8 Amazing Mom and Baby Health Advancements in 2014

This year saw a slew of groundbreaking advancements that will change fertility, pregnancy and infant health as we know it. Remote-controlled birth control, IVF breakthroughs, in-utero autism screening and more—these innovations are worth celebrating.
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By K. Aleisha Fetters, Contributing Writer
Updated March 2, 2017
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1. Three-Parent IVF  
Do you have a genetic mutation you’re afraid of passing on to your child? In as little as two years, you may be able to swap it out with mitochondrial replacement (aka three-parent IVF). During IVF, faulty mitochondrial DNA—which contribute to conditions like brain damage, heart failure and blindness—is replaced with healthy DNA from a donor. Though three-parent IVF has yet to be carried out in humans, the FDA is currently evaluating whether clinical trials can take place stateside. Read more here.

2.  A Contraception On/Off Switch
How’s this for cool? Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, biotech company MicroCHIPS is currently developing a tiny birth control device that’s implanted into your buttocks, upper arm or abdomen and controlled via remote control. Turn it on to release the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel, then turn it off when you’re ready to conceive. And, if you change your mind, just turn it right back on again. Bonus: It can prevent pregnancy for 16 years. Though it’s not available yet, keep tabs with your ob-gyn—it could be on the market by 2018. Read more here.

3. The First Birth From a Uterus Transplant
A hysterectomy may no longer stand between women and childbirth. A Swedish woman, who became one of the first people to receive a transplanted uterus, gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 2014. Let that sink in. This was the first child in the world to successfully be carried in a transplanted womb. The procedure will soon be coming to the States—Cleveland Clinic is planning a clinical trial for 2015, and experts hope the first US birth from a transplanted uterus will happen by late 2017. Read more here.

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4. In-Utero Autism Diagnosis
The sooner autism is detected, the sooner it can be treated. So it was very noteworthy when researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute discovered a genetic mutation that significantly increases a fetus’s likelihood to develop autism and autism-related subtypes. This is the first time that a genetic mutation has been directly linked to autism, and it’s a discovery that may allow doctors to diagnose the disorder in the womb, making it that much easier to get baby the help he needs once he’s born. Read more here.

5. Single-Embryo IVF Transfers 
Twins are a real and ever-present result of IVF, which makes single-embryo transfer a key advancement in the field. In this infrequently used procedure, doctors are able to implant just one embryo, rather than multiples, while achieving similar success rates. Get this: Currently less than 15 percent of IVF cycles in the country use single-embryo transfer, but select fertility centers are leading the way. At Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, for example, researchers are improving their ability to select viable embryos, and this year, more than 65 percent of its IVF cycles have happened with single transfers. “By having one baby at a time, a couple can maximize the chances of having a single healthy baby,” says RMANJ reproductive endocrinologist Thomas A. Molinaro, MD.

6. Stem Cell Gene Therapy
Each year, 100,000 babies are born with severe combined immunodeficiency. Also known as Bubble Baby disease, this heartbreaking illness isolates infants away from germs—and also from mom’s and dad’s hugs and kisses. But thanks to UCLA stem cell researchers, 18 babies born with the disease were cured with a groundbreaking form of stem cell gene therapy, which involves removing and genetically altering blood stem cells from baby’s bone marrow, and then re-introducing them back to create a healthy immune system. Even better, this new therapy can potentially help other childhood illnesses, like sickle cell disease. Read more here.

*_7. At-Home Vaginal Health Test
*_Ready to try for baby? An at-home ovulation kit isn’t the only test to add to your shopping list. Now you can check for vaginal infections at home with e.p.t’s new Preconception Health Test. Many women never show symptoms, but vaginal infections can mean trouble for the health of both mom and baby, not to mention interfere with conception. Luckily, this test makes detecting infections a whole lot easier, so you can get them treated _before _TTC, and get baby-making back on track. Learn more here.

8. Improved Embryo Screening
A single IVF attempt can cost upward of $17,000, but traditionally only one-third of IVF cycles stick, making it a very emotional and expensive process. But with the recently FDA-approved Eeva System, those odds may soon greatly improve, while the costs go way down. Using a sophisticated software program, this new system helps doctors determine the most viable embryos, rather than just eyeballing them the old way. “It’s helpful beyond words,” says fertility expert Michael Glassner, MD, of Main Line Health in Philadelphia. “It’s going to give a higher pregnancy rate; the miscarriage rate goes down. It’s just going to change the field.” Read more here.

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