- Heavier women may have less IVF success
- N.Korea set to consider nuclear moratorium - Kremlin
- WITNESS - Trapped in Tripoli hotel, journalists were the enemy
Posted: 24 Aug 2011 08:21 PM PDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The heavier a woman is, the more trouble she may have getting pregnant and having a baby through in vitro fertilization, or IVF -- and may lose the baby more often, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers led by Barbara Luke of Michigan State University found that women who were overweight or obese were less likely to become pregnant using fertility treatments than normal-weight women.
Past studies have also hinted at worse IVF outcomes in heavier women, although they don't prove that the extra weight is directly responsible for the reproductive troubles those women experience.
"Treatment and pregnancy failures with increasing obesity significantly increased starting with overweight women," Luke and her colleagues wrote in Fertility and Sterility.
They drew data from a reporting system that includes more than 90 percent of IVF treatments done in the United States -- information on 150,000 fertility treatment cycles done in 2007 and 2008 at 361 different clinics.
For each cycle, the reporting system included whether the cycle was canceled, if it led to a pregnancy, and whether that pregnancy ended early in a miscarriage or stillbirth, or if the woman gave birth to a live baby. For most cycles, it also had data on women's height and weight before starting treatment.
From the beginning through the end of fertility treatment, heavy women saw poorer results.
"We know that being overweight and obese is not good (for IVF), it's just how bad is it and where are the bad effects?" said Brian Cooper of Mid-Iowa Fertility in Clive, who wasn't involved in the study.
About nine percent of cycles in normal-weight women were stopped early, compared to 16 percent of cycles in the heaviest women -- those with a body mass index over 50, which is equivalent to a 1.6 metre (5 foot 5 inch) woman who weighs over 136 kg (300 pounds).
Normal weight women had a 43 percent chance of getting pregnant during each cycle using their own, fresh eggs for IVF, compared to 36 percent for very heavy women. Rates for overweight and less obese women fell in between.
For women who did get pregnant, the trend continued, with the heaviest about twice as likely as normal-weight women to lose the baby in many cases.
For overweight and obese women trying to get pregnant, even a little bit of weight loss helps, said Howard McClamrock, an infertility specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
"This is what we're constantly faced with: ideally she might like to lose weight, but she might not have that much time," added McClamrock, who was not involved in the study.
Though he noted that research has been pointing more and more towards a connection between extra weight and worse IVF outcomes, the reason is unclear.
One explanation is that extra fat tissue releases estrogen, which fools the brain into thinking the ovaries are working when they really aren't, so it doesn't do its part to kick the ovaries into gear, Cooper said.
Luke and her colleagues said that thin and heavy women may have different causes of infertility, though they added that they did not have data on lifestyle factors that may affect IVF success, or any data on the male partners.
Thin and normal-weight women generally had higher rates of endometriosis, in which cells from the lining of the womb grow on other organs. Polycystic ovary syndrome, where the ovaries become enlarged and contain several small cysts, were more common in very heavy women.
Cooper said that weight still isn't as big an issue for fertility as age, or whether a woman smokes.
"Weight isn't everything, but it's an important factor that we have control over. Fix it now, because even a little bit (of weight loss) can make a big difference," he added. SOURCE: http://bit.ly/pjwsra
(Reporting by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 24 Aug 2011 08:21 PM PDT
SOSNOVY BOR, Russia (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised on Wednesday to consider suspending nuclear arms tests and production if international talks on Pyongyang's atomic program resume, a Kremlin spokeswoman said.
The pledge, made at talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, was intended to improve the chances of reviving the six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks that collapsed when North Korea walked out of them in 2008.
Diplomats, however, may treat it with caution as they say Pyongyang has flouted past agreements over its nuclear weapons ambitions and is unlikely to give up efforts to build an atomic arsenal it sees as a bargaining tool with the outside world.
"Kim Jong-il expressed readiness to return to six-party talks without preconditions," Medvedev's spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said after the president met Kim at a military base in the Siberian town of Sosnovy Bor near Lake Baikal.
"In the course of the talks the North Koreans will be ready to resolve the issue of imposing a moratorium on testing and production of missile and nuclear weaponry."
The reclusive North Korean leader, who arrived in nearby Ulan-Ude on Tuesday in an armoured train and wore a khaki military uniform, did not speak to reporters after the talks, held 4,420 km (2,750 miles) east of Moscow.
Timakova's comments made clear North Korea wanted to discuss a moratorium only after six-nation talks resume with Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Washington and Seoul say it must agree to a moratorium before talks reconvene.
The talks are intended to provide impoverished and secretive North Korea with economic aid as an incentive for giving up its nuclear weapons program.
Moscow and Beijing have called for a quick resumption of talks. Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say they are willing to resume the talks where they left off, but that Pyongyang must first show it is serious about denuclearising.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said Kim's reported offer was "insufficient" to warrant a resumption of the nuclear talks.
"If it's true, a welcome first step, but far from enough," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. "We will not go back to six-party talks until North Koreans are prepared to meet all of the commitments that we've all laid out."
Medvedev said after meeting Kim that progress had been made on a long-discussed proposal to build a natural gas pipeline to South Korea that would pass through the North.
"As for gas cooperation -- there are results," he told reporters. "I understand that North Korea is interested in implementing this kind of trilateral project."
Medvedev gave few details but said a commission was being formed to develop the proposal and a South Korean delegation had recently visited Russian natural gas company Gazprom.
The time and day of Wednesday's meeting were not announced until the last minute although Kim, 69, had been traveling across Russia since arriving near the Pacific coast on Saturday. He traveled by train because of his fear of flying.
Kim was driven to the military base in a black Mercedes car. He had spent the previous day boating on Lake Baikal, North Korea's state news agency said.
"Thanks to special attention and care on your part, Mr. President, we are having a happy trip," he told Medvedev.
During Communist times, Moscow picked Kim Jong-il's father to lead North Korea but Russian influence waned after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kim has left North Korea to visit China, which now has more influence on Pyongyang than Russia, three times in less than two years and has been seeking help from regional powers for his isolated nation, which is struggling with floods and economic sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program.
Citing a "severe deficit" of food products, Russia said on Friday it would send 50,000 tonnes of grain to North Korea by the end of September. The North has also been seeking foreign investment to improve infrastructure.
(Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk and Andrew Quinn in Washington, Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Vicki Allen)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 24 Aug 2011 06:18 PM PDT
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Most of our weeks in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel as "guests" of Muammar Gaddafi's government were marked by boredom and frustration.
But by the time a sniper's bullet shattered my satellite gear just after I set it up on a roof, the game had changed.
Rebel fighters swarmed into the city on Saturday night, taking government officials by surprise with the speed of their assault after months of backward-and-forward combat on several fronts across Libya.
The mood in the Rixos Hotel, designated home to foreign journalists covering the conflict as best they could from the government side, turned to anxiety.
The relationship with government minders who controlled our movements had always been antagonistic.
From Saturday onwards, as gunmen kept the 35 reporters, photographers and television crew penned up in the hotel, it dawned on us that we were pretty much being held hostage and could become human shields.
Food and water ran short, power blacked out. Outside we could hear the din of battle. But we were unable to report the war we had come to cover just as it reached its denouement.
We sweated it out for five days, increasingly fearful that we might become casualties of a fit of rage by our armed guards, a sudden attack by the rebels, or loyalist sniper fire.
When officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross ran into the lobby on Wednesday morning and told us to grab our gear and run, the relief and elation propelled me out through the door.
The luxury Rixos, with its pillared lobby and opulent decor, had always seemed like a gilded cage set amid the eucalyptus trees.
Even before the rebel assault, correspondents were prohibited from venturing out of the hotel on their own.
When we did leave, government minders hovered nearby during interviews and coached residents on their answers. They carted us to and from pro-Gaddafi rallies and showed us gory sites where they said NATO air strikes had killed civilians.
Gaddafi and his minions showed an absolute conviction his troops would vanquish the rebels it described as rats and traitors. Unfortunately for us, the government saw us as an extension of the Western effort to bring down "the brother leader".
They called us spies who called in coordinates for air strikes.
But their confident, if belligerent, mood changed last Saturday, when the rebels cut off Tripoli's sole link to the outside world and raced into the Mediterranean city for the final showdown.
The officials at the Rixos talked urgently into cell phones in the lobby and asked us for information from the frontlines. They still promised to fight to the death -- and they warned of an impending massacre no matter who won.
The fighting began after the Saturday evening meal and raged all night. We heard several air strikes but mostly the roar of mortar or rocket fire and automatic weapons. Tracer bullets landed on our balconies.
On Sunday morning, only a few of the hotel staff could be seen. The government minders and other officials either did not show up or melted away over the course of the day.
By nightfall, the hotel was almost deserted except for the pack of journalists, a few other foreigners, four cheerful cooks -- and a handful of armed young men.
Government troops stationed outside stood at the ready to protect the hotel and fend off rebels.
FEAR AND TEDIUM
The fighting around the hotel grew more intense. The air was thick with gunfire and the floors shook from the impact of rocket-propelled grenades.
We donned flak jackets and helmets. We carried sacks stuffed with necessities -- water, satellite phones, cameras -- into a windowless room on the second floor of the hotel.
The few remaining young Libyans, Gaddafi supporters who were incensed by what they saw was our support for the rebels, brandished weapons and shouted at us angrily. They were suspicious of our communications equipment and visibly on edge.
Over the next few days we drifted back and forth between fear and tedium. All but one of the remaining hotel staff disappeared, so we brought bread, cheese, fruit and bottled water from the hotel's kitchen.
Power and water failed for at least one full day, so we distributed electric candles that someone had found and filled empty bottles for washing from the hotel's Turkish baths.
Fighting continued around the hotel. For much of the time we were unable to make calls on our local cell phones, nor could we venture outside to use satellite phones because of the snipers.
The windows in the restaurant downstairs were shattered by a shot or shrapnel while two colleagues made tea.
A sniper's bullet hit my BGAN, the satellite transmission device, as I sat a few feet away writing emails. I dashed out of the room.
People stretched out on the floor of the hallway near our safe room, often wearing their body armour, dozing when they could. We draped a banner from the upstairs balcony that said 'press' so gunmen who might enter the hotel would know we were non-combatants.
The fear came and went that the hotel would be the scene of a showdown between Gaddafi forces and rebels.
Even as we received reports that most of Tripoli had fallen, the armed volunteers holding us there against our will were utterly convinced that the rebels would be repelled.
They were diehard Gaddafi supporters who suspected us -- cut off from the outside world as we were -- of distorting the situation to the rebels' favour.
Camaraderie saw us through the ordeal. We set up an impromptu cinema one day while we were camped out in the basement, but the screening of 'Point Break' on someone's laptop was interrupted by fighting that broke out near the hotel.
Nevertheless, spirits flagged as things wore on and we wondered when we would be freed.
On a desk in a room that had been occupied by government minders, we found printouts of private emails sent by us journalists -- apparent evidence that the correspondence had been monitored.
Wednesday morning dawned after another tense night that brought only a few hours of sleep for most of us and hours of discussions.
A bout of shouting with our armed guards in the lobby ended suddenly when the ICRC team rushed in the door and to our rescue. We didn't wait to settle the bill.
(Writing by Missy Ryan and Angus MacSwan, editing by Peter Millership)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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