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Oral Contraceptives Pose a Threat to Healthy Women?

A recently published study shared that the most common combined oral contraceptive pill pose a negative impact on the quality of life of women who use the said pills; although it does not cause an increase in depressive symptoms.

The above findings were published in the scientific journal Fertility and Sterility earlier this year. The data was collected from a major randomized placebo-controlled study conducted by the collaborative efforts of Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet researchers and the Stockholm School of Economics.

Oral ContraceptivesNew OCP Study Sheds Light on Important Issue

Karolinska Institutet Department of Women’s and Children’s Health professor Angelica Lindén Hirschberg stated that we know very little as to how oral contraceptive pills truly affect women’s health, despite the fact that women users of contraceptive pills around the world number at around 100 million (some males on hormone therapy also use them). She also shared that the current scientific base regarding the effect of contraceptive pills on depression and quality of life is very limited. Due to this, the professor thinks that there is a great need for studies wherein the use of oral contraceptives is compared to placebos to ascertain what other effects it may have on women’s health and fertility.

In light of the above, professor Lindén Hirschberg led a study together with the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics associate professor Niklas Zethraeus, Stockholm School of Economics’ Anna Dreber Almenberg, and the University of Zürich Eva Ranehill to gather necessary data. The research team gathered their study’s data from a group of 340 healthy women belonging to the 18 to 35 years old age group. The women were treated randomly for over 3 months with placebos (pills that have no effect) or contraceptive pills that contain a combination of levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol, the most common form of combined OCP in the world and in Sweden. The lead researchers and the women were kept unaware as to which treatment was given to each woman.

Findings Could Mean More

Women who were given OCPs estimated that their quality of life is lower than women who were treated with placebos. It appears that the contraceptives negatively affected both the general quality of life and aspects of it such as the women’s well-being and mood. It is to be noted that no marked increase in depressive symptoms was seen.

The researchers emphasize that caution must be applied to the interpretation of the study’s results since changes observed were relatively small. Despite this, they also stated that the negative effect of the use of OCPs in individual women may be of clinical importance.

Clinical Application

Niklas Zethraeus stated that the negative effect shared by some women may be a contributing factor to the irregular use or low compliance of use of OCPs in some women. Zethraeus further added that these findings should be taken into consideration when prescribing various forms of contraceptives and specific OCPs.

It is to be noted that the findings of the study are only applicable to the specific OCP combination of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel – the most common OCP combination prescribed in most countries due to a relatively lower risk of physiological combinations among other OCPs. Other OCP combinations have a different risk profile and possible side effects.

Shift Work and Heavy Lifting Found to Negatively Affect Female Fertility

New research by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found out that women who work on physically demanding jobs and those whose working schedules that are outside normal daytime working hours have decreased fertility, as evidenced by a lower ability to conceive.

New Study Findings

The study that brought to light the findings described above was published under Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It was conducted by Boston, MA T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s research fellow Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón from the institution’s Department of Environmental Health as the lead author and completed alongside research associate Audrey Gaskins from the Department of Nutrition together with other researchers.

Mínguez-Alarcón shared that their study suggests that women who are planning to get pregnant should be made aware of the possible negative impacts that heavy lifting and working on a non-day shift have on their reproductive health and ability to conceive.

Female FertilityWhy This Is New

Although science already knows that certain factors related to occupation affect fertility (and that some factors can prolong the time it took to get pregnant or negatively affect a woman’s ability to carry a pregnancy to term), the studies performed in the past do not really go into the physiological explanation as to why this happens.

It should be noted that the study conducted by Mínguez-Alarcón went into the measurement of biomarkers of fertility such as levels of reproductive hormones and ovarian function, making the new study one of the very first to gauge if workplace factors have an effect on a woman’s biological ability to have a child.

Focused Research

The research got data from women who required treatment for their fertility problems. The focus on this research population allowed researchers to measure biomarkers of fertility that are not possible to evaluate in women who are attempting natural conception.

Together with her colleagues, Mínguez-Alarcón examined indicators of ovarian reserve in 473 patients who availed of infertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. The measurement of ovarian reserve can determine declining fertility because it is the measurement of remaining eggs that declines as a woman ages.

