Friday, 22 June 2012

HCG blood test

Making sense of the hCG blood test

The HCG blood test is one of the easiest medical tests to interpret. This is because it is a very special molecule, which is produced only by the placenta during pregnancy, for all practical purposes. (Very rarely, it can be produced by certain tumors, but these are so uncommon that we can safely ignore them). What this means is that the presence of hCG in the blood (or in the urine) means that the patient is pregnant. Of course, it doesn't tell us anything about the health of the pregnancy, or its location.

The major problem with interpreting the hCG result is that most people think negative means zero . They conclude that if the level is 7, this means that it is positive and they are pregnant. Unfortunately, this is not true , and a negative hCG is any level of less than 10 mIU/ml. This means that if the level is less than 10 mIU/ml, we can conclude that the patient is not pregnant.

However, a lot of women get confused by their results ( and sometimes doctors and the labs as well) add to this confusion by saying – Hey, look, your level is 11 , which means it’s a positive result and you are pregnant ! If you are confused, remember that hCG levels should not be seen in isolation. While one figure does give valuable information , serial HCG levels are far more useful, because the levels will keep on rising and doubling every 48 to 72 hours in a healthy pregnancy.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Couple Reducing Fertility

How couples reduce their own fertility

Infertile couples are often willing to move heaven and earth in order to have a baby. However, I find to my dismay that a lot of them do things which actually end up reducing their fertility!

1. They use lubricants while having sex which kill the sperm. Having "baby making sex" on demand is not much fun for either husband or wife - and it's quite common to have to use lubricants in order to be able to achieve intravaginal penetration. However, many couples will use lubricants such as K-Y jelly or saliva - both of which can kill the sperm! If you do need to use a lubricant, please use a sperm friendly lubricant. The easiest one to buy (and the cheapest one) is liquid paraffin. It' easy available OTC at a chemist - just look under the laxatives!

2. Timing sex. Most couples know that the wife is fertile for only a few days during the entire month. However, because they are quite clueless about what these fertile days actually are ( and do not whom to ask or how to calculate them), they often end up having sex on Day 14 ( which they remember vaguely from their high school biology class on human reproduction ( when they weren't busy pretending to be blase because they " knew it all" ; or were giggling and blushing) is the day when ovulation occurs and the egg is released). However, for many women, Day 14 can actually be an "infertile day” (for example, for women whose cycles are 25 days or less).

3. Not having enough sex. Many wives refuse to allow their husbands to have sex until their "peak fertility day". They believe that if they "store up the sperm" and then discharge this with a big bang, their chances of getting pregnant increase. Actually, this is not true. You cannot really store up the sperm - the count does go up when ejaculation is delayed - but it's the immotile sperm which increase - not the motile ones! It's far more efficient t have frequent sex, as long as the sperm are going in the vagina!

4. Many infertile women still use BBT charting to try to track their fertile day. This is a big, big mistake. While BBT charting does provide useful evidence to the doctor , it's only retrospective evidence - it does not help to identify the fertile days, as the BBT raises only after ovulation has occurred ( at which time the cervical mucus dries up and sperm can no longer enter the uterus and swim up to the egg).

5. Not doing any homework. It still astonishes me as to how poorly informed many infertile couples are about the basics of baby making! They will often waste time trying herbs and supplements advertised on dodgy websites to "boost their sperm count"; or take "fertility tablets" to increase their fertility. They will allow months to run into years before seeking medical attention - or even doing a basic (and inexpensive) fertility workup, to confirm that everything this fine.