Posts Tagged ‘sex hormones’

Critique of birth control efficacies in NFP as published by Marquette University researchers

March 23, 2010

Comments on a report of two studies http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/cmr_winter-spring09.pdf – they report on what we will call peri-ovulation methodologies.

JUST LIKE THEIR PREVIOUS REPORT IN 2003 [http://www.nccbuscc.org/prolife/issues/nfp/cmrsumfl01.htm ] OF A STUDY WITH THE PERSONA MONITOR, “LIMITATIONS” OF THE TWO STUDIES THEY REPORT ON ARE POINTED OUT BY THE AUTHORS.

Michelangelo - The Drunkenness of Noah

Michelangelo – The Drunkenness of Noah

Excerpts from their first study:

The retrospective study involved 204 couples (i.e., women with a mean age of 28.6 and their male partners, with a mean age of 30.3) who were taught NFP (by health professionals, physicians and nurses) at four sites in the United States

Table 1. Twelve months total unintended pregnancy rate [number of unintended pregnancies out of the number of couples in given group using the indicated method of NFP]

BBT + mucus                                    5/76                     7%

Monitor + mucus                               4/69                     6%

Mucus only                                       1/29                      3%

BBT + mucus + monitor                     2/25                      8%

Monitor only                                      0/5

Second study excerpts:

The participants for this study came from the same four clinic sites as the previous study and involved 313 couples who were taught how to avoid pregnancy with the EHFM [Monitor] plus CVM [Mucus], and another 315 who used CVM only … The researchers found a total of 28 unintended pregnancies with the EFHM plus CVM group and 41 with the CVM only group… (during 12 months of use)

Monitor + mucus                          28/313                        9%

Mucus only                                  41/315                        13%

QUOTE: “both studies have limitations in that they were not randomized clinical trials”.

In their 2003 study report, they similarly noted study limitations, but there was also the following: “Of interest is the authors’ statement that only 1% of reproductive age women in the Netherlands use NFP as a means to achieve or avoid pregnancy. The respondents in this study were mostly women who previously used oral hormonal contraception. This seems to indicate that a new technological device such as Persona could attract new couples to use NFP.” QUOTE UNQUOTE.

Quite right. Their statement of what “this seems to indicate” is consistent with what we had found (without any financial backing by a large investor like Unilever) in a survey of 5,000 American women at about the time when the Persona was new to the market in Britain. Out of those who would purchase our self-diagnostic electronic device (which does NOT require any chemical reagents and daily peeing for in vitro diagnostic measurement with imperfect measures), 70% were users of artificial contraception – they would switch to our device. This outcome was separate from anecdotal evidence of numerous letters and later emails asking if they could purchase our device for their use in NFP.

With the above quote in mind, we would broaden the conclusion – about new technology attracting new couples – beyond NFP use, and we would refer instead (i.e. more broadly) to fertility awareness based methods.

Now, before someone should glance at the above reported outcomes of the two studies and quickly jump to a conclusion, we must make some common sense observations about those statistics. Some little words.

Wassily Kandinsky - Little Words

Kandinsky – Little Words

Should someone want to declare that the above Marquette University reported Monitor had a zero failure rate, then it must be noted that, unfortunately, this was zero out of merely 5 cases. Not comparable with anything else in their publication – and hardly very useful for that reason (and because of the small sample size, too).

Similarly: Table 1 might be read as showing that mucus only is better than BBT + mucus + monitor. This could be “legitimately” considered a valid conclusion since the sample sizes are sort of comparable – if “sort of comparable” were considered good enough (76 and 69, respectively, a 10% difference). But the sample size of mucus only (29) is significantly lower than the sample sizes of the BBT + mucus and of the Monitor + mucus groups.

While the unintended pregnancy outcome of the BBT + mucus + monitor group (8%) is sort of comparable to the outcomes of the two groups with the much larger sample sizes where mucus is accompanied by either BBT or by monitor (7% and 6%, respectively), the only really legitimate conclusion or comment is that sample size matters. That is, if we do not want to compare 25 apples with 72.5 oranges (+/- 3.5) and thus come to questionable conclusions.

If all the groups had sample size of 5 and the percentage outcomes were the same, then the conclusion would be fairly legitimate about the superiority of the monitor – except for the equally legitimate complaint that the sample size of 5 is too small.


Michelangelo - The Battle of Cascina

Michelangelo – The Battle of Cascina

Statistics are supposed to be about large numbers. At least about sufficiently large numbers. Sample size of 5 is hardly sufficiently large, although it would do for a proof of concept, which here the concept would be that Monitor alone is by far the best. I would go with that hypothesis BUT I WANT IT TESTED RIGOROUSLY IN PROPERLY DESIGNED CLINICAL TRIALS.

