New Answers for Infertility

“It was a shock when they told me I couldn’t have children on my own,” states Noreen McQuade of Needham. “We cried for three days,” her husband, Chris Mooney, adds. Noreen and Chris heard they were unable to conceive -- heart-breaking news that many people are hearing these days.

Nationally, more women are waiting longer to begin a family. When ready, many become aware that either they or their partner have a fertility problem.

Reasons can vary. In McQuade’s case, she had a blocked fallopian tube, which wasn’t discovered until she and her husband were trying to become pregnant. Sometimes, infertility is simply a matter of age. A woman’s fertility begins to decline in her mid to late 30’s. Men can be infertile due to a low sperm count. For both men and women, there are numerous physiological conditions that can result in infertility.

Advanced technology has stepped into the fertility arena with a dramatic and miraculous impact. In May 2002, Noreen McQuade gave birth to son Liam, marking the 100th pregnancy achieved through the Partners Reproductive Medicine Center of Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

The Newton-Wellesley center is a collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and directed by Jan Shifren, MD, and Mark Hornstein, MD. Both physicians are board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Both doctors are affiliated with the Vincent Infertility and Endocrinology Service at Massachusetts General, and Brigham and Women’s Center for Reproductive Medicine, two of the country’s most respected infertility treatment centers. They are faculty members at Harvard School of Medicine, and practice the most advanced approaches available for treating infertility.

Most pregnancies can be stimulated through methods considered “low-tech”, such as medications and hormonal therapies that induce ovulation. Timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination are also alternatives.

In a small percentage of cases, however, couples require one of the assisted reproductive technologies (ART), which overcome many causes of infertility by uniting sperm and egg in a laboratory. Success rates for these procedures have improved steadily since they were first introduced in the late 1970s. In vitro fertilization was the first ART procedure, and is still the most commonly used. (See glossary description.) These procedures give many infertile couples a chance of pregnancy that compares favorably to that of a fertile couple.

The Partners Reproductive Medicine Center of Newton-Wellesley Hospital provides consultation and treatment, including ovulation induction, ultrasound monitoring, blood tests, intrauterine insemination, and pregnancy testing. The center also offers educational programs in the advanced reproductive technologies, including classes in preparation for the use of injectable medications, intrauterine inseminations, and in vitro fertilization. Counseling is also available with a licensed clinical social worker that specializes in helping individuals and couples cope with the stresses of infertility.

Massachusetts mandates by law that health insurance providers cover infertility treatment, although each company may have specific restrictions regarding a limit to the number of covered treatments, or other factors. The clinic coordinator and patient accounts specialist at the Partners Reproductive Medicine Center of Newton-Wellesley Hospital help navigate the complexities of insurance coverage for their patients’ infertility treatment. They will obtain pre-authorization from insurers for the initial consultation, and also pursue authorization from patients’ insurance providers prior to intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. If required by a patient’s health plan, referral from a primary care provider may be necessary.

Partners Reproductive Medicine Center of Newton-Wellesley Hospital is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 4 pm. Weekend appointments are scheduled as needed. For more information about the Center’s services and/or an appointment telephone (617) 243-6566.

Glossary

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) • After ovarian hyperstimulation, eggs are aspirated from the ovaries through the vagina and mixed with sperm in the laboratory where fertilization occurs. Several days later, the embryos are transferred through the cervix into the uterus.

Gamete Intra-fallopian Transfer (GIFT) • After ovarian hyperstimulation, eggs are removed from the ovaries by laparoscopy, mixed with sperm in the laboratory, and immediately transferred to the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs within the woman’s body.

Zygote Intra-fallopian Transfer (ZIFT) • After ovarian hyperstimulation, eggs are aspirated from the ovaries through the vagina and mixed with sperm in the laboratory where fertilization occurs. One day later, the embryos are transferred directly into the woman’s fallopian tubes by laparoscopy.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) • Using very fine tools under a microscope in the laboratory, a single sperm is injected into a single egg to aid in fertilization.

Assisted Hatching • Using very fine tools under a microscope, a small opening is created in the shell of the fertilized egg in the laboratory to assist in embryo implantation.

Semen Cryopreservation • Sperm may be successfully frozen and thawed for use at a future date.

Donor Semen Program • Sperm may be obtained from a donor bank and inseminated at the time of ovulation.

Donor Egg Program • For women unable to produce their own eggs, eggs may be donated by another woman after ovarian hyperstimulation and used during an IVF cycle.

Embryo Cryopreservation • Embryos from one cycle may be frozen, stored, and successfully thawed for use in another cycle.

 

This material is intended to provide general educational information and to help users arrange more easily for health care services. This site is not an attempt to practice medicine or provide specific medical advice and should not be used to make a diagnosis or to replace or overrule a qualified health care provider's judgment. Nor should users rely upon this information if they need emergency medical treatment. We strongly encourage users to consult with a qualified health care professional for answers to personal questions.

 

 

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