The research team observed ovarian response in 313 of the study respondents who have completed at least a cycle of IVF. Ovarian response is a number of mature eggs that can develop into healthy embryos.

The women in the study were also asked questions that determined the working schedules and physical demands of their jobs. The researchers gathered all the data and analyzed the relationship between these factors and the biomarkers of ovarian response and ovarian reserve. The women’s sedentary and physical activities during their leisure time were also documented and analyzed.

Thought-Provoking Findings

The study showed that those who lifted heavy weights have no issues with their FSH levels but women whose jobs are physically demanding have a lower egg reserve. Those who worked shifts were found to have fewer mature eggs on average than those who worked normal office hours. Those who worked nights had the fewest number of mature eggs.

Audrey Gaskins shared that their study shows that non-day shifts and occupational heavy lifting may adversely affect egg quality and production. She also stated that further work is needed to find out if egg quality and production can still be improved if the above situations are avoided.

It should be noted that this study is observational and non-conclusive. Further studies will be needed to assess what impact other influential factors may have on women’s fertility.

Conceiving 3-Parent Babies Is Now a Possibility

How would you react when a neighbor says that their baby has been conceived with 3 parents? You’d surely want more details! The medical community reacted the same way when American scientists shared that they’ve been able to conceive a 3-parent baby, definitely the world’s first!

Shock or Amazement?

Conceiving 3-Parent BabiesThe technique is controversial for sure, but the experts responsible for the medical advancement are now sharing the reasons behind this new technique and what made them decide to go forth with it. Just to be clear, a 3-parent-baby means that the baby was conceived using biological material from 3 individuals.

Although global health officials are viewing the scientific milestone with skeptical eyes, the scientists responsible for the technique shared that they’re keeping an optimistic outlook. In a press release, the technique’s lead author Dr. John Zhang shared that their brilliant use of technology is exciting for mankind.

Dr. Zhang’s paper was published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine. His team shared how they helped Jordanian parents to get pregnant with a healthy baby boy earlier this year even though he has a high risk of inheriting DNA for Leigh syndrome. Leigh syndrome is a severe disorder of the neurological system that usually kills those affected within a few hours of birth.

The development is abuzz with controversy as the boy’s parents are refusing to allow a DNA test on the child unless it is a medical necessity. It should be noted that Dr. Zhang and his team have no idea about how the baby will fare later on in life or if there are any long-term negative effects from their innovation.

Answering How and Why

Dr. Zhang’s team decided to break their silence as to why they did what they did and how they pulled it off. They shared that the boy’s mother already lost two babies to Leigh syndrome because she’s a carrier of the genetic disorder. The study also revealed that about 25% of her mitochondria pass on the genes responsible for the disorder.

In light of the above, the team used a new technique called MRT or Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy. This meant that the team took out the nucleus of a healthy donor egg and inserted it to the mother’s egg cell to negate or cancel out the risk of genetic issues manifesting in the child. The resulting egg was fertilized with the father’s sperm and then implanted into the mother’s womb. The baby implanted well and was born at 37 weeks after a normal pregnancy.

The procedure performed on the egg and its fertilization was conducted in a private clinic in New York. The embryo was then frozen and brought to Mexico for the implantation procedure.

Future Implications

This development means that eggs with abnormal mitochondria can now be tweaked with healthy mitochondria from a donor. The added benefit is that this can mean the eradication of some genetic diseases that are passed from mother to offspring.

It should be noted that some critics are calling the procedure a form of playing God and a technology towards creating designer children. On a positive note, other developments could come out of this breakthrough.

 

Sperm Swimming Conditions in the Uterus Sways Huge Role in Fertility

We’ve been taught that conception hinges on the ability of the sperm to reach and fertilize an egg, but a recent study conducted by researchers at the Washington State University says that the uterus may be playing a bigger role all along.

Fertility - Fertilization ProcessAn Insightful Breakthrough

In a study conducted on female mice, researchers found out that the uterus of the female mice is able to alter and break down semen into a less gel-like and more watery consistency, making it a more favorable environment for sperm to swim faster and easier.