The outcomes of the second reported study contradict the outcomes of the first, with Mucus only now showing the highest failure rate of them all (13%), and, topping it off, Monitor + mucus is now even higher than in Table 1 (9% vs. 6%).

Since the sample size is now much larger than in Table 1 (313 vs. 69, i.e., 4.5 times larger) it is legitimately concluded that the second study carries more weight and therefore the failure rate of the Monitor + mucus methodology is more likely 9% than 6%. This is rather unsatisfactory but still better than Mucus alone at the whopping 13% unintended pregnancy rate. The 13% failure rate with 315 couples is more believable than the 3% failure rate with 29 couples in Table 1. About 10.862068965517241379310344827586-times more believable – to be light-hearted about it, per jocum dixi.

Then again, remotum joco: All this makes for a kind of arithmetic that should not occur in medical research.

The following is a graphical demonstration of how numbers can distort perception and understanding. The same Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina (since he did not do any battle of statistics or technologies!) after an effect that allows the data on the periphery to dominate or simply affect disproportionally that which was in the center of focus.

See in the picture above the man looking intently toward us from the middle of the melee? Now (below) he is tiny compared to what’s around him; much like when – in a study of birth distributions as a function of the day of cycle on which conception took place – the data point outliers are doing the same to the high birth counts, because of inaccurate means of ovulation detection (actually mere estimations) employed in said study.

Michelangelo - The Battle of Cascina - Fish Eye effect -30

Michelangelo – The Battle of Cascina – Fish Eye effect -30

While such distortions happen with all imperfect measures of ovulation, the study by John France et al. was discussed in an earlier post at https://biozhena.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/fetal-sex-preselection-%E2%80%93-illustrated/ and in the document attached to that post, https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/fetal-sex-preselection-illustrated.pdf .

We subsequently showed, in https://biozhena.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/ovulona-is-not-another-ovulation-kit/, the effect of doing away with the outlier data points by means of the following diagram, which can be likened to removing the Fish Eye Effect -30 from the distorted Michelangelo picture just above to get back his undistorted Battle of Cascina (with all those naked Florentine soldiers surprised by the enemy while bathing).

Ovulona (FIV) fertile window vs. old (fuzzy ovulation estimate) methods

Ovulona 3-day fertile window versus old methods’ fuzzy estimation of the fertile period

Now, one more citation from the paper under discussion. QUOTE: The EHFM [Monitor] is a hand held device that reads a threshold level of urinary metabolites of estrogen (estrone 3 glucuronide) and luteinizing hormone (LH; on test strips) and provides the user with a low, high, and peak reading of fertility. The monitor is sold in the United States as a method to help couples achieve pregnancy but can be used as an aid to track fertility. QUOTE UNQUOTE

This statement reflects the thinking in those circles. But note: Because no single hormone determines the beginning and no single hormone determines the end of the fertile window (whether they know this or not) they have to speak of low, high and “peak reading of fertility”. We have previously referred to this as a fuzzy delineation of the fertile window [https://biozhena.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/ovulona-is-not-another-ovulation-kit ].

A little bit fertile, then more, and a peak? That is merely a reflection of not having the accuracy to determine the boundaries of the fertile phase.

Salvador Dali - Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Salvador Dali – Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Just like you cannot be only a little bit pregnant, you either can conceive today or not. No such thing as low fertility, only the uncertainty of “low reading”, and of all their readings – including their subjective self-observations. Subjective self-observations refer to the mucus appearance and feel in NFP practice – and if they used that too, the same limitation applies to palpating the cervix.

The most succinct word about all this is as follows:

The old approaches to detecting fertility status are to be referred to as peri-ovulation methods. Where the prefix refers not to the Peri of Persian folklore (earlier regarded as malevolent!) but to the Greek meaning of about, around, near or enclosing – in this case ovulation. Surely, peri-ovulation or peri-ovulatory is a more palatable word than fuzzy.

STOP PRESS

And now, go and check out the 2012 post “The fallacy of ovulation calculators, calendars and circulating-hormone detectors” at https://biozhena.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-fallacy-of-ovulation-calculators-calendars-and-circulating-hormone-detectors/

Advertisements

Stress and fertility

December 22, 2007
Please click through to the 2019 revision of this post at
https://biozhena.wordpress.com/stress-and-fertility-fertile-window-ovulation/

How stress affects the inherently narrow fertile window

Stress can do unwanted things to a woman and her menstrual cycle. In a nutshell, stress can make a woman completely infertile in this menstrual cycle (e.g., LPD, see below), or it can change the timing of her fertile window (the time of ovulation included) within the menstrual cycle. Any of this can cause problems and lead to more stress…

The medical term is stress response, and it refers to the overall reaction of the organism to any adverse stimulus, whether it be of physical, mental or emotional kind, internal or external. The purpose is to adapt to challenge, and this goes on all the time. (C’est la vie! Real life is a never-ending series of stress responses.) Should the compensating reaction of the organism be inadequate or inappropriate, a pathological disorder may result.

