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Did you know that 1 in 8 couples in the United States struggles with infertility? As we observe National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW, April 23-29), new information adds to the body of knowledge surrounding how some diseases — and the treatments to combat them — impact fertility.
A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Journal suggests that a contraceptive agent, Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS), may one day help preserve a woman’s fertility while she is receiving chemotherapy to treat various forms of cancer or serious autoimmune disorders.
Pregnant female mice in the study that received MIS during chemotherapy maintained higher ovarian reserves, meaning that the MIS temporarily prevented pregnancy during chemotherapy while preserving more ovarian follicles, which form eggs for possible later fertilization. Without MIS, those follicles would have been depleted to the point of infertility.
The Mayo Clinic estimates and one-third of infertility cases involve the male, one-third involve the female, and one-third either involve both or occur for unknown reasons. Age affects the fertility of both sexes. As we get older, particularly after age 35, we naturally begin to lose fertility. Other risk factors include obesity and smoking.
The theme for this year’s NIAW is “Listen Up,” because sometimes the best support you can offer those coping with infertility is to listen.
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