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IVF success rates higher if egg collection is done in the summer, say researchers

New study suggests the best conditions for live births appear to be associated with summer

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The time of year when eggs are collected from women’s ovaries during fertility treatment could make a difference to live birth rates, new research has found.

Australian researchers have found that transferring frozen then thawed embryos to women’s wombs from eggs collected in the summer resulted in a 30 per cent higher likelihood of babies born alive than if the eggs had been retrieved in the autumn.

The team found a 28 per cent increase in the chances of a live birth among women who had eggs collected during days that had the most sunshine compared to days with the least sunshine.

“Over the duration of our study, the average live birth rate following frozen embryo transfer in Australia was 27 births per 100 people. In our study, the overall live birth rate following frozen embryo transfer was 28 births per 100 people,” said Dr Sebastian Leathersich, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Fertility Specialists of Western Australia, City Fertility Centre, and the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, Australia, who led the study.

“If eggs were collected in autumn, it was 26 births per 100 people, but if they were collected in summer there were 31 births per 100 people. This improvement in birth rates was seen regardless of when the embryos were finally transferred to the women’s wombs.

“The live birth rates when eggs were collected in spring or winter lay between these two figures, and the differences were not statistically significant.”

Until now, there have been conflicting findings on the effects of the seasons on pregnancies and live birth rates following egg collection and embryo freezing.

“It’s long been known that there is seasonal variation in natural birth rates around the world, but many factors could contribute to this including environmental, behavioural and sociological factors,” Leathersich explained.

“Most studies looking at IVF success rates have looked at fresh embryo transfers, where the embryo is put back within a week of the egg being collected. This makes it impossible to separate the potential impacts of environmental factors, such as season and hours of sunshine, on egg development and on embryo implantation and early pregnancy development.

“These days, many embryos are ‘frozen’ and then transferred at a later date. We realised this gave us an opportunity to explore the impact of environment on egg development and on early pregnancy separately by analysing the conditions at the time of egg collection independently from the conditions at the time of embryo transfer.”

Leathersich and his colleagues analysed outcomes from all frozen embryo transfers carried out at a single clinic in Perth over a period of eight years, from January 2013 to December 2021.

During this time there were 3,659 frozen embryo transfers with embryos generated from 2,155 IVF cycles in 1,835 patients. Information on outcomes was missing for two frozen embryo transfers and so these were excluded, leaving 3,657 for analysis.

The researchers looked at birth outcomes according to season, temperatures, and the actual number of hours of bright sunshine, as opposed to calculating hours from sunrise to sunset. They obtained the data on weather from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. They created three groups for duration of sunshine on days when eggs were collected: low sunshine days, medium sunshine days and high sunshine days.

“When we looked specifically at the duration of sunshine around the time the eggs were collected, we saw a similar increase to that seen for egg collection during the summer,” Leathersich explained.

“The live birth rate following a frozen embryo transfer from an egg that was collected on a day with fewer hours of sunshine was 25.8 per cent.

“This increased to 30.4 per cent when the embryo came from an egg that was collected on days with the most hours of sunshine. When we took into account the season and conditions on the day of the embryo transfer, this improvement was still seen.”

The temperature on the day of egg collection did not affect the chances of a live birth. However, the chances of a live birth rate decreased by 18 per cent when the embryos were transferred on the hottest days compared to the coolest days and there was a small increase in miscarriage rates.

The study suggests that the best conditions for live births appear to be associated with summer and increased sunshine hours on the day of egg retrieval, Leathersich said.

“There are many factors that influence fertility treatment success, age being among the most important. However, this study adds further weight to the importance of environmental factors and their influence on egg quality and embryonic development,” he added.

“We effectively separated the conditions at the time of egg collection from the conditions at the time of transfer, demonstrating that environmental factors when the eggs are developing are as, if not more, important than environmental factors during implantation and early pregnancy.

“Optimising factors such as avoiding smoking, alcohol and other toxins and maintaining healthy activity levels and weight should be paramount. However, clinicians and patients could also consider external factors such as environmental conditions.”

