Sometimes the road to parenthood can be challenging and pregnancy does not come easy, but many couples wait to seek the help they need because of preconceived fears about fertility treatment. Also, couples are often unsure about when it’s time to see a fertility specialist and instead put off this appointment to perhaps give it more time in the hopes pregnancy will happen without intervention.
A Shady Grove Fertility reproductive endocrinologist, Howard McClamrock, M.D., explains the basics about fertility treatment, why couples should seek fertility care sooner than later, and what should be taken into consideration when deciding on a fertility center.
1. When is the right time to see a fertility specialist?
Shady Grove Fertility follows the recommended guidelines for when to see a fertility specialist. Infertility is present based on the following definition. When a woman is:
- Under 35 with regular menstrual cycles and no pregnancy after 1 year
- 35 to 39 with regular menstrual cycles and no pregnancy after 6 months
- 40 or over with regular menstrual cycle cycles and no pregnancy after 3 months
Other conditions that may warrant an early evaluation include:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- History of pelvic surgery (such as the removal of an ovarian cyst, ablation of endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, tubal surgery, or ruptured appendix)
- Severely painful periods
- Other female fertility diagnosis
2. Are there still options for women to get pregnant after age 40?
A woman’s age is the single most important indicator of fertility potential. As you get older, getting pregnant becomes more difficult. However, if age does become a barrier to seeking treatment, Shady Grove Fertility offers donor egg treatment in which a woman uses another woman’s eggs (from an egg donor) rather than her own. Shady Grove Fertility has become the leading provider of donor egg treatment in the United States, performing more than 1,000 cycles last year alone.
3. What types of fertility treatment are available?
We always strive to do what’s in the best interest for our patients. This means utilizing an individualized approach to care, recommending patients begin with the simplest, most effective treatment options first based on their medical history, diagnosis, and personal circumstances.
Many patients start with a more basic treatment, such as ovulation induction (OI) or superovulation, coupled with intrauterine insemination (IUI). For patients needing advanced treatment, in vitro fertilization (IVF) offers the highest treatment success rates and outcomes.
4. How does IVF work?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a procedure in which a physician will remove one or more eggs from a woman’s ovaries that are then fertilized by sperm inside the embryology laboratory. In a normal ovulation cycle, one egg matures each month. The goal of an IVF cycle is to have many mature eggs available, as this will increase the chances of success with treatment. In order to have many mature eggs, patients use injectable medications for approximately 8 to 14 days to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.
To remove the eggs, patients will have an egg retrieval, where a physician will guide a needle into each ovary to remove the fluid along with the egg from each follicle. After the retrieval, the eggs and sperm are sorted and prepared. There are two ways that fertilization can take place: conventional insemination and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. The decision about which method to use is based on the quality of the sperm.
Embryo development begins when the fertilized eggs are placed in an incubator. Our embryologists examine each developing embryo very closely throughout the development process. Choosing the highest quality embryos to implant is the main goal of the embryologist since these are the ones most likely to result in pregnancy and ultimately a healthy baby. Embryologists evaluate embryos by appearance and by how they have progressed through the stages of development during the few days spent in the laboratory.
A physician will transfer the embryo(s) into a woman’s uterus on day 5 when they have reached the blastocyst stage or are considered to be high quality.
5. How important is the lab at a fertility center?
Shady Grove Fertility’s state-of-the-art embryology, andrology, and endocrine laboratories have reached national and international distinction for offering highly sophisticated laboratory procedures. Our three embryology laboratories in Rockville, MD, Chesterbrook, PA, and Towson, MD, are equipped with the very latest technology and are accredited by the Joint Commission and the College of American Pathologists (CAP). Our embryology labs are also accredited by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART), an organization whose mission it is to establish and maintain standards for assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to ensure patients receive the highest possible level of care. SART clinics meet the highest standards for quality, safety, and patient care. Because accurate and reliable lab results can significantly impact patient outcomes, Shady Grove Fertility invests tremendous resources to ensure we maintain these accreditations.
6. What should you look at in a practice’s success rates?
For reproductive endocrinologists there are two numbers that represent a successful cycle: “clinical pregnancy rate” and “ongoing/live birth rate.” The difference in the two numbers is due to the number of miscarriages—pregnancies that did not result in a viable birth.
Many patients consider success rates a primary reason for selecting a fertility center—and rightfully so. When reviewing IVF success rates, be educated and learn how to compare apples to apples—are you looking at a clinical pregnancy rate or ongoing/live birth rate? Are you looking at all age groups or a select demographic? At Shady Grove Fertility, we pride ourselves in giving patients all statistics available not only in the spirit of transparency but also so that you can make the most informed decisions. Ultimately, your success rates will depend on many factors including your diagnosis, age, and previous fertility history. View the latest 2015 IVF success rates.
7. Are high-tech treatments the only way patients become pregnant?
When patients meet with their physician, they are often surprised to learn that in vitro fertilization (IVF) may not be their first course of treatment. In reality, most patients start with a more basic treatment option. In fact, about 50 percent of treatment cycles performed at Shady Grove Fertility include ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI)—basic treatments requiring less medication and fewer monitoring appointments with a lower cost. Approximately 25 percent of patients at Shady Grove Fertility achieve a pregnancy through simpler treatment options.
8. What if we don’t have insurance coverage for treatment?
Shady Grove Fertility works with over 30 insurance providers and, as a result, 90 percent of patients with insurance have coverage for their initial consultation. Further, 70 percent have at least some if not full coverage for diagnostic testing and treatment. For those individuals who do not have insurance coverage for treatment, we offer exclusive financial programs—discount programs and guarantee programs to help make treatment more affordable. Our top priority at Shady Grove Fertility is to clear the obstacles our patients face when trying to start a family. We feel that by reducing or eliminating the financial stress of fertility treatment, our patients have a better overall experience and outcome.
9. If I am not ready to get pregnant yet, how can I prepare my body for future conception?
While it’s very important to have healthy lifestyle habits while pregnant, these same behaviors are just as important when you’re trying to conceive. Staying physically active, eating well, and quitting smoking are some of the many ways that you can prepare your body to be in the best possible shape for trying to conceive. Even simple lifestyle changes can improve fertility health and have a tremendously positive impact on the ability to conceive.
Seeking fertility treatment early offers the best chances of success, so let us help you get started. To schedule an appointment at one of our 25 locations, please call our New Patient Center and one of our New Patient Liaisons will happily assist you. Please call 1-877-971-7755 or click to complete this simple form.
At Shady Grove Fertility, we’re here to give you the caring support you deserve as you start or grow your family. As a leading fertility and IVF center of excellence, we offer patients individualized care, innovative financial options, over 30 accepted insurance plans, and pregnancy rates among the highest of all national centers. We offer patients the convenience of 19 full-service and 6 satellite locations across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. More than 1,700 physicians choose Shady Grove Fertility to refer their patients, and more than 96 percent of our patients say they would recommend Shady Grove Fertility’s 39 physicians to a friend. With 10 Shady Grove Fertility babies born each day, your dream of starting or growing your family are within reach.