The results of this study indicate that there is more interaction between the female reproductive tract and semen than previously thought. This data is expected to change how fertility treatments are planned and implemented in the future.

It is to be noted that prior to the findings of this research coming to light, scientists previously thought that enzymes from the prostate gland are what’s responsible for breaking down semen.

The study was initiated when Wipawee Winuthayanon, an assistant professor at the Washington State University’s School of Molecular Biosciences reported in the journal PLOS Genetics that the prostate gland enzyme that breaks down semen is also produced by female mice when induced with the use of estrogen. In addition to this, researchers also observed that semen failed to liquefy in the uterus of female mice that lacked the gene to produce the enzyme.

Fertility EvaluationReal Evidence at Last

WSU researchers claimed that the observations documented in their study provided the first real evidence that the female reproductive tract and semen interact in a positive way to impact fertility. Their research highlights the relative roles of secretions produced from both the male and female reproductive tracts that impact the physical alteration that semen has to undergo to facilitate the sperm swimming up to meet and fertilize an egg.

Exciting Possibilities

Researchers stated that the information in the study will advance research on sperm liquefaction inside the female reproductive tract, an area of study that needs further exploration. They said that further advancements could lead to the development of tools used to diagnose unexplained cases of infertility and further innovation in non-invasive contraception technologies.

The importance of the data garnered from the study supports the fact that for the sperm to reach the egg in a mammalian anatomy, it should be as efficient as possible in traveling to the egg. In other words, a sperm that is swimming in a less viscous liquid will be able to swim faster and easier because of lesser resistance as compared to it swimming in a thick fluid. Finding out that the female and male reproductive systems are aiding each other to make the sperm’s path as easy as possible for fertilization to occur is, indeed, a breakthrough.

The study was performed by Shuai Li, WSU postdoctoral research associate, Marleny Garcia, WSU honors student, and Rachel L. Gewiss, WSU research assistant.

How Does a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) Work?

There are times when a couple is not ready to have another child yet there are concerns about the embryos that have been accumulated during an IVF cycle. What will happen to these embryos if they are not transferred to the woman when the cycle comes to an end? The good news is that they can be cryopreserved, and then safely stored until the woman is ready to conceive again.

When the woman makes this decision the frozen embryo can be thawed, and then the transfer to her uterus can be made when she is at the right point in her menstrual cycle. This particular procedure is called Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).

The same steps have to be taken as that for standard embryo transfer. Which means the woman has to go through the regular blood tests and have the ultrasounds done to confirm the best time in her cycle to make the transfer. The fertility specialist may also deem that it is necessary for the woman to go on a prescribed dose of hormone medication, but this is not always necessary.

Natural FET

 

Women who are going to undergo natural FET may not have to take any form of hormone supplements, or if they do it will be minimal.

Programmed FET

 

This is usually referred to as medicated FET. What it means is that hormone medication will be prescribed that will help with the preparation of the lining of uterus, so it will more readily accept the embryo that has been thawed and is ready for transplantation.

The Transfer Procedure

 

Once the Los Angeles fertility specialist feels comfortable the lining of the uterus is at its fullest receptiveness the transplant is ready to be performed. The embryo is not thawed out by the lab staff until the day of the transfer. The actual procedure is usually quick and simple, and does not require a hospital stay or any type of sedation.

Transfer Procedure Follow Up

IVF

Following the procedure the woman will return to her fertility specialist to have a pregnancy test done. If the test proves positive the patient now goes under the care of an obstetrician. Around the 7th week of the pregnancy this specialist should be able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

The success rate for the FET procedure is quite high. It gives women comfort in knowing that their embryos can be safely taken care of through the freezing procedure until they are ready to be used. Plus, the woman who is having this procedure done doesn’t have to go through the entire IVF cycle.

With the advancement in technology today there are advanced vitrification methods being used to freeze the embryos, which is far better than the methods used in the 1980s which were slow freezing techniques.

There is of course a cost involved to have the embryos frozen which can range around $800. Then there is the added cost for the implantation of the thawed embryo which can amount to around $4,000. Although, this will vary from one clinic to another.

Pacific Reproductive Center offers all types of assisted reproductive procedures at four Los Angeles metro locations with expert specialists. Call us today for treatment in Glendale, Torrance, Irvine or Corona!