The HPA axis, the immune system and the sympathetic nervous system are involved in the stress response. Don’t get stressed by some undecipherable abbreviations or unknown words — look up The Alphabet of bioZhena, you may find it or them in there!

Just remember, this is no Alphabet of Ben Sira!

( /2007/11/28/the-alphabet-of-biozhena/)

021r from The Book of Urizen

Stress and the menstrual cycle

“It is a matter of conventional wisdom that perturbations in the external or internal environments – that is stress – can interfere with the normal course of the menstrual cycle.” To further quote the expert, “disturbances in the menstrual cycle occur in response to exercise and physical demands, stress and emotional demands, and diet and nutritional demands” [citation below, ref. 17].

As Michel J. Ferin writes, with reference to the brain component of the female reproductive control system, “with minimal reduction in (GnRH) pulse frequency, small undetected defects in the follicular maturation process may occur, whereas with a higher degree of pulse inhibition the follicular phase may be prolonged, and luteal phase deficiency, anovulation, and amenorrhea may develop.”

A micro-glossary: The follicular maturation process is also called folliculogenesis. GnRH is a brain-produced hormone involved in folliculogenesis. A maturing follicle is a small, protective sac, gland, or cluster of cells in the ovary, in which an egg (ovum) develops towards ovulation, in order to have a chance to be fertilized.

 

What is folliculogenesis - like EKG

 

And here is for you a baseline picture of how our folliculogenesis-in-vivo technique captures the course of folliculogenesis in baseline subjects (healthy and chemically clean i.e. no medication, less than 35 years old). Take your time to study the wealth of information particularly in the right-hand part of the image (use the linked slide):

 

 

For better legibility, click on the image. For more detail (presented in a PDF of 3 slides better viewed – incl. presenter notes – in Firefox, not in Chrome), go to:  https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/wealth-of-info-elucidation-silent-3-slides-animated-ed.pdf .  For the animation and narration of the first two slides, go to: https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/wealth-of-info-elucidation-3-animated-slides-2-narrated.pps (again, Firefox works while Chrome does not, at least here for me).

As for the scientific background of our work:  https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/what-is-stress.pdf is an ad hoc selection of a few abstracts from my files in (or before) 2007 on papers addressing ovulation, reproduction, folliculogenesis and stress. I referred to said area of biomedical science as psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology. Your perusal of the material with my markings (highlights) will help you understand the significance of the bioZhena technology for women’s healthcare and self-care. (The footer in the document shows obsolete email and physical addresses.)

Stress and the OvulonaTM

As introduced above, our electrochemical sensor of the ectocervix, the OvulonaTM, is a smart tissue biosensor for women’s reproductive self-help. It records menstrual cycle vital sign  signature data for OBGYN, PRIMARY CARE, RE and other healthcare providers’ use when needed.

Results obtained with our Ovulona prototypes lead to the conclusion that the technique appears to detect such phenomena as referred to by Dr. Ferin.

This is not merely the detected different rates of follicular maturation in different menstrual cycles, but even more significantly the delayed ovulations in those cycles where it takes longer than 1 day to reach the ovulation marker trough (minimum), as observed in some non-baseline subjects’ cyclic profiles. And the unprecedented  detection of the absence of dominant follicle maturation, which makes the woman infertile in the present menstrual cycle. Click on the composite image below for a better resolution of the contents.

Short luteal phase and LPD examples of the Ovulona(TM)'s diagnostic power

Here (in the upper image) is the detection of Ferin’s “minimal reduction in (GnRH) pulse frequency, small undetected defects in the follicular maturation process may occur”.

Whereas (lower image), “with a higher degree of pulse inhibition the follicular phase may be prolonged, and luteal phase deficiency [LPD], anovulation, and amenorrhea may develop” – and, indeed, we have seen the LPD, the extended follicular phase and short luteal phase, and other aberrations in the cyclic profiles of different women over the years.

bioZhena’s technique is basically detecting non-pathological stress responses in menstrual cycles through monitoring cervical end-organ effects. Pathological stress responses are captured as well.

