Patient Story

Heather & Brandon

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Tubal Disease
David S. Saffan, M.D.
Fairfax, Virginia
Rensselaer, NY
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
We always desired to have a family and started trying early in our marriage. After a year and still no pregnancy, we saw my OB/GYN to do some testing.
When the results came back she said everything looked normal and to just have sex days 11-21 of my cycle. Well, let me tell you that months of that get old very quickly! More time passed and still no pregnancy despite basal temping, regular intercourse, etc. We had just moved to the greater D.C. area so I approached my new OB/GYN about the issue.
She also did testing and we were told that the infertility was unexplained. We proceeded with three rounds of Clomid, an injection to induce ovulation, and timed intercourse through the OB/GYN. To our disappointment, we did not become pregnant. During this time we had several job changes and we took time off from medically pursuing having a child. However, we never prevented and even with everything going on we still held onto hope that maybe this month would be the month.

Going to SGF

After our life settled back down some we decided to schedule a consult at Shady Grove Fertility. Testing revealed that my left Fallopian tube was blocked and needed removal due to fluid. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism after exhibiting symptoms for years.
Once both of the items were taken care we proceeded with our first IVF cycle. I responded well, but it ended in no pregnancy and no frozen embryos. Our second IVF cycle ended when my trigger shot failed (I was told there were two patients out of almost 900 that this happened to and I happened to be one of them) and after retrieving three follicles they stopped and re-triggered me for a second retrieval 36 hours later.
I ended up having 22 eggs, but they were all too mature and only five embryos were created. None of the embryos survived the past 24 hours. I will never forget that phone call relaying the news to me.

Taking time off from treatment

We took some time off after this cycle to heal emotionally. It definitely took time for us to heal. For me, it was like I had miscarried a baby and I truly had to grieve the loss of the embryos. The community I had built through the SGF Facebook page helped tremendously. These women had been through similar feelings and could relate like most people in my life couldn’t.
Close friends and my church were a huge help as well, but the encouragement and listening ear of those who had gone through a failed IVF meant the world. My feelings were validated. My advice to someone going through a failed cycle is to take time to grieve their babies. Infertility is hard on your body, but it’s just as hard on your heart. Open up to others who you can trust. My faith played a large role in healing as well.

Trying again

Before proceeding with another round of IVF, I sought out a second opinion from Dr. Saffan. He was able to look at what happened during my 2nd IVF cycle and see that I was really undiagnosed PCOS. The way my body reacted to the meds told him that I am right on the border of PCOS and no one would ever treat me for it, despite having symptoms.
Dr. Saffan was willing to think outside of the box and for that, I will be forever grateful. Since I was now being treated for PCOS, we went backward and did three rounds of IUI because there was hope that now everything would line up. The IUIs did not result in a pregnancy, but they allowed Dr. Saffan to get to know my body and how it reacted to treatment.
IVF #3 went much better and my egg quality improved. Two embryos were transferred but did not result in a pregnancy. Two embryos made it to freeze though and that had never happened. We made the decision to do one last final fresh IVF cycle in December of 2013. I responded similarly to cycle #3 under Dr. Saffan and two embryos were transferred and two made it freeze.
This cycle had a very different outcome though and for the first time in 8.5 years I heard the words “you are pregnant!”
That pregnancy was very scary, to say the least, because one embryo actually split (the other passed away) and became mono/mono identical twins (Elijah & Joshua). I was hospitalized for 8 weeks, they took the boys at 32 weeks and we had an 8 week NICU stay.
Thankfully now they are doing amazing though! If our house wasn’t crazy enough we returned to SGF in September 2015 and transferred one beautiful embryo from an earlier cycle. That transfer resulted in our precious Samuel.
I am so thankful that we found SGF. It took a bit to get the fit right, but once we did it was amazing. Through every cycle, my nurse, Mary Hartman, was by my side. She was thorough, caring, and always answered my questions (no matter how many). Even when I switched doctors I was able to keep Mary.
After going through such rough cycles, it meant so very much to have someone I had grown to trust. Dr. Saffan was always very calm and never worried. He always said that he was going to get me pregnant! I am forever grateful for the knowledge he has from years of experience, but also that he keeps up with current technology and findings.
I would tell other SGF patients to be your own advocate. I was undiagnosed for so long because I was borderline and no one was willing to stop and take the time to consider the whole situation. It took me being proactive and informing myself to get to SGF and ultimately to Dr. Saffan.
Having Hope amongst infertility and a high-risk pregnancy from Heather Behlendorf on Vimeo.
My hope sometimes waned through the years, but I never gave up. Hold out hope, pursue hope. Get involved with others who are battling infertility as well. I became active on the SGF Facebook community and still stay in contact with those SGF Sisters to this day. Having someone who understands the process makes all the difference.


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Diagnosis and treatment

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In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Frozen embryo transfer (FET)
Polycystic ovary syndrome

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