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Which Infertility Treatment Would Be Your Best Option?

With the modern technology of today and the ongoing advancements in the treatment of infertility, there are many options to be considered for fertility treatments. Not only do these treatments bring hope for couples who want to conceive, but they offer choices. Infertile couples can make informed decisions as to what they feel would be the best treatment to participate in.

IVF

In Vitro Fertilization is one of the most well-known infertility treatments and is considered to be highly successful. It has been estimated that over 3 million babies throughout the world have been born as a result of IVF. The IVF procedure also offers some additional options within it, which gives the infertile couple some more options.

Oral Medication

Depending on what is determined to be the cause of your infertility there may be medication that can be prescribed to help with you become fertile. For women whose ovaries will not release the eggs a medication called Clomiphene may help. It has been indicated that about half of the women who are prescribed this medication will within about three cycles become pregnant. However, it is not usual for the pregnancy to consist of twins or even more babies. This is because the medication stimulates the ovaries to release more than one egg during each cycle.

Hormone Injections

For those women where Clomiphene has not been successful the fertility specialist may order injectable hormones. There are various drugs that can be used for this. Women who are able to ovulate often find they achieve success with this form of treatment. There is more of a chance of becoming pregnant with twins or more with this form of fertility treatment.

IUI

This is intrauterine insemination. It is a procedure that is sometimes used in conjunction with drugs that are being used to encourage ovulation. In this procedure the sperm is placed directly into the uterus during ovulation but is not injected directly into the egg. It is less expensive and not as complicated as IVF, but it is also not quite as successful.

ICSI

This is a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection. This is a beneficial procedure when infertility is a problem for the male who has very low or weak sperm. The egg of the woman has been extracted and once it has become fertilized the sperm will be injected with the sperm while in the lab. The woman will then go through the IVF procedure.

These are just some of the more common forms of infertility treatments. There are several others besides these, and some of the treatments are used in conjunction with each other. It can be difficult to make a choice, but listening to the advice of experts like your Los Angeles fertility Doctor will help you make the right decision. Knowing the cause of your infertility greatly helps in finding the right solution. With so many different fertility treatments being available today, it greatly increase the chances of a couple being able to go full term with the pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

Call Pacific Reproductive Center today for the top fertility treatment at four locations in the Los Angeles metro area!

What is Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection for Infertility?

Infertility can be as a result of either the man or the woman not being able to reproduce. There can be several causes for this in either gender. One such problem can occur with the sperm in the male. There can be a solution for this, and it is called ICSI which stands for Intracytoplasmic sperm injection. It sounds kind of scary but in fact it is not that difficult of a procedure and one that can be quite successful in helping a couple conceive.

What is ICSI?

 

This is a procedure where a single sperm collected from the male is injected into a mature egg from the woman. Once the egg has been fertilized in this manner the egg is then carefully placed in the woman’s uterus.

What is the Objective of ICSI?

 

The main goal of the ICSI procedure is to help scale up the success of the fertilization phase that takes place with In Vitro Fertilization.

The Male’s Preparation for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

 

First, the sperm from the male has to be obtained. This can either be done by the man masturbating to eject the sperm, or if this is not possible then a surgical procedure is conducted. This entails removing some of the sperm from a testicle after a small incision has been made to access it. Sometimes this procedure is necessary because the male has a blockage that prevents ejaculation of the sperm. If it has been detected that the male may only have minimal sperm in the semen it may be recommended that they go through a genetic screening before proceeding with the ICSI procedure.

The Woman’s Preparation for ICSI

 

fertility clinic Torrance CAThe eggs from the female will need to be collected. In order to prepare for this the woman must receive a daily injection that can either be FSH or gonadotrophin. This is so the ovaries can be stimulated into producing multiple eggs. To ensure that everything is progressing as expected, tests will be conducted after the first week to see where the estrogen levels are at.

Also, an ultrasound will be done to determine if the eggs in the follicles are maturing. If all is going as expected then an HCG injection is given to encourage the fully developed eggs to mature. Within a 34 to 36 hour period following this injection the now mature eggs are collected through a needle aspiration. Or, if necessary through a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy.

