SALT LAKE CITY — Couples who have a hard time conceiving a child could get help by taking vitamins in conjunction with other fertility treatments.
That's the idea behind a new study from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Utah.
Jeff and Lauren Wall have become relaxed and at ease in their Salt Lake City home. The tension over trying to conceive a baby is now a thing of the past. The couple is expecting twins. She's nine weeks pregnant.
"Every time we found out that we weren't pregnant, then let's be honest, I'd be a little grouchy," said Lauren Wall.
The couple married two and a half years ago and wanted to start a family right away but were having trouble. They then worked with specialists at a few fertility clinics. At times the couple traveled to Provo, an hour each way, for a four-minute consultation with a fertility specialist.
"That was discouraging because that was two hours out of my day without providing any answers," said Jeff Wall. "We expected results after several months of trying but the doctors that we saw told us to keep trying that everything would be OK."
Instead, Jeff and Lauren became more frustrated after hearing the same message from fertility specialists. Finally, after trying to conceive a child for two years, they heard about the fertility study at the University of Utah Health Care and became participants.
"By the time we had gone through all of the testing," said Lauren Wall. "Sometimes there aren't answers for why you have trouble."
However, Dr. Ahmad O. Hammoud, the study's author, had a good idea why the couple was having trouble conceiving a child. Hammoud is the medical director at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine at the University of Utah Health Care, where the Walls are his patients.
In a study not yet published, researchers studied the fertility levels of over 15,000 Utah men with an average age of 32 years old. Hammoud found male fertility rates in Utah declined 1 percent every year for the last 10 years. He said he found a direct correlation between diet, pollution and male infertility.
"In the months we have inversion, we see a drop of ten percent of male fertility," said Hammoud, a doctor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the U of U. "Turns out there are a lot of molecules in the environment that can affect negatively male fertility through damaging the genetics of the sperm."
To address the infertility problem, the National Institutes of Health chose Minnesota and Utah to conduct a five year double-blind, placebo controlled study. The study requires men to take high doses of zinc and folic acid in conjunction to women continuing other fertility treatments.
"Vitamins can have a strong anti-oxidant effect," Hammoud said. "They can have a positive effect on rebuilding material for the genetics of the sperm."
Hammoud said the vitamin cocktail is approved by the Federal Drug Administration. He said the study is safe because his clinic is not handling heavy medications that will have side effects.
When doctors at the clinic tested Jeff and Lauren Wall, the couple learned that Jeff would be a good candidate for the study.
"My sperm count, my testosterone levels were uber-low," Jeff said. "It was our first shot. We were on the vitamins for 30 days and it was our first try and to have that kind of success is huge."
The study doesn't claim to fix infertility among couples, but the Walls' believe it helped them be successful.
The University of Utah Folic Acid and Zinc Supplementation Trial (FAZST) study hopes to recruit 2,400 couples to participate in this study that will take place over the next five years.