Factors that may play a role in the increased live birth rates after egg collection in the summer and during more sunshine hours include melatonin. Levels of this hormone are usually higher in winter and spring, and eggs take three to six months to develop before they are released from the ovaries.

Differences in lifestyles between winter and summer months may also play a role, scientists say. The finding that miscarriage rates were highest when embryo transfer took place on the hottest days are consistent with epidemiological studies that show higher rates of miscarriage in the summer months.

“This suggests that the negative effects of high temperature are more likely related to early pregnancy rather than egg development,” said Dr Leathersich.

Limitations of the study include the fact that it is a retrospective rather than prospective study: looking back at what had already happened. For this reason, it can’t show that conditions at the time of egg collection cause the difference in live birth rates, only that they are associated with them.

“Ideally, these findings should be replicated in other sites with different conditions and different treatment protocols to confirm the findings,” Leathersich concluded.

“It would also be interesting to look at the impact of season and environmental factors on sperm parameters, as this could have contributed to our observations. We are now planning to analyse this same group of patients using air quality data, as there may be seasonal changes in exposure to harmful pollutants which could negatively affect reproductive outcomes.

“Finally, given the huge increase in so-called ‘social egg freezing’ for fertility preservation and the fact that this group generally have flexibility about when they choose to undergo treatment, it would be very interesting to see if these observations hold true with frozen eggs that are thawed and fertilised years later.

“Any improved outcomes in this group could have big impacts for women making decisions about their future fertility, but the long-term follow-up required means it is likely to be some time before we can draw any conclusions for this population.”

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The vital role of AI skills in women’s career advancement and practical steps to begin

By: Chaitra Vedullapalli, Co-Founder & President of Women in Cloud

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With the unparalleled level of noise, confusion, and fear surrounding AI it can become overwhelming to parse out what news is sensationalised and what is true, especially when it comes to AI and the impact it has on the jobs market. 

Contrary to what some fear-mongering articles have shared, according to the 2024 Work Trend Index from Microsoft and LinkedIn, tech leaders are worried about whether or not they will be able to fill key roles. 

Over the past eight years companies have hired up to 323 per cent of technical AI talent.

Now they’re turning their sights to non-technical talent with AI aptitude. This means they’re actively seeking new team members with the skills to use generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Copilot. 

As the founder of an organisation committed to generating $1B in new economic access for women and allies in tech by 2030, I can see a huge opportunity for diverse women and allies in tech to land new roles and as a result speed up the closure of the representation and gender gap.

How?

By actively preparing, pursuing and learning new skill sets and earning the credentials to prove it. 

To get ahead of this anticipated hiring wave, here are three reasons to pursue certifications and credentials for real-world skill sets that address critical business problems right now:

  1. Career Advancement in an AI-centric Economy: By gaining relevant project-based, you will enhance your confidence and increase your trust level with current managers as well as hiring managers. In an AI-driven economy, possessing AI skills becomes imperative for career progression. Investing time in developing these skill sets now ensures you are well-positioned to seize opportunities and contribute meaningfully to any organisation’s growth.
  2. Future-proofing Skillsets for AI Opportunities: Investing in AI skills today equips you with future-proof capabilities essential for navigating the evolving job market. By seizing AI opportunities now, individuals ensure they stay ahead of the curve and remain adaptable and competitive in an AI-driven environment.
  3. Accelerated Skill Development and Enhanced Professional Profile: Pursuing scenario-focused credentials enables individuals to achieve credentials faster, accelerating their skill development journey. By showcasing project-based proficiency, individuals will differentiate themselves and demonstrate their ability to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. 

Rather than staying stuck in fear of how AI may change the jobs landscape, women everywhere need to reframe this shift as an invitation to enter tech for the first time or scale to a new role they’ve been aiming for. 

It’s no secret that the entry barrier for diverse and underrepresented communities in tech is often much greater than not.

However, one of the most overlooked and underutilised ways to mitigate this is obtaining certifications and verifiable credentials for skillsets companies will have as requirements when hiring for new roles. 

