Stem cells: Five years ago, this would have been impossible

A Q&A with Gary Smith, Ph.D., head of U-M’s human embryonic stem cell lab

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Gary Smith, Ph.D., director of the U-M MStem Cell Lab, pulls a sample of stem cells, which are shared with researchers globally.

A recent New York Times article sheds light on the issue of discarding embryos that carry gene mutations. Families such as the one featured in the story who opt for in-vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and have embryos that they will not use due to genetic issues, are encouraged to donate them to the MStem Cell laboratory instead of discarding them.

Read more about the work the MStem Cell laboratory does below.

Five years ago, Michigan voters did something extraordinary for science. Today, Gary Smith, Ph.D.,and his team a the MStem Cell laboratory carry out the research that voters approved: coaxing human embryonic stem cells to grow and flourish so that medical researchers around the world can study diseases and normal cell function.

Smith sat down for an interview to explain what’s happening with this voter-approved work.

Q: So what exactly happens in this lab?

A: We derive and grow human embryonic stem cells, in a slow, meticulous process that takes Continue reading

Is there a link between polyps, breakthrough bleeding and getting pregnant?

ann arbor fertilityThe short answer is that we think pregnancy rates are improved when polyps that are found are removed. If a woman is planning to become pregnant, and we find a polyp as part of a fertility evaluation, we will remove it.

Polyps are on the list of things that can cause breakthrough bleeding during a woman’s cycle. Some other causes of breakthrough bleeding are fibroids and not ovulating regularly or well.

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Trying to get pregnant with a second child

ttcWhether getting pregnant the first time was easy or required assistance, there are many factors that influence your ability to get pregnant a second time.

If you are planning a pregnancy, please remember the importance of prenatal vitamins, eating well, and regular activity.

It is difficult to predict from a prior experience how long it might take you to get pregnant.  Your increased age and changing medical history can be factors. Changes in a woman’s ovaries, uterus, and tubes can make it easier or harder to get pregnant for the second time.

Here are some factors that can impact your ability to conceive:

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If my mom or dad had infertility issues, will I?

The link between family history and fertility

family history blog photoMany patients are curious about whether fertility issues their parents might have struggled with may have a role in their own ability to get pregnant. My answer is always the same: your parents’ issues will not necessarily become yours.

In general, the more you know about your family’s health history, the more your medical team can start using those facts in evaluating your overall health and fertility picture.

There are many possible causes for decreased fertility, including endometriosis, fibroids, premature menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, low sperm count, underlying conditions, and physical issues.  Some of these – hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome in particular – do tend to run in families.

Still, patterns of fertility in your family may not predict how easily you will conceive.

We know, for example, that fertility decreases with age. In general, older women have a lower chance of getting pregnant. By the time women are 30 years old, a quarter of them will have issues with fertility. If your mom or sister was trying to conceive around age 40 or later, that could have been the source of her difficulties.

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Talking helps

Infertility may feel isolating, but you aren’t alone

fertility support groupThere isn’t a guidebook that can walk you through the process of coping with infertility.  It is stressful, and often women can add to that stress with blame, self-doubt, and guilt.

As the social worker for the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine, I provide support to women and couples going through fertility challenges.

It is okay to feel what you’re feeling. You might feel anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration or guilt.

Take care of yourself. If your best friend or sister was going through what you are experiencing, how would you treat her? Would you remind her not to be so hard on herself and to put herself first? Are you doing that for yourself?

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