Hello. I'm Dr. Gil Wilshire of Missouri Fertility in Columbia, Missouri. Today, we are going to be discussing fertility treatment and its effect on long-term health. I get this question all the time. Women are concerned, "I was treated for fertility over these years. I had some IVF babies, and now I have these health issues coming up. Did my treatments affect my health?". These are very good questions, so let's discuss this issue. One aspect of fertility treatment is, we frequently give medications to produce more eggs. It's a common misperception that if we produce more eggs each month that we are running down, that we are "using up" the eggs in the "pool" that every woman has. The answer to this is "No". When we give women medications such as injectable medications to make lots of eggs for in vitro fertilization, for example, we are not getting more eggs to grow, we are taking the eggs that are already waking up and getting ready to grow and we are promoting growth for all of them. Kind of like "a rising tide raises all ships". We are not depleting the number of eggs, even though it seems like we may be doing that. So, are we bringing on early menopause with treatment? Probably not.
A second problem or difficulty with this whole field of inquiry is that it will be almost impossible to prove a connection between fertility treatments and adverse outcomes in the long term. Let me explain a little better. To prove something in medicine, you need to do something to one group and NOT do it to another group, then follow them over years and see what happens. You can see in practical terms, that will never happen with fertility treatments. We are not going to give placebos or sham treatment to half of the patients who come to us. We are going to treat everybody. So, when you see in studies that maybe there is a link between a problem and a fertility treatment, what you are looking at is an association, part of a process called epidemiology, where you give some women a questionnaire, and you go back and see how often did the women experience this, or this, or eat this, or was treated with this, and you look for associations, or their increased risk of an outcome that is associated with a particular medication or a particular treatment. These may show small-percentage changes, but the problem with epidemiology is, unless you see a HUGE change in outcome—a three- or four-fold increase in something—then, the associations are weak and usually meaningless; this is what I call pseudoscience. There is no science that shows causality, and associations are NOT causality. One of my favorite examples of an association not showing causality is a fire. Say, your house is on fire. You go home, and you are going to see the fire department. You're going to see their trucks. You are going to see the firemen. So, you might say, "Aha! Firemen cause fires!" Well, they do not. They are associated with fires, but obviously, they are not causing them. So, that's the conflict you see between causality and association.
A third issue you need to understand is that chronic diseases and health conditions are associated with increased infertility or subfertility. Chronic diseases—such as autoimmune diseases, not just lupus but rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis of the joints—these things can be associated with a lower fertility rate. Underweight, overweight, chronic pain, all kinds of chronic medical conditions will lower a woman's and a man's fertility potential. So, you can see that we are dealing with a pool of people who are more likely to have some chronic diseases, and this is the same pool of people who are more likely to have chronic diseases later on in life. Once again, it is an association, not a causality. One other thing—since I mentioned autoimmune diseases— some of these diseases actually get better in pregnancy. Pregnancy will make some of these conditions better, and some women with these conditions generally feel best when they are pregnant. Pregnancy does decrease the risk of some cancers and nursing, particularly longer than a year, may decrease the risk of breast cancer as well—so, there are benefits of pregnancy. It is very difficult to weigh risks and benefits and extrapolate them over the long term. Very difficult. So, if you are having health problems and you underwent fertility treatment, the natural question is, "Did my fertility treatment cause my problems?", and the answer is, "Probably not". Now, obviously, there may be some things going on that we don't understand yet. Future studies may show associations that actually do demonstrate causality, but at this point, there is NO evidence of long-term health damage due to fertility treatments. Fertility treatments—while you are doing them—can result in ovarian hyperstimulation and hormone issues and, obviously, treatment may have some risks, but as far as long-term health effects, there is no good evidence that fertility treatment affects future health or has any long-term damage to the body. So, I hope that answers your questions. This is Dr. Wilshire of Missouri Fertility.
Hello, everyone. My name is Heather, and I work at Missouri Fertility with Dr. Wilshire. I have a little girl I had at 20 years old. Her name is Genevieve. After having Genevieve, I was told by my ob physician that it was going to be super easy to have another child, but at that time I was not ready, so I had the Mirena IUD placed in my uterus. A few years later, my husband and I discussed that we would like to make our family a little bigger. So, in 2015 I had my IUD removed and we began trying to have a baby; however, we were unsuccessful for a while. The job here at Missouri Fertility came to my doorstep, and I gladly accepted it in 2016. Once I began working here, I began to see other patients' journeys, and it made me realize that something was wrong. I discussed this with Dr. Wilshire and he suggested some options that might help my husband and I, but he said that it is not a good idea to wait, and we should get the answers we need, then decide what we want to do from there. I am glad that I received the answers we needed, and we are super excited to be able to choose the route we wanted to take from there. So, if you want to get the answers for your journey, then come to our Infertility Awareness Conference. It will be held on April 27th here in Columbia, at the Country Club. We will also be having lunch, and it is free to come. So come to our conference to get your answers for your specific problem. We look forward to seeing you. Of course, we are always ready to help you in our office. Just call and make an appointment to see Dr. Wilshire. You will always be thankful you did.
Dr. Wilshire recently got together with Cosmo from Y107 to discuss infertility and what Missouri Fertility does to help build families in the midwest region:
Hello. I'm Dr. Gil Wilshire of Missouri Fertility here in Columbia, Missouri. Today, we are going to be talking about birth control pills and fertility. I get so many questions about birth control pills. Women, their husbands, boyfriends, everyone is worried. "I took birth control pills for a year or five years or ten years, and did I damage my fertility? Did I hurt myself?". It's a very common question, even though there is no basis in reality, so let's talk about this situation. Women are born with a certain number of eggs. Every day in reproductive years, these little, what I call "baby eggs" or primordial follicles, they wake up, smell the coffee, and if the situation isn't perfect, they die. So—eggs are waking up and dying every day—no matter what. Whether you are on birth control pills or not, whether you are pregnant or not, or being treated for other conditions, eggs are waking up and dying every days. Birth control pills have nothing to do with this process and do not damage your pool or reserve of eggs. Birth control pills have multiple medical benefits. Obviously, they greatly prevent pregnancy; they're not perfect, but they are awfully good. Pregnancies end in miscarriage, sometimes pregnancies are ectopic [located outside of the uterus], and sometimes pregnancies are undesired—all of these pregnancies or a vast majority of these pregnancies are prevented by birth control pills, obviously, so these have beneficial effects on the reproductive system. Birth control pills also have a number of long-term health benefits. Birth control pills lower the risk of uterine cancer and they lower the risk of ovarian cancer. They are probably neutral when it comes to breast cancer and other conditions, and if a woman is normal weight and does not smoke, they should not affect her risk of heart disease either. The long-term safety of birth control pills is very well established. Another common question is, "I've been on the pill for a few years, do I need to be off the pill for a while—three months, six months, a year? Do I need to be off the pills for an extended amount of time before we attempt pregnancy?" The answer to this is a distinct, definite, "No!" We use birth control pills before fertility treatment cycles all the time to keep ovarian cysts from growing, and they may suppress endometriosis. We can use birth control pills right up until we start fertility treatments. So, you need to realize—in two or three days after the last birth control pill is taken, these hormones are generally excreted by the urinary system—they are gone—and the normal hormone systems all come back to life, so you do not have to take a long time off birth control pills; two or three days is all that is required. Do not be wasting time "letting it get out of your system" because there is no point in doing that!
So, in summary, birth control pills are very, very safe. They are the most studied medication in history, in fact, and some would advocate they are safe enough to be sold over-the-counter, so please do not fear health problems from birth control pills. They are very effective, they help the skin, they help cycle control, and I could go on and on about the multiple benefits of these pills. So, if you are not ready to have kids or if you have medical problems, pain, heavy periods, endometriosis, all these things--take your birth control pills without fear of it affecting your future fertility. I hope this is helpful to you. This is Dr. Gil Wilshire of Missouri Fertility in Columbia, Missouri.