Abnormal cyclic patterns of the end-organ effects may serve as an early warning of pathological disorders. This remains to be systematically investigated. Anecdotal evidence in non-baseline cyclic profiles is compelling.

For a hint of how this came about, including samples of data from two pilot studies by independent investigators testing our prototypes, refer to these five  slides (they take a few moments to open; some browsers such as Firefox seem better for it): Five slides selected for bioZhena weblog

The five slides are as old as the text of the original blog post, so perhaps a recent more detailed explanatory illustration (clickable for better legibility) might be in order:

 

Ovulona detects delayed ovulation

 

For better legibility of the contents and for links to the references, see the PDF of the slide shown in the image: https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/single-slide-ovulona-detects-delayed-ovulation-w.-links.pdf  (You can enlarge the contents using the browser zoom, or use the PPS slide show version of the slide (it takes a few moments to open): https://biozhena.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/single-slide-ovulona-detects-delayed-ovulation-w.-links.pps)

In general, the non-baseline cyclic profiles present certain quantitative deviations from baseline: e.g., their post-ovulation (luteal) phase can be not of the normal length of about 14 days (12 to 16) as in one of the illustrated cycles above. In such abnormal cycles with short luteal phases (<11 days, observed more often in older women), there is a lack of synchrony due to a mismatch between the ovarian steroids and the pituitary peptides [S.K. Smith et al., J. Reprod. Fert. 75:363, 1985].

Here is an example of a non-baseline cyclic profile of a woman with a short luteal phase (8 days); for comparison, the woman’s BBT profile in the same cycle is also shown:

Short luteal phase cyclic profile

A woman’s history of amenorrhea and/or of ovarian cysts is pertinent to the case of abnormally short luteal phase, but so is stress and its effect on the GnRH hormone generator in the hypothalamus of the brain, which affects the output of the pituitary peptides.

For example, it is known in a general way that norepinephrine and possibly epinephrine in the hypothalamus increase the GnRH pulse frequency. Conversely, the endogeneous opioid peptides, the enkephalins and beta-endorphin, reduce the frequency of the GnRH pulses. These interactions are particularly important at the time of the “mid-cycle” LH surge, affecting its timing and intensity [W.F. Ganong, Review of Medical Physiology, 17th edition, Appleton & Lange, 1995, Chapter 23].

The slow rate of descent of the Ovulona signal – seen in slides 1 and 2 of the 5 slides  above – descent from the short-term predictive peak to the ovulation marker trough (minimum) is a useful diagnostic feature that is indicative of an extended period of time required for the two “clocks” (the circhoral and the circamensual) to become synchronized as a precondition of ovulation.

Activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis by physical, chemical, and psychological perturbations is known to result in elevated levels of serum corticosteroid hormones. Corticosteroids are the principal effectors in the stress response and are thought to be responsible for both adaptational and maladaptational response to perturbing situations. They have profound effects on mood and behavior, and affect neurochemical transmission and neuroendocrine control.

Stress double whammy

Cortisol, the predominant corticosteroid in primates, is often regarded as the “stress hormone” and consequently serves as a marker of stress. Cortisol can be measured in blood, urine, and saliva. For information about the adrenal gland and stress, go to http://arbl.cvmbs.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/adrenal/index.html .

We logically mentioned stress in the post on Sub-fertility (or Reduced Fertility), in the following reminder. The endocrinologist professor Brown may be quoted:

“Failing to conceive when wanted is stressful and therefore favours infertility. It should be remembered that, apart from a few conditions such as blocked fallopian tubes, absent sperm and continued anovulation, most couples will conceive eventually without help. However, the modern expectation is one of immediate results, and the main function of assisted reproduction techniques is therefore to shorten the waiting time for conception.”

To which we would add that bioZhena aims to offer a more affordable and safer alternative to the A.R.T. approach. Besides offering to women’s healthcare providers the diagnostic technique with the capabilities outlined in the foregoing.

References as excerpted from our White Paper:

[17] Michel J. Ferin, “The menstrual cycle: An integrative view”, Chapter 6 in [2], pages 103 – 121.

[2] Eli Y. Adashi, John A. Rock, and Zev Rosenwaks, editors, “Reproductive Endocrinology, Surgery, and Technology”, Lippincott – Raven, 1996.

Terminology reminder:

Luteal phase is the phase after ovulation. Follicular phase is the phase before ovulation. Referencing the phases of the menstrual cycle. Amenorrhea = abnormal absence of menstrual bleeding. GnRH = gonadotropin releasing hormone. See The Alphabet of bioZhena at /2007/11/28/the-alphabet-of-biozhena/


%d bloggers like this: