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Study Reveals New Facts About Fertility

Aired July 14, 2003 - 20:27   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A new study turns conventional wisdom on how and when women can get pregnant. All around, it found out that some women sometimes ovulate more than once a month.
Well, Dr. Nancy Snyderman is vice president of Johnson & Johnson, which of course has many products related to fertility. She also happened to spend some 18 years as a medical journalist on another network which we're all familiar with. We don't need to mention it tonight.


ZAHN: Thanks for joining us.

We also want to get some new information about a new test for male infertility, but we are going to start with this very surprising story.

SNYDERMAN: It's fascinating.

ZAHN: When women hear this for the first time, they cannot believe it, particularly women who have tried for a long, long time to get pregnant.

SNYDERMAN: I think it is sort of a wakeup call for two groups of women.

One, if you think you can protect yourself by practicing the old rhythm method, you better do not that anymore.

ZAHN: Because there is no rhythm.

SNYDERMAN: Because there is no rhythm.

The conventional wisdom was, women have 28-day menstrual cycles. We pop out a egg. It trickles down the fallopian tube, either gets impregnated or not, and then you menstruate. And that's all she wrote.

Well, now we find out, guess what? Even if you have a normal menstrual period, your ovaries may not be cooperating. And they can -- maybe spitting out eggs several times during a cycle, which means, one, you could get pregnant more often. So good luck to those of you who are trying. But a cautionary note to those of you who are trying to not have more babies.

ZAHN: So what -- let's talk about all the desperate families out there who want to bring babies home.


ZAHN: What are the implications of this study? How will it change the way they attempt to get pregnant?

SNYDERMAN: Well, I think there are a couple of things. Families, couples who really want to have babies, wait until that 14- day period and then have a lot of sex.

ZAHN: Right.

SNYDERMAN: Well, now, maybe you can just have sex casually through the month and your chance of getting pregnant will be just as high.

And for women who take their basal body temperature and wait for that little temperature spike, perhaps, if you haven't believed your thermometer in the past, because it seemed a little haywire...


ZAHN: ... believed that thermometer, Nancy? Come on.


SNYDERMAN: And so I think you can throw cautious to the wind in one case. But if you really think it is the ideal birth control, you have to go back to birth control pills or condoms. You really can't rely on Mother Nature taking care of you in this very traditional way.

ZAHN: Is this study so new that it is going to be difficult for OB/GYNs to give women black and white advice here?

SNYDERMAN: I don't think anything in medicine is ever black and white. It is a moving target. But the experts at the University of Saskatchewan said this is going to change medical textbooks. It is going to change how we train young doctors, I think it's going to change how doctors in the field practice medicine, and every woman out there who feels in tune with her body and says, you know, I always sort of thought maybe I was ovulating, women's intuition as to what you feel, I think, usually supersedes a lot of basic science. So I think it's going to change things.

ZAHN: Just think what you and I would have done if we knew that information. We'd both have six kids apiece.


ZAHN: Let's talk about male infertility and these new tests available for men -- they can do this at home now?

SNYDERMAN: I think you're going to see more and more and more of this. People want tests at home that can give them some kind of a screening that they can say, hey, should I go to my doctor or not. Very simple test, a little basic chemistry, a sperm sample, a semen sample, that with a little drop of semen, a couple little reagents, you can check to see if it turns blue or not. Like the home pregnancy tests you and I have taken. What it basically says is the sperm count high enough.

ZAHN: And how accurate are the tests?

SNYDERMAN: It is 87 percent accurate. So it's really pretty darn good. But it's not meant for you to diagnose yourself at home. It is basically meant for couples who already are having a hard time having babies, just to say, hey, look, guys are responsible for the infertility issues 40 percent of the time. So screen yourselves and then go see your doctor.


ZAHN: What is the level of compliance? If men know generally this stuff is available, do you see, given your years of practicing medicine that they are going to run out and get these tests?

SNYDERMAN: Well, this is not out of my field, but I've never had man walk into my office. I had to tell him to go -- you know, get me a sample.


SNYDERMAN: But apparently, if you talk to infertility specialists, they say guys don't like to come into the office and they don't like to be given their magazine and come back with their little sample. So if couples can screen themselves in the privacy of their own homes and then say, you know what, there may be something here, now let's go see the doctor, it is important. But this only checks for sperm count. Doesn't check for sperm that aren't moving, doesn't check for ones that aren't really created normally and are a weird shape. So it is just a very basic, elementary tool. But I think it opens up the future for a lot more home testing. And I suspect the next couple of years, you're going to see more and more of these tests.

ZAHN: I think it offers great hope for a lot of folks out there.

SNYDERMAN: Yes, and people really, I think if they use these things responsibly at home, it gives them a level of comfort, and then you can say, now let's go see the doctor. I'm all for home testing, with responsibility. I think it's great.

ZAHN: Who knew that we would have such a distorted picture of the birds and bees up until this study.

SNYDERMAN: Yes, aren't we glad we're living through it?

ZAHN: Yes, it's great. Dr. Nancy Snyderman, nice to see you on the West Coast for a change.

SNYDERMAN: You bet. Thank you.


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