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Fertility Over 40: Getting Pregnant In The Cloud

Posted Mar 23 2011 8:10pm
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By Colette Bouchez
As the effort to get pregnant over the age of 35 can increase, sometimes to Herculean proportions,  any piece of the puzzle, no matter how small, is worth finding. And that was truly the case last week when one of the biggest mysteries in reproductive medicine was solved: How exactly does his sperm know where to go find your egg - and once it does, what triggers the ability to get inside so fertilization can occur.  This is important at any age, but for women over 35 and especially those over 40, the answer provides more information than the question asks. 
Indeed now, two new findings - both published this week in the journal Nature - claim to have that answer and more - and it all hinges on woman's ability to produce progesterone, the hormone that, as we age, can be in short supply. 
Indeed, new research published simultaneously  this week by the University of California, San Francisco, and the Center of Advanced European Study and Research in Bonn, Germany,  report that when an egg is ready to be fertilized, cells surrounding that egg release a "cloud" of  progesterone aimed right at sperm.That progesterone burst sends out a kind of biochemical "come hither" signal calling sperm to it's side. But more importantly, the progesterone acts directly  on  a unique ion chanel within the  body of sperm which causes a rush of calcium to move from the head into the tail. It is this rush of calcium, say researchers,  that causes the tail of the sperm to begin beating almost manically, not only sending it flying to the eggs side,  but also helping one sperm penetate the outer shell of the egg and get inside, so fertilization can take place."We think that progesterone acts directly as a ligant that binds this channel and gates it open," says UB Kaupp, of the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research and senior author of the first paper.In the past, doctors always believed there was some type of silent, biocheical "radar" calling  sperm to  egg and many suspected progesterone played a role.  But it wasn't until this new research came forward that the source of this silent call - and how it works -  was fully indentified."It was a scientific mystery -- a puzzle," said  Kaupp. And now, it seems that puzzle is solved. Vitamins, progesterone & getting pregnantWhile the research emphasizes the importance of proper hormone balance in order for pregnancy to occur, indirectly it also gives creedence to a growing notion that nutrients involved in the production of progesterone - namely beta carotene, and vitamins B6 and C- might also play a role in getting pregnant.    " When any of these vitamins are in short supply a woman's body simply can't make enough progesterone -  the hormone necessary to to not only build the spongy lining of  the womb necessary for an embryo to implant, but now , it seems, also necessary for  making certain that sperm arrive at the right place at the right time, " says fertility expert Dr. Niels Lauersen, author of ". Equally important,  says Lauersen, is that this research opens the door to  developing new avenues of treatment for  male infertility "If the new research is correct then there are at least two new possibilities behind male infertility: Sperm that can't pick up the signal being emited by the progesterone, or sperm that  can't process that signal  in a way that increases tail motion necessary for swimming to,  getting inside of,  the egg," says Lauersen.Either way, experts say  it's clear that making babies involves more than just a casual meeting of sperm and egg -  it requires real "chemistry" . And maybe that's what boy meets girl is really all about.Colette Bouchez is a fertilty researcher and co-author of the book Green Fertility. 

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Copyright by ElleMedia Network 2011 - All Rights Reserved. In addition to US Copyright, the text of this RedDressDiary article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. All formatting and style elements of this page are not available under this license, and Colette Bouchez retains all rights in those elements. The original version of this story appeared on 

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