The Transfer

 

A small glass tube is the vessel that is used to put one single sperm into with each collected egg. This egg now containing the sperm will be housed in a lab overnight. The next day the eggs are inspected to see if they have fertilized. There is then a 3 to 5 day incubation period for the eggs that fertilized successfully. 

From this collection of fertilized eggs that have developed further, at least one or more is then placed into the uterus by a catheter being inserted into the cervix. It may be suggested that the rest of the embryos be frozen so they can be used in the future.

Pacific Reproductive Center offers top assisted reproduction treatments including ICSI, IVF, genetic selection and more! Call us today for a consultation at any one of our four LA metro area locations.

How does an EmbryoScope Help with Fertility?

Any couple that is dealing with infertility soon gets introduced to a whole realm of new terminology when they are seeking out solutions. One term that they may come across is EmbryoScope.

What is an EmbryoScope?

 

This is a device that has the ability to maintain the physiological conditions that an embryo needs when they are being housed in an IVF laboratory. It is an incubator that possesses a time lapse system and a camera. As the embryo develops this system and camera is able to capture the images and then record them in video form.

This is a highly important piece of equipment that the embryologist can count on for monitoring the embryo.  While the embryo is in the incubator cell divisions can be monitored and studies of the embryo’s development can be tracked.

What is the Value of The Embryoscope findings?

 

Some of the recent findings are that certain events that take place along with cell time points might help with being able to predict the potential for embryo development and the potential for pregnancy. With the information the Embryoscope is able to provide it can help with this.

By making use of these time points it can allow for the selection of the best of the embryos from the collection, plus determine how viable those embryos will be. The cell division pattern that can be captured with this device can be considered as a valuable resource for choosing the embryo that could be the best for implanting in the patient’s uterus through IVF.

It takes a time lapse camera to be able to capture these time points. In the past this has not been possible with the use of a microscope because time points between embryos may not be the same.

This new technology is showing a great deal of promise with some of the studies backing this up. It is indicated that there may be a 15 to 20% increase in the chance of a pregnancy developing.

Standard Embryos Selection

 

Without the use of the Embryoscope, the standard selection of the embryo for IVF or ICSI is used.  The embryos are housed in a highly controlled environment that mimics what a woman’s body would be like. They are kept in heated incubators.

These embryos are contained in small lab dishes which are periodically removed from the incubator so they can be checked for development which should be occurring at specific times.  They are placed under a microscope for this observation.  The findings of this examination will help to determine which of the embryos are most likely to succeed in a successful pregnancy. These observations must be done quickly so the embryos can be returned to the heated incubators.

All indications are that the Embryoscope has the technology to allow for better choosing of which embryo would be the better choice for transplantation. This greatly helps to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy for those going through IVF.  An added and very important benefit of the Embryoscope may be in its use for helping to predict if an embryo is chromosomally abnormal.

This is just another one of the many advancements that is being made to help couples experience the joy of a full term pregnancy and the birth of a healthy infant.

Pacific Reproductive Center offers top fertility treatments at 4 locations in the greater Los Angeles area. Call us today!

Why Can’t I Get Pregnant? The Emotional Impact of Unexplained Infertility

If you have just received the news that you and your partner are suffering from unexplained infertility, the shock may be so great that you might feel as if you have just been punched. Or you could be numb – trying to take it all in. You’ve been trying for so long and going to see a specialist was the light at the end of the tunnel.  They would find out what was wrong and fix it for you. At last you’d both allowed yourselves a glimmer of hope that you were getting nearer to your dream of starting a family.

Many people have heard of couples with a problem with “her” or a problem with “him”. Her eggs aren’t right, his sperm aren’t right…and so it goes on. But you don’t often hear people say “They don’t know what is wrong”.

For a specialist to admit to you that they don’t know what is stopping your from having a baby is absolutely devastating. If they don’t know – what on earth are you supposed to do now? Couples have reported feeling as if they’re on a sinking ship and the last lifeboat has just left without them.

There have been so many medical advances – how can they not know? It defies belief.

Anxiety levels go up

Because no one can give you a reason, you become more anxious than you were before. There are moments when you wish you’d been told that you just couldn’t have a child because then you could grieve and move forward with your lives. This frustrating, disappointing, crushing blow leaves you in a no man’s land where you just don’t know what to do next. You don’t even have any power in the situation and so you may start to feel helpless.

It’s little wonder that anxiety and depression are the most common emotions experienced by people who have Fertility Center Corona CAjust been given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. Those two emotions bring a great risk of developing depression – which is all you need right now.

Your anxiety increases because no one can identify the cause. Even if the result of those interminable, painful, intrusive tests had been that you or your partner could not have a biological child, at least then you could grieve and move on.

You may crave support, warmth and understanding from your family and friends but they may appear to not know what to say to help. Why should they? You don’t know what to do either. Instead of a safe haven of understanding you may feel awkward and stressed around them as if you have to apologise for upsetting them.

Now comes the part that may help to get your back on your feet again. A study found that three years afer unsuccessful attempts at IVF, couples with unexplained infertility were suffering from unresolved grief. They had just pushed it down and hoped it would go away.

Not surprisingly, the study recommended that couples should get counseling to help with their feelings. There are counselors who specialize in helping infertile couples and you can bet that they have come across how you are feeling and will be able to pull that last lifeboat back and sit you safely in it.

Can Stress Lead to Infertility?

One of the worst things that you can say to a person dealing with infertility is “Just relax and it will happen.” [1] There is some truth in this as research is finding that stress may impact negatively on the production of both sperm and eggs [2] The truth is that stress impacts on all of your body so that is not surprising news. The truth is that stress is caused by infertility. And you can’t begin to imagine how much stress. fertility doctorThis is so difficult for your friend so try not to use clichéd phrases that can be very hurtful. Trying to tell someone to relax when they are probably the most stressed out that they have ever been is not only tactless – it’s going to cause more stress. Not helpful.

It’s a medical fact that if a couple conceive after months of ‘relaxing’ they are not truly infertile. In order for a couple to be classed as infertile, they have to have been trying for a baby for a year – with no success. Many infertility Physicians won’t even see a couple until they have had that year of trying. And that has to be pretty stressful.

Infertile women are particularly at risk from well meaning but ultimately thoughtless and unhelpful people telling them to ‘Have a romantic meal and a bottle of wine’ or ‘Take a relaxing holiday somewhere.’ It is highly likely that the woman already feels she must be doing something wrong which is a huge burden to carry and it’s not even true. It is much more likely that she has an undiagnosed (or diagnosed) physical issue that is stopping her from conceiving a baby.

These comments are particularly upsetting if they come from someone that the infertile couple don’t know very well. For all you know, they may have endured surgery, hormone treatments, inseminations and the indignity and embarrassment of being prodded an probed by numerous Doctors.

Infertility is not a state of mind. It is a medical condition which is diagnosed and treated as much as possible. You need to bear in mind that even with treatment, some couples may never realise their dream of building a family. Relaxing, holidays and a positive attitude do not cure medically diagnosed infertility so please, please don’t suggest it.

If you genuinely want to help (and we’re sure you do) it’s an interesting exercise to visit a forum for infertile people and it won’t take you long to find threads of comments about insensitive things that have been said to them. Try FertileThoughts.com, TheBump.com, ivillage.com

We do understand how difficult it is when you are only trying to help, so here are some things not to say, courtesy of The National Infertility Association RESOLVE Some of them will make you wince but these are all the sort of comments that infertile couples face. We have added our thoughts in brackets to some of them. Their number one offender is…you guessed it…

  • “Just relax…”Fertility Center Corona CA
  • “Just enjoy being able to sleep late…travel…etc.,”
  • “There are worse things that could happen” (Oh, that’s all right then. Seriously?)
  • ‘Maybe God doesn’t intend for you to be a mother.’ (Oooh, that’s an awful one!)
  • “Why aren’t you trying IVF?”
  • “Why don’t you just adopt?”
  • “You’re young – you have plenty of time to get pregnant.”
  • “I’ll donate the sperm” (ouch…can we say crude?)

References

1 http://www.resolve.org/support/for-family–friends/infertility-etiquette.html

2 https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/1128/