A great place to start your journey is with the #WICxSkillsReadyChallenge.

This initiative leverages Microsoft Applied Skills, offering a new verifiable credential that validates specific real-world skill sets that address critical business problems.

This new skill set can be earned through interactive lab-based assessments on the Microsoft Learn platform in weeks.

During this challenge participants will earn Microsoft Applied Skills credentials in AI in just weeks, have the opportunity to win exciting prizes every month, receive exclusive invitations for spotlights, speak at events, network with recruiters, and connect and become a part of the record-setting WIC community.

We encourage all genders to apply, with priority given to women across all global markets and historically underrepresented populations.

I invite you to apply here today, it’s valued at $4500 and it is 100 per cent free.

The change I’ve witnessed from women taking advantage of opportunities like this is drastic.

Two journeys particularly stand out to me, those of Shammah Saratu Yaro and Caleb Yeboah have been inspiring and transformative.

The scholarships have helped them attain certifications, and access free vouchers enabling them to take exams and land new DevSecOps roles, accelerating their career growth and leadership opportunities. 

You can begin your journey today.

Setting aside a few weeks to continue or begin your personal and professional development with applicable skills in the tech industry is a lifelong practice that will keep you ahead of the curve, for AI and beyond.

Chaitra Vedullapalli Bio:

Chaitra Vedullapalli is the award-winning Co-Founder and CMO of Meylah and Co-Founder and President of Women In Cloud.

In her 26 years in tech, Chaitra has driven billion-dollar expansions for both Microsoft and Oracle, has been recognised with the Forbes 1000 Next Entrepreneur title, Microsoft Women’s Leadership Award, set a new Guinness World Record, and is listed as one of 100 Most Innovative MarTech Leaders by World Marketing Congress.

Presenting before the UN, at TedX, Grace Hopper Celebration, and Microsoft Inspire, she is a purpose-driven, strategic, high-growth thought leader who seamlessly bridges business and technology to help companies globally scale and drive digital economic development. 

Her mission is to generate $1B in new net economic access for women entrepreneurs and professionals by 2030 through global partnerships with corporations, community leaders, and policymakers.

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Taking charge of your well-being: A guide to pelvic health

By Gloria Kolb, Co-founder & CEO – Elitone

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Pelvic health is a vital yet often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. It encompasses the proper functioning of the muscles, ligaments, and tissues that support the pelvic organs and plays a critical role in daily activities and quality of life. 

Despite its importance, pelvic health remains shrouded in silence and stigma.

Many people hesitate to discuss issues like incontinence, pelvic pain, sexual health concerns, and pelvic organ prolapse due to societal taboos and misconceptions.

This reluctance to talk openly can lead to prolonged suffering and a diminished sense of well-being.

By shedding light on the various aspects of pelvic health, we aim to break the taboo, educate on everyday issues, and empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing their pelvic health.

Understanding the significance of pelvic health and addressing problems early can lead to a more vibrant, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Understanding pelvic health

Pelvic health refers to the optimal functioning of the pelvic floor, which forms a supportive base for the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum.

These muscles play a crucial role in urinary and faecal continence, sexual function, and support during physical activities.

The pelvic floor acts like a hammock, providing stability and support to the pelvic organs.

When these muscles are strong and functioning correctly, they help maintain proper organ positioning and function.

However, various factors such as aging, childbirth, surgery, obesity, and chronic straining can weaken or damage the pelvic floor muscles, leading to a range of health issues.

The importance of pelvic health

Neglecting pelvic health can lead to various complications, from mild discomfort to severe disruptions in daily activities.

For instance, incontinence can result in social embarrassment and a reluctance to engage in physical activities, while chronic pelvic pain can interfere with work, exercise, and personal relationships.

Sexual health issues related to pelvic floor dysfunction can affect intimacy and emotional connection with partners.

The long-term consequences of ignoring pelvic health can be profound, leading to chronic pain, mental health struggles, and decreased independence.

Early intervention and proactive management of pelvic health are essential for preventing these outcomes and promoting overall well-being.

Recognising the importance of pelvic health empowers individuals to seek appropriate care and take steps to maintain or restore their pelvic floor function, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.

Common pelvic health issues

Understanding the common issues that affect pelvic health is crucial for recognising symptoms early and seeking appropriate care. Some of the most prevalent pelvic health problems include:

  • Incontinence: This refers to the involuntary leakage of urine or faeces. Different types include stress, urge, overflow, and functional incontinence. Causes range from weakened pelvic floor muscles to nerve damage and underlying health conditions.
  • Pelvic pain: This discomfort in the lower abdomen and pelvic region can be brought on by chronic conditions like endometriosis and interstitial cystitis. Acute issues such as infections or injuries can cause persistent pain, impacting daily activities and emotional well-being.
  • Sexual health concerns: These include dyspareunia (painful intercourse), decreased libido, and erectile dysfunction. Causes can be hormonal, muscular, or psychological. Addressing these concerns is vital for maintaining intimacy and relationship satisfaction.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse: This occurs when the pelvic organs descend and fall out of place, with common causes including childbirth, aging, and obesity. Symptoms range from heaviness in the pelvic area and discomfort sitting down to urinary and bowel dysfunction. Early intervention is essential for managing symptoms.

Understanding and addressing these common pelvic health issues is vital for improving quality of life and overall well-being.

Awareness, open communication, and timely medical intervention can help manage these conditions effectively, empowering individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Diagnosis and treatment options

Pelvic health issues are typically diagnosed through routine pelvic examinations, which assess the position and support of pelvic organs and can identify problems such as prolapse and muscle weakness.

Imaging tests, including ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans, provide detailed images of the pelvic area, helping to diagnose structural problems and guide treatment plans.

Additionally, questionnaires and symptom checklists assist healthcare providers in understanding the severity and impact of symptoms on daily life, aiding in accurate diagnosis.

Treatment options for pelvic health issues fall into two main categories: conservative measures and medical interventions.

Conservative measures often serve as the first line of defence.

Lifestyle modifications, such as diet changes, bladder training, weight management, and avoiding heavy lifting, can alleviate symptoms.

Pelvic floor physical therapy, involving exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, can improve function and reduce symptoms.

Non-surgical devices, like pessaries and stimulation, can help manage prolapse and incontinence without the need for surgery. 

When conservative measures are insufficient, medical interventions may be necessary to help manage pain, inflammation, and symptoms of incontinence or prolapse.

Minimally invasive procedures such as injections or medication may offer relief for various pelvic health issues.

In severe cases, surgical options like pelvic floor reconstruction and sling procedures for incontinence or prolapse may be required.

It is crucial to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of surgery with a healthcare provider. 

Treatment should be tailored to each person’s specific condition, symptoms, lifestyle, and preferences.

However, it is key to note that more medical interventions may not be more productive than conservative ones.

Holistic approaches to pelvic health

Adopting holistic approaches to pelvic health can significantly enhance overall well-being by addressing physical, mental, and emotional aspects.

Regular exercise, particularly pelvic floor exercises like Kegels, strengthens these muscles, while whole-body activities such as yoga and Pilates improve core strength and flexibility to support pelvic health.

Specific yoga poses like Bridge Pose and Goddess Pose target the pelvic floor, while mindfulness practices reduce stress.

Nutrition is also vital. A fibre-rich diet prevents constipation, which reduces pelvic strain, while hydration helps maintain urinary health, and anti-inflammatory foods help manage pelvic pain.

Protein can help build the needed pelvic muscles.

Alternative adjunct therapies, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, and biofeedback, can complement traditional treatments in alleviating pain, improving muscle function, and enhancing overall pelvic health.

Integrating these holistic methods fosters a balanced approach to maintaining and improving pelvic health, leading to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Breaking the taboo and empowering yourself

Breaking the taboo surrounding pelvic health is essential for empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being.

Societal stigma often discourages open discussions about pelvic health issues, leaving many people feeling isolated and ashamed of their experiences.

By normalizing conversations about pelvic health, individuals can overcome this stigma and access the support and resources they need.

