaction with their children, with a particular reduction in the degree of enrichment interactions, including reading, telling stories, and singing songs," researchers concluded.  A depressed new father "tends to work longer, to watch sports more, to drink more and be solitary," explains the chairman of the AAAP committee on the psychosocial aspects of child and family health.  (A depressed new mother just wishes she could.)  Because PPD is conventionally believed to be a female affliction, new fathers who are wrestling with depression don't always get the treatment or support they need.  To assist your partner if you believe he's suffering from PPD, a couples therapist who writes about male depression suggests, "In a gentle or loving way say, 'I think you have been depressed since this baby.'  Let him know that men do get depressed around this time and that even though postpartum depression in women grabs all the headlines, men are close behind. You want him to talk about it and depending on how severe it is, you want him to get help."  But if I were you, I'd stop short of asking him how his episiotomy is healing.
  • Forget sex tourism; fertility tourism is the wave of the future.  Want to choose your child's sex via PGD, a practice currently banned in Canada, England, Germany, France, and Japan?  Go to Thailand.  Go!  Enjoy!  Just think of all the nice people you'll meet, many of them from China and India.
  • A Los Angeles man is suing a sperm bank after discovering, he says, "a hidden surveillance camera on top of the ceiling tile, with the lens of the camera positioned to...capture the activity within the private donor room."  "After completing the donation," charges the complaint, the man "noticed an unusual hole in the ceiling tile."  Further investigation revealed a video setup concealed by the tile.  Upon this discovery, the man became "devastated, humiliated, and distraught" and notified clinic personnel.  When the clinic declined to file a police report on the matter, the man filed one of his own, then brought a suit charging negligence and emotional distress  against Pacific Reproductive Services, which claims to have "the most willing-to-be-known donors."  Yeah, I'll just bet.

In other news, as we usher in day 32 of CakeWatch, we note a rash of other puzzling disappearances.  First-hand eyewitness reports indicate that now not only is the cake all gone, but so are the cheese, the water from the baff...tahb, and Mama's expensive and fragile cellular telephone.  There is some good news, though; an initial report of cawhn butt' ah gahn ended up being a false alarm, as the butter had merely melted onto the corn, becoming difficult to see but still present.

07:55 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (38)

09/04/2006

There is some horrible pun to be made here, I just know it

Via the Daily Mail:

Doctors at a London hospital aim to carry out the world's first successful womb transplant within two years.

The breakthrough would offer an alternative to surrogacy or adoption to women who are infertile or have had hysterectomies.

The team from Hammersmith Hospital, along with colleagues in New York and Budapest, aim to transplant a womb from a dead donor.

Richard Smith, a gynaecological cancer surgeon, said: "We have had stunningly good results in the laboratory with good blood supply to the organ. We hope to move into human subjects within the next one to two years.

"The transplant would only be temporary, maybe for two or three years to allow the woman to have children, and then it would be removed to avoid the risks associated with a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs."

Each transplant is estimated to cost £50,000 and would require the recipient to deliver via Caesarean.

08:38 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (56)

10/10/2006

What not to wear

Fertile women dress to impress, U.S. study finds

Women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday [...].

"They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably," said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.  [...]

For example, one woman wore loose knit leggings and a tank top in both photos. "In her high fertility photograph, she would be wearing a very pretty tank top and she was wearing more jewelery. The difference was quite subtle," Haselton said.  [...]

Haselton also was interested to note what did not happen.

"There's a popular notion that when women approach menstrual onset, they get out their bloated clothes and they pull out their sweats," she said. "But we didn't find that to be the case."

Well, no wonder I felt overdressed at my last appointment.  Who knew a tiara is only appropriate before ovulation?

(A nod of the ostrich plume to Sharon for the link.)

02:27 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (44)

10/12/2006

Julie to La Leche League: Suck it

According to Salon.com's Broadsheet, La Leche League has booked so-called "comic mom" Tricia Shore, who writes under the name Tricia Smith Vaughan and whom some of you will remember from others' well-crafted rants, to speak at a dinner celebrating LLL's 50th anniversary.

A sampling of Vaughan's pro-woman, pro-family building opinions on a few topics that may be of interest to you...

On women postponing conception by using birth control pills:

Girls could choose any guy we wanted, have sex with him, come away with little if any emotional attachment, and choose to not become pregnant. Or choose not to continue pregnancy.

What happens to women who have too many choices? We become overstressed and tired and cranky and depressed and have other maladies from the choice of it all. [...]  We became so good at supposedly doing all this choosing stuff that we forgot that sex was connected to something that it had been connected to for at least thousands of years. Some did so much of this forgetting, and did it so well, that when it came time to have a baby, well, they forgot. We'd been forgetting for a long time and then, suddenly, we were supposed to remember that sex produces a baby, but we forgot the whole sex-leads-to-a-baby thing because pills and birth control and women's magazines have told us that sex leads to fun and glamour and prestige, but not necessarily to a baby.     

[A]lready, in our brave new world, women who say they want a baby have no time for sex. What will happen when their artificially conceived offspring cries and needs his or her mommy? Never mind, she'll be working and doing other important stuff. The nanny or day care will be there, for a fee, of course.

A generation of women are too busy to have sex and are so disconnected from nature that some must hire a doctor and a test tube to conceive. As a result, a generation of children will be saying, "Where's my mommy?" And through the silence, they will receive a reply: She is much too busy to care.

...which postponement can lead to assisted reproduction:

When one is too busy with career, travel, and other amenities to have sex, one turns to the medical community: Women "are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for private IVF treatments — even though they have unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects — because they believe it offers them the best chance of 'instant pregnancy'."          

Pregnancy should never be worth the wait, should it? After all, we grew up with instant oatmeal, solid-state television, instant gratification of every sort. And yet all that took too long. Now we are having trouble waiting to conceive. Who cares about those nasty side effects — we want to conceive and we want it NOW!

 ...which might eventually in its turn lead to adoption:

With stranger adoption, we take children from their natural families and place them with families that aren't their own, asking everyone to pretend that these children belong in those families.

The next time you become angry at a couple who claims to be "two mommies," [Not that often, Tricia. — Julie] ask yourself how often you've capitulated to the rhetoric of this brave new world, how often you've called someone who's never given birth and passed along genes a mother, or how often you've looked at an Asian child with two people who are clearly not her parents and believed that they are family.

...or, if you conceive and deliver, postpartum depression:

We follow celebrities, especially when they tell us how we should think. One reason for the recent post-partum depression epidemic, of course, is mental health spokesperson Brooke Shields. [A quick search of PubMed reveals that no studies have yet been published fingering Ms. Shields as Patient Zero.  Perhaps those are still undergoing careful peer review. — Julie]

Brooke really should know better than to prostitute herself to the mental health industry...I have a real problem with her promoting post-partum depression and so easily taking the medications that made everything bright and cheery again, supposedly.  The old-fashioned kind of prostitution, sans government intervention, harms few people. With the newfangled Brooke  Shields-mental-health-prostitution, many new moms read her book and say, "That’s me!" And then the moms jump on the post-partum depression bandwagon themselves, along with the little pills that supposedly cure the depression.  [C'mon.  What are you waiting for?  All the cool kids are doing it.  What are you, chicken? — Apparently Brooke, Julie, and others]

Ah, but now we come to it:

By the way, breastfeeding your newborn helps your hormones to return to normal, but how many times do you read this fact when you hear about post-partum depression? Instead of promoting this natural hormone regulator, Brooke was paid by the formula industry to promote bottlefeeding.  

You see, it seems that Vaughan, or Shore, is a breastfeeding advocate who was barred from performing at a comedy club when she attempted to take the stage with her infant son in a sling.  According to the club's management, bringing in the baby would have violated California's liquor control laws, which prohibit people under 21 from entering bars.

So on that score, LLL's interest in Shore, or Vaughan, who's spoken at a LLL gathering in the past, is understandable.  I can only assume they were unable to find another woman who'd been discriminated against because she breastfed.  I'm sure they combed this great bottle-feeding nation of ours and came up dry in their search for another advocate who could speak forcefully but wittily on the topic of nursing without all the troublesome anti-mother baggage.

With such ugly attitudes towards other women, mothers and those who hope to be, I find it hard to believe Shore's really as funny as she thinks she is.  But then maybe I don't have much of a sense of humor, because her presence at the LLL dinner sounds like a lousy fucking joke to me.

Update: mamacrab writes, "Just called LLL to complain. The woman on the phone told me the speaker has been CANCELLED! I asked if she was cancelled due to complaints and she said yes."

09:00 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (176)

10/19/2006

I knew I was spending too much time on this

Uh-oh:

How women cope with stress may affect IVF outcome

The way women deal with the stress of infertility treatment may affect their chances of becoming pregnant, a new study suggests.

In particular, researchers found, women who tended to focus on and share their feelings were less likely to become pregnant than women who found other ways to cope with their stress — such as finding ways to "distract" themselves from their emotions.

Any bloggers going to close up shop?

...Anyone?

08:04 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (81)

10/26/2006

The first person to complain about "implant" gets it

Two news items of interest, ruthlessly excerpted:

IVF experts advise limits on embryo transfers

Medical groups representing U.S. fertility experts, alarmed by rising numbers of multiple births, on Tuesday advised limiting the number of embryos implanted in women undergoing in-vitro fertilization.

The new recommendations (PDF, 56KB) to fertility specialists, which are not enforceable, call for transfer of no more than two embryos for women under age 35, and say the transfer of a single embryo should be considered.  For women aged 35 to 37, no more than two later-stage or three earlier-stage embryos should be transferred, according to the new guidelines.  The recommendation rises to as many as four embryos for patients aged 38 to 40 and to five embryos for women over the ago of 40.

(Yes.  Yes.  I know Reuters used "implanted" where they should have used "transferred."  I don't much care, and that's not the point.  Keep reading.)

March of Dimes Applauds Effort to Reduce Multiple Births

The March of Dimes applauds new fertility treatment guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) calling for a limited number of embryos — in some cases only one — to be transferred during in-vitro fertilization procedures.

More than one-third of pregnancies conceived using assisted reproductive therapies (transferring a fertilized egg into a uterus) result in a multiple birth.

The March of Dimes also suggested additional steps, beyond the ASRM guidelines, to help women make informed decisions about fertility treatments:

  • Require informed consent documents include explicit information about the risk of multiples and premature birth.

  • Requires annual review of clinics’ performance and publish a list of those with highest and lowest rates of higher-order multiple births.

Now, a very quick sketch of my initial reactions:

  1. I don't see anything immediately unreasonable about the guidelines.  I once read an article that stated that the goal of IVF should be "a healthy singleton pregnancy," and I am largely in agreement with that statement.
  2. I'm all in favor of single-embryo transfers.  If I ever had more than one good-looking embryo to transfer, I would strongly consider it.  However, and this is a big however, I have a history of getting pregnant, even when I had only one to transfer, and I am not interested in carrying twins.  But my position is almost entirely theoretical; I have never faced the situation of having three pretty embryos — or even three ugly ones — at a clinic whose frozen success rates are low.
  3. Although I've been willing to risk getting pregnant with twins, I never actively desired them, and hoped it wouldn't happen.  But my understanding is that many, many infertile women — most? — do hope to complete their families with a single pregnancy, risks be damned.  If a list were published advising infertile couples on which clinics had the highest rate of ongoing twin pregnancies, I wouldn't be surprised to see those clinics' patient load increase dramatically.
  4. Before we began IVF we were given clear and detailed information on the risks of multiple pregnancy and birth, including prematurity.  I would have thought that was common practice, but the March of Dimes seems to suggest that it's not.

What do you think?  Are these guidelines — which are, as Reuters takes pains to emphasize, unenforceable — reasonable or overly restrictive?  Under what conditions would you consider a single-embryo transfer?  Did your clinic make you aware of the risks of multiple pregnancy?  And when pregnancy itself seemed so remote a chance to begin with, did you care?

Addendum: The ASRM recommendation, linked above and available for a limited time, contains this passage:

Strict limitations on the number of embryos transferred, as required by law in some countries, do not allow treatment plans to be individualized after careful consideration of each patient’s own unique circumstances. Accordingly, these guidelines may be modified, according to individual clinical conditions, including patient age, embryo quality, the opportunity for cryopreservation, and as clinical experience with newer techniques accumulates.

...which makes it that much more reasonable, huh?

09:23 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (142)

11/10/2006

Focus groups flatly rejected "precisely-timed-intercourse-moon"

If most Americans believe, as Ali Domar asserts, that the number one reason for infertility is stress, then it's no wonder a weird little trend has emerged: the conceptionmoon, a vacation expressly planned to result in pregnancy.  (The term, coined by the world-class think tank, BabyCenter, follows, of course, on "honeymoon," which dates back to the 16th century, and "babymoon," a trip taken by parents-to-be before the birth of their child, whose arrival will immediately invalidate their passports, restrict their movements to a five-mile radius around their home, and make them long for the happy day when they can fork over great handfuls of cash to have their child terrified by Goofy getting it on.)

A conceptionmoon, a BabyCenter survey found, is typically taken by couples in their thirties with one or more children already, and who have been trying to conceive for an average of eight months.  According to their survey, 1 in 10 respondents have taken such a trip; of those who have, 40% got pregnant.  The average cost of a couple's conceptionmoon is about $1,700 — a bargain, according to the Baltimore Sun: "It sounds like an extravagance until you put it up against the cost of fertility treatments."

So I guess all those people who tell infertile people to relax and take a vacation are right after all.  Are you furiously flinging your clothes into a suitcase now?  Yes?  Well, may I recommend a trip to the Bahamas?  Don't laugh.  Couples' massages, aromatherapy, and "an age-old Caribbean fertility concoction" — no, not rum — really work!  Even a desperate couple who'd been trying for two months miraculously managed to conceive when they visited a beachfront resort as a last resort.

Postcard These vacations are organized around a heretofore mysterious principle: If you want to get pregnant, you should probably at least consider having some sex now and then.  The marketing angle is that you should go places conducive to doing so.  Busy couples today, say the trendspotters, have difficulty finding time to reconnect, to re-establish intimacy, to rekindle the romance — to hit it scorpion-style, if you will, which is apparently impossible within the confines of a respectable American home, what with all those pesky local sodomy laws.  And there are also those who want a nice story to tell their children about where they were conceived.  No, I am not making this up [video].  After all, how can any kid feel special unless her parents name her after the cruise ship on which she was begotten?  (I think Lusitania is a lovely name for a girl, don't you?)

This trend, such as it is — quintessentially and embarrassingly American, an expensive purpose-driven vacation because we're just so very busy — is obviously irrelevant to infertiles.  (Where do we go to conceive?  The Motel 6 in Stirrupville, USA.)  But it is hard not to resent the reinforcement-by-marketing of one of the most irritating misconceptions people have about infertility.  Harder still when for 40% of the people who try it, it actually seems to work.

A wave of the Magic Fingers to Gina, Jenna, and Jen, who e-mailed about this.

11:28 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (92)

02/02/2007

Buttons, mine, predictable pushing of

Facts:

  • At the beginning of January, Canada's first sextuplets were born at 25 weeks' gestation, weighing about 800 grams each.  As predicted, their parents, Jehovah's Witnesses, declined blood transfusions for the babies in accordance with their faith, which prohibits the consumption, storage, and transfusion of blood.
  • Many premature infants, especially micropreemies, require transfusions to combat anemia, which can be life-threatening.
  • Two of the sextuplets have died.
  • The provincial government seized three of the four remaining babies to allow them to be given transfusions over the continuing objections of the parents.  The babies were returned to their parents' custody afterward, although the seizure order allows the province to intercede again if further transfusions are warranted.

The cause of death for the two babies has not been released.  When there are so many potential hazards for babies born so early, there is no reason to conclude that they died expressly because transfusions were declined.  It is, however, known that anemia can exacerbate cardiac, breathing, and feeding problems and slow a baby's growth, all matters of grave concern for micropreemies.

Normally when high-order multiples are born to religious families, it's reported that the couple underwent infertility treatment but, when faced with the option of selective reduction, declined because giving and taking life is the exclusive province of God.  Those statements drive me quite predictably up a fucking tree: If you were sticking strictly to God's will, you wouldn't have five babies.

But despite how much that inconsistency makes me itch — almost as if these families didn't even care what I think! — the babies are born, four and five and six at a time.  They generally come early and sick, and they need a great deal of care.  Every possible step is taken to assure their survival.  And thanks to the hard work of their medical teams, most of the babies do just fine.

Contrast with these sextuplets.  This case hits me hard.

Now, it hasn't been confirmed that this couple sought fertility treatment, but given the odds of a natural sextuplet conception, it is the most likely scenario.  Given that, I am finding this almost impossible to fathom.  How can you want children badly enough to resort to medical intervention, and then refuse those children a treatment that could mean the difference between life and death?

This pushes my every button.  It's incomprehensible to me.  I don't understand it.  I don't have to; I know matters of faith seldom have much to do with reason.  But neither did my feelings when Charlie was born: I'd have sold my soul to the devil himself to help my baby live.

I know I'm not owed an explanation.  It wouldn't make me any less heartsick, even if I got one.  Anyway, I don't have the power beyond my own personal sphere to do what I think is right.  In this case, that's between God, the parents, and — fortunately, in my opinion, for the surviving babies — the government of British Columbia.

SPECIAL BONUS BUTTON-PUSHING, INCLUDING SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Everything about this story is really, really wrong, from the police ignoring the woman's pleas for help, to the woman's wrongful death suit against the Kansas City police department, to the grotesquely misleading lede.  (Don't click the link unless you want your own buttons, whatever they may be, to be pushed like a goddamn Speak 'n' Spell.)

01:30 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (103)

03/01/2007

Butter living through science

Eating Ice Cream May Help Women To Conceive, But Low-fat Dairy Foods May Increase Infertility Risk

Science Daily — Drinking whole fat milk and eating ice cream appears to be better for women trying to become pregnant than a diet consisting of low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk and yoghurt, according to new research published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction, today (28 February).

While suggesting an intriguing new direction in infertility research, the study in question falls short in one key area: It fails to assess the effects on fertility of taking a whole stick of salted butter, stripping its wax paper wrapper down as though peeling a banana, and eating it, unctuous golden chunk by chunk.

Is there a grant writer in the house?

I won't be posting for the next several days.  First my mother and aunt are arriving to take care of Charlie while Paul and I are away.  Then, while everyone thinks we're off to learn about adoption, he and I will sneak off to our audition for Wife Swap and, depending on mood, perhaps knock over a liquor store or two.  Then it's back home for a few more days with my family, settin' around the butter churn, before things get back to quiet low-fat normal.

Although I'll have a laptop with me, I won't be liveblogging the event: "OMG, you guys, some woman just walked in wearing an airbrushed kitten sweatshirt!  I was sure I was creating that negative stereotype entirely out of whole cloth."  (I knew I shouldn't have restricted my list to just five items.)  So I'll see you all sometime on Tuesday, as long as that loaner baby doesn't cut too much into my posting time.

08:18 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (42)

03/22/2007

Yes, Rebecca, it is an awful thing to say.

My ambivalence about adoption is well established here, if not fully fleshed out.  Every time I write about it, many of you warmly assure me that I would love an adopted child as passionately as I love Charlie.  But that's never been at issue; from the time of Charlie's birth, a transformative experience in ways both good and bad, I knew I could love any baby who'd been entrusted to our care.

The love has never been in doubt.  The love seems like the easy part.  Everyone I know who's connected with adoption in any way confirms that.  I take that as a given, reserving my concerns for all the rest of it.    So I was surprised — which is my detached, polite way of saying "sputtering with incredulous indignation" — to read this New York Times article on feminist writer Rebecca Walker's Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence:

The most incendiary notion in "Baby Love" may be that, for Ms. Walker, being a stepparent or adoptive parent involves a lesser kind of love than the love for a biological child.

In an interview, Ms. Walker boiled the difference down to knowing for certain that she would die for her biological child, but feeling "not sure I would do that for my nonbiological child."

"I mean, it’s an awful thing to say," said Ms. Walker, who in a previous relationship helped rear a female partner’s biological son, now 14. "The good thing is he has a biological mom who would die for him."

That is a good thing.  Note to Walker's stepchild: Be very, very careful you're with the right person when you happen to get trapped in that burning building, okay?

What bothers me more than Walker's position itself — upgrading from "incredulous indignation" to "incoherent flailing" — is its shift from an earlier stance:

In a 2001 Curve magazine article she said, "the bonds you create are just as important and just as powerful as the bonds that you are born into."

When asked about this incongruity, she explained: "To grapple with how my parents [Walker is the daughter of author Alice Walker] raised me I had to come up with a philosophy that could sustain me. Having my own child gave me the opportunity to have a completely different experience. So hence a different view."

Fellow feminist Jennifer Baumgardner defends Walker's 180 by calling it consistent with Walker's feminist stance: "She reserves the right to evolve, and that's a good model for us."

But is it truly evolution when it entails a step back into what seems like a less enlightened view?

Dawn at This Woman's Work, who has always written beautifully about parenthood, adoption, and race, isn't bothered by the comment: "I figure, why should she feel sure? How can we know about things we haven't experienced?"  And I am trying to come around to that point of view, remembering all of the people I know who've expressed worries about creating their families through adoption or donation.  "How can I be sure I'll love the child?" is a very common question, and I usually admire without reservation the honesty it takes to ask it. 

So why does it disturb me so  — "full-body paroxysms of irritation" — that Walker's doing what amounts to the very same thing?

Thanks to T. for the link and  sdn for the nudge.  I would be delighted to find myself in a burning building next to either of them.

07:33 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut, Why don't you just adopt? | Permalink | Comments (94)