Too often people take for granted how special each conception and birth is when it occurs naturally. There are so many events that need to occur and so many factors at play that the opportunities for failure and misadventures are vast. As a specialist whose main job it is to help people overcome infertility or prevent yet another pregnancy loss, we need to create a unique plan for each patient/couple. In order to do so, we must take a few steps to better understand and organize their journey. I begin by categorizing the key factors into one of the four “P’s”: the patient, the partner, the passenger and the placenta.
- The Patient–this special designation refers to each woman that decides to become pregnant. Her role is paramount in the success of the process. She not only contributes the egg but also 280 days of around-the-clock care. During pregnancy, a woman provides her developing baby with each calorie, every breath of oxygen, and countless nutrients while maintaining a protective, safe environment. Think about THAT that next time that you celebrate Mother’s Day. During a fertility evaluation or an assessment for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) we focus on the patient’s overall health/wellness. We assess her ability to produce an egg. And we evaluate her anatomy–uterus and tubes–for their ability to provide a safe haven
- The Partner–refers to male’s ability to fertilize an egg. This is why the male fertility evaluation is so simplified in comparison. Although we hope and expect for the partner’s full participation in raising the child; until birth their physiologic role is quite limited. This is the reason that male fertility evaluation centers on the semen analysis. More recent studies are now validating that simply observing sperm under a microscope does not rule out male contributing factors to infertility or miscarriage. But this simple test does identify most male factor problems.
- The Passenger–is a unique designation for each individual embryo that successfully implants and grows to become a fetus. Given that each egg and sperm represents a distinctive shuffling of the DNA of the person that they came from–their union represents another opportunity for individuality. Unfortunately, many of these unions are flawed from the beginning. Depending upon the severity of that flaw, they may fail to grow beyond a specific point in development. As a general rule, the earlier that failure occurs; the most severe the genetic anomaly. Studies have shown that typically, failed pregnancies come from flaws in the egg but sometimes it can either be from the sperm or an event that occurs shortly after conception. With today’s technology we cannot correct any of these genetic abnormalities but we can often identify them when they occur. One proven strategy has been to select embryos that are free of major additions or deletions of DNA prior to placing them into a woman’s uterus.
- The Placenta–is the connection that a developing fetus has with the woman carrying the pregnancy. It is through this vascular organ that a fetus receives all of its calories, oxygen and nutrients. It is also through this structure that all waste products are removed as well. But the placenta is not a just filter; it is a vital organ that also regulates a woman’s physiology throughout her pregnancy. It performs this function by producing most of the hormones that control a pregnant woman’s physiology. The placenta also regulates her immune system. Aiding a placenta to meet the needs of an ongoing pregnancy is something that steer the course of pregnancy; but only if the Passenger and Patient are healthy.
In closing, the process of becoming pregnant and delivering a baby is extremely complicated. There is rarely a single explanation for why any individual/couple is not achieving success. The best path for a successful outcome is to fully evaluate the situation in an organized fashion. Creating an organized plan helps assure that details were not overlooked. Through greater understanding, it is possible to create greater success as well as realistic expectations.