Publications

Time to Conceive Journal Publications

Effect of vaginal lubricants on natural fertility.

Tolga Mesen, MD, Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Vaginal lubricants are commonly utilized to facilitate more comfortable and enjoyable intercourse. The impact of these lubricants on fertility is unclear. The aim of this review is to summarize the current in-vitro and clinical data pertaining to lubricants' effect on natural conception.

RECENT FINDINGS: In-vitro studies suggest lubricants can be toxic to sperm in the artificial laboratory environment. Lubricants formulated to be nontoxic to sperm have no effect on sperm motility or viability in vitro compared to controls. However, a recent longitudinal cohort study suggests lubricant use and choice has no effect of fecundity.

SUMMARY: As a result of the conflicting in-vitro and clinical data, the effect of vaginal lubricants on fertility is still unresolved. A randomized controlled trial is needed to determine the effects of vaginal lubricants on fertility.

Publication details

Date: June 2014
Journal: Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume: 26
Issue: 3
Pages: 186-192

Biomarkers of ovarian reserve as predictors of reproductive potential.

Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

The size of the oocyte pool, the ovarian reserve, can determine a woman's reproductive stage. Chronologic age, anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels, early follicular phase follicle-stimulating hormone levels, and early follicular phase inhibin B levels are correlated with ovarian reserve. Therefore, these biomarkers of ovarian reserve should serve as predictors of reproductive potential. Clinical and epidemiologic studies suggest that historical and laboratory biomarkers of ovarian reserve are associated with natural and treatment-related fertility. However, controversy remains as to their ability to predict reproductive potential. For infertile women undergoing assisted reproductive technology treatment, these biomarkers tend to be highly specific but not sensitive for cycle failure (nonpregnancy). While these biomarkers are being used as "fertility tests" in the general population, their value as predictors of unassisted fertility is still uncertain. Among laboratory biomarkers, AMH appears to have the most promise; however, further studies are needed to refine cutoff values and to determine test characteristics in the prediction of natural fertility or infertility in the general population.

Publication details

Date: November 2013
Journal: Seminars in Reproductive Medicine
Volume: 31
Issue: 6
Pages: 437-442

 

Cervical mucus monitoring prevalence and associated fecundability in women trying to conceive.

Emily Evans-Hoeker, MD, David Pritchard, MS, D. Leann Long, MS, Amy Herring, ScD, Joseph Stanford, MD, MSPH, Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

OBJECTIVE: To assess the use of cervical mucus monitoring (CMM) in women trying to conceive and determine whether monitoring is associated with increased cycle-specific probability of conception (fecundability).

DESIGN: Time-to-pregnancy cohort study.

SETTING: Population-based cohort.

SUBJECTS: Three hundred thirty-one women trying to conceive, ages 30 to 44 years, without known infertility.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: CMM prevalence and fecundability.

RESULTS: During the first cycle of the study, CMM was performed consistently (checked on >66% of pertinent cycle days) by 20 women (6%), inconsistently (34% to 66% of days) by 60 women (18%), infrequently (≤33% of days) by 73 women (22%), and not performed by 178 women (54%). Cycles in which CMM was consistently performed were statistically significantly more likely to result in conception after adjusting for age, race, previous pregnancy, body mass index, intercourse frequency, and urinary luteinizing hormone (LH) monitoring. Fecundability also increased with increasing consistency of CMM.

CONCLUSIONS: Among women trying to conceive, CMM is uncommon, but our study suggests that CMM-a free, self-directed method to determine the fertile window-is associated with increased fecundability independent of intercourse frequency or use of urinary LH monitoring.

Publication details

Date: October 2013
Journal: Fertility and Sterility
Volume: 100
Issue: 4
Pages: 1033-1038

 

Urinary follicle-stimulating hormone as a measure of natural fertility in a community cohort.