Empowering oneself to take charge of pelvic health begins with education and awareness.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of pelvic health issues allows individuals to recognise when they need help and seek appropriate care.

Open communication with healthcare providers is crucial for discussing concerns and developing personalised treatment plans.

Additionally, joining support groups or seeking guidance from mental health professionals can provide valuable emotional support and validation.

By embracing a proactive approach to pelvic health and advocating for their own well-being, individuals can reclaim control over their bodies and lives.

By fostering a culture of openness and support, we can break down barriers and ensure everyone feels empowered to prioritise their pelvic health and live their lives to the fullest.

Gloria Kolb is the CEO and co-founder of Elitone, an FDA-cleared, non-invasive wearable treatment for women with urinary incontinence. Elitone has won “Best New Product” by My Face My Body awards, Sling Shot 2020, and numerous startup pitch awards.

As an inventor with 30  patents, Gloria’s accolades include being featured in Forbes as a Top Scientist Driving Innovation in Women’s Health.

Her creative designs and problem-solving abilities have earned her recognition, such as Boston’s “40 Under 40” Award and MIT Review’s “World’s Top Innovators under 35”.

With Mechanical Engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford and an Entrepreneurship MBA from Babson College, Gloria’s expertise extends to consulting, where she evaluates technology and clinical markets for various inventions and startups.

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ProgenyHealth expands partnership to improve maternal health

The partnership aims to “personalise” maternity and NICU care management through a whole-person approach

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Ellen Stang, ProgenyHealth founder and executive chairwoman and Susan Torroella, ProgenyHealth CEO

The healthcare company ProgenyHealth has expanded its partnership with the women’s health solutions company Wildflower Health to improve maternal health outcomes.

The collaboration aims to break down “existing silos” and help health plans move faster to improve maternal and infant health outcomes.

ProgenyHealth is on a mission to transform NICU care management driving towards better outcomes and lower total costs for babies that experience a NICU stay.

The company’s maternity programme covers the time period from conception and pregnancy to postpartum and parenting with special expertise in managing premature and complex births and resulting NICU admissions.

By extending its reach to prenatal care management several years ago, ProgenyHealth says it was able to both improve maternal health and target NICU prevention.

The company turned to Wildflower Health to advance its mission.

“We have been working with Wildflower Health over these past few years  to provide integrated solutions to moms throughout their entire pregnancy journey,” said Susan Torroella, CEO at ProgenyHealth.

“While digital tools and consumer apps are not new to the world of healthcare, we are taking a uniquely cooperative approach to member-facing technology that positively affects enrollment, engagement, and health plan member impact.

“In a time when it is important for health plans to continually differentiate their work and value, our ongoing collaboration with Wildflower does just that. Together, we believe it is our responsibility to provide the best technology solutions along with the most compassionate human connection.”

The partnership, Torroella said, seeks to “personalise” maternity and NICU care management through a whole-person approach.

Leah Sparks, founder and CEO, Wildflower, said: “Wildflower’s overall solutions comprehensively address access, cost, outcomes and experience throughout women’s health.

“Our strategic partnership with ProgenyHealth seamlessly helps health plans fill gaps, collapse silos and integrate into existing clinical and operational workflows.

“When it comes to maternal health, early identification coupled with timely member engagement drives momentum and improves care. Our goal is to always support the whole person by helping address the clinical and social determinants of health (SDOH) needs of members and their families.”

The healthcare challenges facing women in the US, particularly when it comes to giving birth, are growing. While maternal mortality rates have more than doubled since 2000, a majority of these deaths are preventable.

To improve in this regard, ProgenyHealth believes the industry must strive to remove “artificial barriers” to care and move faster and engage members, while providing support and resources to ensure a healthier pregnancy.

“Once health plans have identified pregnant members, it is critical that they maintain consistent engagement to avoid missed interventions and opportunities,” Torroella explained.

“As more than 60 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, it is important that new mums are aware of all recommended prenatal and postpartum care options available to them.

“This is a huge first step in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.”

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