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Advances In Fertility and Reproduction

Advances In Fertility and Reproduction

Having good sexual health is vital to not only our overall health but also mental health and general wellbeing. It’s not just the physical elements that are so important, but the mental ones as well. Knowing that your sexual health is being protected by effective contraception gives a real peace of mind to all sexually active adults. It allows you to relax into sexual activity knowing that you’ve made the right choices. And as far as mental wellbeing goes it’s one worry that you can tick off the list – a valuable tool in pandemic times, we have enough to worry about without contraception being one of them. A barrier method works best overall, being the only protection that prevents STIs and pregnancy. But even then, it’s vital that you choose the best condom for you – there’s plenty of choice to suit almost anyone. You can get small, medium, large, ultra-thin, a thicker material, latex, non-latex, even colours and flavours so you can tailor your condom to your experience!

However, life changes and priorities shift. What if you’re coming to the end of your bulk pack of condoms and you’re beginning to think about starting a family, but you have some worries. There are a lot of genetic abnormalities that could affect the foetus, but there are also things that are wrong in the first place with the parents, and it’s these problems that are being addressed by the advances in fertility and reproduction that have taken place, and continue to do so, to help the most people that they can to go one to have a healthy baby. What are these advances and how do they help? Successful uterine transplant has taken place in Sweden, making it a reality for women to go on and have a full term pregnancy where it otherwise wouldn’t be possible. The potential is also there to implant a uterus in a transgender woman so they could theoretically carry a baby despite being a biological male. There are other advances too which, if perfected, could help millions of people realise their dreams of having their own family.

  • 1.The creation of 3-parent embryos.
    It’s exactly as it sounds: an embryo is created using genetic material from 3 parents, rather than the standard 2. It’s still a controversial procedure but it represents a huge advance for women who have certain genetic disorders. Eggs are harvested from two women and then fertilised with the sperm from one man. Scientists are still proceeding with caution and there is more research needed before this becomes widely available.
  • 2.Giving a boost to immature eggs.
    Eggs that wouldn’t otherwise successfully be fertilised and implant in the uterus are harvested and grown in a lab. Once they reach maturity they are fertilised and implanted. The biggest benefit is thought to be for women who have ovarian issues.
  • 3.Penis transplant experimentation.
    This is a path that scientists have previously longed to go down. A missing or damaged penis can take a huge mental toll in a man, as well as causing physical difficulties, and having a standard procedure where one is replaced by another is a logical way forward. That said, it’s still far from a reliable procedure – but the groundwork has been laid. It would only be the penis transplanted, not the testes, so it’s unclear whether the patient would be able to successfully father children. It’s likely to depend on the type/severity of the previous injuries that necessitated the transplant.
  • 4.Creating sperm in a lab.
    This has distinct sci-fi tones about it, but scientists in China have successfully created sperm-like mouse cells. This is an advance which promises to help the millions of couples who struggle with male infertility. However, the creation is not a complete one, they don’t have tails so they can’t swim into the egg of their own accord and have to be injected instead. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to affect their viability, it’s not a million miles from the widely used ICSI process. So far it’s only been tested on mice, but it has been successful. UK clinical trials are still a long way off, but it does pave the way for cautious optimism to those affected by male infertility.
  • 5.Squashing embryos to test their strength.
    The method is unclear to most of those outside of the laboratory, but this technique can be used to determine how well the embryo might survive cell division and therefore how likely they are to thrive and go on to create a successful pregnancy.
  • 6.The practice of freezing eggs and sperm.
    The hope is that by advancing current availability, this could eventually be a reality to a far greater amount of people.

All of these reproductive advances represent a huge step forward for those who suffer from infertility. However, if you have worries about this, it might be an idea to use condoms for a little while longer whilst the reality catches up with the science. 

Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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