Anne Steiner, MD, MPH, D. Leann Long, MS, Amy Herring, ScD, James Kesner, PhD, Juliana Meadows, PhD, Donna Baird, PhD, MPH

High serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels have been associated with diminished ovarian reserve; however, the association between high urinary FSH and reduced natural fertility has yet to be established. We sought to characterize the relationship between a single or multiple measurements of early follicular phase urinary FSH and fertility. Women (n = 209), 30 to 44 years old with no history of infertility, who had been trying to conceive for less than 3 months, provided early follicular phase urine. Participants subsequently kept a diary to record bleeding and intercourse and conducted standardized pregnancy testing for up to 6 months. A subset of women (N = 95) collected urine on cycle day 3 for up to 6 cycles. Urine was analyzed for FSH and creatinine (cr) corrected. Proportional hazard models were used to calculate fecundability ratios (FRs). Urinary FSH levels across cycles from the same woman were highly correlated (adjusted intraclass correlation = .77); within-woman variance was 3-fold lower than variance among women. Women with an initial urinary FSH level <7 mIU/mg cr exhibited a nonsignificant reduction in the probability of pregnancy (adjusted FR 0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.45-1.13), as did women with elevated urinary FSH (≥12 mIU/mg cr; adjusted FR 0.78, 95% CI: 0.46-1.32). Using the most recent or maximum urinary FSH value did not strengthen the association. In the general population, urinary FSH levels appear to be nonlinearly associated with fertility; however, broad CIs indicate a lack of statistical significance. Repetitive testing appears to be of little benefit.

Publication details

Date: May 2013
Journal: Reproductive Sciences
Volume: 20
Issue: 5
Pages: 549-556

 

Impact of breast cancer on anti-mullerian hormone levels in young women.

H. Irene Su, MD, Shirley Flatt, MS, Loki Natarajan, PhD, Angela DeMichele, MD, Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

Young women with breast cancer face treatments that impair ovarian function, but it is not known if malignancy itself impacts ovarian reserve. As more breast cancer patients consider future fertility, it is important to determine if ovarian reserve is impacted by cancer, prior to any therapeutic intervention. A cross-sectional study was conducted comparing if ovarian reserve, as measured by anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and inhibin B (inhB), differed between 108 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and 99 healthy women without breast cancer. Breast cancer participants were ages 28-44 and were recruited from two clinical breast programs. Healthy women ages 30-44 without a history of infertility were recruited from gynecology clinics and the community. The median age (interquartile range) was 40.2(5.5) years for breast cancer participants and 33.0(4.6) years for healthy controls. The unadjusted geometric mean AMH levels (SD) for breast cancer participants and controls were 0.66(3.6) and 1.1(2.9) ng/mL, respectively. Adjusting for age, body mass index, gravidity, race, menstrual pattern, and smoking, mean AMH levels were not significantly different between breast cancer participants and healthy controls (0.85 vs. 0.76 ng/mL, p = 0.60). FSH and inhB levels did not differ by breast cancer status. In exploratory analysis, the association between AMH and breast cancer status differed by age (p-interaction = 0.02). AMH may be lower with breast cancer status in women older than 37. In younger women, AMH levels did not differ significantly by breast cancer status. Among the youngest of breast cancer patients, ovarian reserve as measured by AMH, FSH, and inhibin B did not differ significantly from healthy women of similar age. In older breast cancer patients, ovarian reserve may be adversely impacted by cancer status. These findings support the potential success and need for fertility preservation strategies prior to institution of cancer treatment.

Publication details

Date: January 2013
Journal: Breast Cancer Research and Treatment
Volume: 137
Issue: 2
Pages: 571-577

Effects of vaginal lubricants on natural fertility.

Anne Steiner, MD, MPH, D. Leann Long, MS, Catherine Tanner, MD, Amy Herring, ScD

OBJECTIVE: Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants have been shown to negatively affect in vitro sperm motility. The objective of this study was to estimate the effect of vaginal lubricant use during procreative intercourse on natural fertility.

METHODS: Women aged 30-44 years with no history of infertility who had been trying to conceive for less than 3 months completed a baseline questionnaire on vaginal lubricant use. Subsequently, women kept a diary to record menstrual bleeding, intercourse, and vaginal lubricant use and conducted standardized pregnancy testing for up to 6 months. Diary data were used to determine the fertile window and delineate lubricant use during the fertile window. A proportional hazards model was used to estimate fecundability ratios with any lubricant use in the fertile window considered as a time-varying exposure.

RESULTS: Of the 296 participants, 75 (25%) stated in their baseline questionnaire that they use vaginal lubricants while attempting to conceive. Based on daily diary data, 57% of women never used a lubricant, 29% occasionally used a lubricant, and 14% used a lubricant frequently. Women who used lubricants during the fertile window had similar fecundability to those women who did not use lubricants (fecundability ratio 1.05, 95% confidence interval 0.59-1.85) after adjusting for age, partner race, and intercourse frequency in the fertile window.

CONCLUSION: Lubricants are commonly used by couples during procreative intercourse. Lubricant use during procreative intercourse does not appear to reduce the probability of conceiving.

Publication details

Date: July 2012
Journal: Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume: 120
Issue: 1
Pages: 44-51

 

Periconceptional changes in thyroid function: a longitudinal study.

Ursula Balthazar, MD, Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

BACKGROUND: Limitations in our current knowledge of normative physiologic changes in thyroid function during the periconception window narrow our ability to establish an optimal approach to screening and diagnosis of thyroid disease in pregnant women. The objective of this study was to characterize changes in thyroid function during the transition from the pre-pregnant to pregnant state in normal fertile women.

METHODS: Women (N = 60) ages 30-42 years without a history of thyroid disease, who were planning pregnancy, were observed prospectively before and during early pregnancy. Thyroid function (thyroid stimulating hormone, TSH and free thyroxine, FT4) was measured before conception and between 6 and 9 weeks gestation. Pre-pregnancy samples were analyzed for thyroid antibodies. Bivariate analyses and longitudinal curves (general estimating equation models) were used to analyze changes in thyroid function during the periconception window by antibody status.

RESULTS: Pre-pregnancy TSH values were significantly higher than early pregnancy TSH (p < 0.001), but FT4 values did not differ (p = 0.53). TSH declined as gestational age increased (P < 0.01). Thyroid antibody positive women had a higher pre-pregnancy TSH compared to antibody negative women (p < 0.01). Periconceptional change in thyroid function was more variable among women with antibodies (p < 0.001). 50% of women with elevated pre-pregnancy TSH values (TSH > 3.0 mIU/L) had normal TSH values (TSH < 2.5 mIU/L) in pregnancy.

CONCLUSIONS: TSH values decline during the transition from pre-pregnancy to early pregnancy. The change in TSH appears to be less predictable in women with thyroid antibodies. Periconceptional changes in thyroid function should be considered in formulating prenatal thyroid screening guidelines.

Publication details

Date: March 2012
Journal: Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology
Volume: 10
Issue: 20

 

Anti-Müllerian hormone: a potential new tool in epidemiologic studies of female fecundability.

Donna Baird, PhD, Anne Steiner, MD, MPH

The objective of the present commentary is to suggest that epidemiologists explore the use of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) as a new measurement tool in fecundability studies. The authors briefly summarize the advantages and limitations of the 3 current approaches to studies of fecundability. All 3 approaches involve the collection of time-to-pregnancy or attempt-time data, and most are limited to participants who plan their pregnancies. AMH is produced by ovarian follicles during their early growth stages and is measured clinically to assess ovarian reserve (the number of remaining oocytes). Unlike time to pregnancy, serum AMH level can be assessed regardless of pregnancy-attempt status. Measurements are not significantly affected by phase of the menstrual cycle, oral contraceptive use, or early pregnancy. The authors suggest that AMH measurement can be a valuable addition to traditionally designed fecundability studies. In addition, this hormone should be investigated as an independent measure of fecundability in studies that focus on exposures hypothesized to target the ovary.

Publication details

Date: February 2012
Journal: American Journal of Epidemiology
Volume: 175
Issue: 4
Pages: 245-249

 

Antimüllerian hormone as a predictor of natural fecundability in women aged 30-42 years.

Anne Steiner, MD, MPH, Amy Herring, ScD, James Kesner, PhD, Juliana Meadows, PhD, Frank Stanczyk, PhD, Steven Hoberman, MS, Donna Baird, PhD, MPH

The objective of the present commentary is to suggest that epidemiologists explore the use of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) as a new measurement tool in fecundability studies. The authors briefly summarize the advantages and limitations of the 3 current approaches to studies of fecundability. All 3 approaches involve the collection of time-to-pregnancy or attempt-time data, and most are limited to participants who plan their pregnancies. AMH is produced by ovarian follicles during their early growth stages and is measured clinically to assess ovarian reserve (the number of remaining oocytes). Unlike time to pregnancy, serum AMH level can be assessed regardless of pregnancy-attempt status. Measurements are not significantly affected by phase of the menstrual cycle, oral contraceptive use, or early pregnancy. The authors suggest that AMH measurement can be a valuable addition to traditionally designed fecundability studies. In addition, this hormone should be investigated as an independent measure of fecundability in studies that focus on exposures hypothesized to target the ovary.

 

Publication details

Date: April 2011
Journal: Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume: 117
Issue: 4
Pages: 798-804