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I'm an acupuncturist, teacher, fertility specialist, patient centered advocate, mom, activist and more! This blog is a place for me to write down the things on my mind, the things I discuss over and over, and the things I find helpful, interesting, and inspiring all in the hope that someone else out there, maybe YOU, will find some of these things to be helpful, interesting and inspiring too. I love learning, I love sharing, and I am passionate about helping others lead more balanced, fertile, and healthy lives - while trying to do the same myself. So here goes... The Blogging Life...


Holistic Factors in Predicting IVF Success

Photo: ALAMY

I've said it loads of times; holistically a woman's level of fertility and chances of having a baby are dependent on SO much more than her age. Sure, age can be a general thing to consider (and there are certainly holistic things to consider when it comes to being a mom or dad at older ages), but  I would MUCH rather have a person look at his or her overall level of health and balance (or lack thereof) when it comes to figuring out if the odds are stacked for or against them.

In the last year a company has begun the initial stages of offering two products that look at things a bit more holistically. These tests are based on research done at Stanford University's School of Medicine by Mylene Yao MD and her team (she is also the co-founder of the company that is marketing this test).

"It was the goal of Yao, Westphal and their colleagues to develop a way to provide patients with more personalized predictions. They took data from 1,676 IVF cycles performed at Stanford Hospital and Clinics between 2003 and 2006 and identified 52 factors -- such as patient age, levels of certain hormones, number and quality of eggs and individual characteristics of each embryo -- that influence a woman's chance of having a baby. They then developed a computer model that sorted patients into subsets defined by similar clinical characteristics (so-called "deep phenotyping") to predict live-birth probabilities in a subsequent round of IVF.
When testing their model with data from a separate set of more than 600 IVF treatments performed in 2007-08, the researchers determined that the model's predictions were significantly different than the age-based predictions in 60 percent of patients. Interestingly, out of this group, more than half were assigned greater odds of having a baby than what age-related data indicated.
What's more, in further verifying the accuracy of their new method, Yao and her colleagues determined that their model predicted outcomes with 1,000 times more accuracy than the age-based guidelines widely used in clinics.
Their findings, the researchers said in the paper, indicated that "the current age-based paradigm may provide misleading live birth outcome probabilities for a large portion of patients."

The company, Univfy, is hoping to offer two tests one based on up to 20 factors in women who have already undergone IVF (to predict the outcomes of subsequent cycles) and another "which assesses hormone levels, health and lifestyle factors," that will be marketed to couples considering their first cycle of IVF.   Here's another article about these two tests.

Dr. Yao puts it quite nicely:  
"This is a very important development as we want to get people away from thinking that probability is totally centered on age... The chance of a woman's IVF treatment being successful is much more complex than that."

What a lovely and very HOLISTIC way to look at things!

On that note, I've mentioned this relatively new book to lots of my patients over the last year or so called "Making Babies: A proven three month program for maximum fertility" There is a fabulous website that goes with it and I think it is a great jumping off place for many who want to improve their lifestyle and overall health with the intention of optimizing their fertility. Which is GREAT because (as opposed to age, which only gets worse and worse when it comes to fertility, your lifestyle choices and overall health are ALWAYS things you can improve!) My only gripe with this book is the same as the one I have with  any fertility "program" it can be overwhelming and stressful and the stress can cancel out the good your are aiming to benefit from. Please pace yourself and listen to your gut and the voice of moderate reason. You do not have to do everything all at once or chose the things that will create a bunch more stress in your life, rather do the options that make sense to you and trust that things are cumulative and that tipping the scales further and further in the right direction will serve you well whatever your ultimate path may be.  

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