Describe your experience with Seattle Reproductive Medicine.
SRM is a massive practice, with multiple locations, each with multiple doctors. If you are in the Seattle area, SRM is one of the top fertility clinics in the area. If you haven't already, check them out in the SART database; their success rates are second to none in the area, and they do more IVF cycles than any other practice. The reason I chose them was, with so many cycles a year and such high rates of success, I assumed their lab and overall team had the most experience and therefore would offer the best treatment and highest chance of pregnancy for my husband and me. As a patient, I also observed that they followed what I knew from research to be current best practices in the field.
With such a large practice, you might assume you wouldn't receive as much personal attention, but this was never the case for me at SRM. I never waited long--if at all--to get into an appointment; if I arrived early, they typically got me in early, which was awesome. When I arrived late on a couple occasions, they were still able to get me in fairly quickly. The receptionists were extremely friendly, as were the nurses, med techs, and doctors who saw me; and I saw people at Kirkland, Bellevue, and Seattle Westlake locations. I never felt rushed through an appointment. Everyone was happy to answer my questions, and when I needed to cry--as I did on a couple occasions--the staff was very compassionate and understanding. SRM even gave me a gift upon my "graduation" from their practice to my local OB. :-) I honestly loved being a patient at SRM. Even though SRM is a large practice, the individual locations make it feel smaller and more personal, while the experience of the lab, embryology team, and team of doctors ultimately results in excellent patient outcomes.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Akhil Shah at Seattle Reproductive Medicine?
Even though I know SRM treats a lot of patients, I always felt like they were happy to see me and remembered me. I also felt like I always received their full attention during my appointments--with Dr. Shah and with all the staff. It was a really great experience. I actually really looked forward to my appointments, and I enjoyed being in the office.
Describe your experience with your nurse at Seattle Reproductive Medicine. (Assigned nurse: Katie Allbaugh)
Katie was always extremely friendly and prompt in responding to my messages. She was also very prompt to call me back on the phone. I couldn't ask for a better nurse IVF coordinator.
How was your experience with Akhil Shah at Seattle Reproductive Medicine?
I honestly can't think of any weaknesses. During my appointments, Dr. Shah was always very thorough and clear in his explanations, and he was happy to answer any questions I had--and I always have a lot of questions. He is very personable, but still straightforward and calm and confident. This is actually my favorite kind of doctor personality--I find it easy to trust doctors like this. Dr. Shah was always quick to respond to any issues I might have. He even called me to follow up on a question I'd had via the Patient Portal one day, asking how I was feeling also, even thought that wasn't strictly relevant to my question. Additionally, everything Dr. Shah said and recommended in my treatment adhered to what I had learned were the newest best practices in IVF treatment, and that was extremely important to me. Dr. Shah never pushed my partner and me in any one direction in terms of treatment options, though he did make recommendations. I always felt very comfortable with him during all conversations and procedures.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Akhil Shah at Seattle Reproductive Medicine?
The only thing that might concern some patients is that Dr. Shah is young (and therefore supposedly inexperienced), but I think that is actually an asset in a field where best practices change so quickly. Dr. Shah has clearly excelled in his field, is extremely knowledgeable in REI, and is up-to-date in the newest practices and standards of care. Ask lots of questions, and Dr. Shah's knowledge, clarity, and personality should help you feel at ease. It did me.
Describe the protocols Akhil Shah used in your cycles at Seattle Reproductive Medicine and their degree of success.
IVF-ICSI. Approximately 10-12 days of estrogen to stop my cycle. Then started lowest recommended doses of Menopur and Gonal-F to stimulate egg production. About 8 days in started Cetrotide to stop me from ovulating too soon. Used Pregnyl to trigger ovulation 36 hours prior to egg retrieval.
Retrieved 19 eggs from one ovary; couldn't find the other ovary and believe it not to exist. Of 19 eggs, 15 fertilized; on day 5, 1 was ready for a Day 5 transfer, and on day 6, 3 were ready for freezing for future cycles.
We went with a low dose of the stimulation meds because I am a thin, small woman (5' 2", 120 lbs), and Dr. Shah wanted to reduce the risk of hyperstimulation. Even with that, I still mildly hyperstimulated, which is still the case, as I got pregnant from that transfer; but it's just resulted in certain exercise restrictions since I have an enlarged ovary. Dr. Shah had me back for an extra Ultrasound appointment to monitor the ovary and has since graduated me to my local OB for monitoring of the pregnancy and the ovary.
At one point, I was concerned about not getting eggs from the other ovary (which we now think doesn't exist), and asked about the possibility of restarting the cycle. Dr. Shah encouraged me to continue, because the responsive ovary was already doing very well, and we had a good chance of having a successful cycle regardless. I'm glad we did proceed.
Describe the costs associated with your care under Akhil Shah at Seattle Reproductive Medicine.
My IVF cycle cost about $13K with medications. It would have been closer to $16K, but they gave us a military discount. It costs $40 a month to store embryos--the same to store sperm. $120 for a uterine sounding. Otherwise, I can't remember. A lot of the diagnostics are billed to insurance, which is nice.
Describe Akhil Shah's approach to eSET (elective single embryo transfer) vs. multiple embryo transfer at Seattle Reproductive Medicine.
Dr. Shah--and indeed, I believe this is in accord with SRM's practices in general--strongly encouraged us to do eSET. I am 31, so my chances of having healthy embryos that would form healthy pregnancies was very high, so high that if we were to transfer two, my risk of multiples was 30%--too high for comfort, considering the risks accompanying multiple gestation. This was my understanding from research I'd already done, as well, so my husband and I came into treatment already wanting eSET. I also know a couple young women who have had twins from multiple embryo transfer, and I knew the risk was high.
I believe if I had been an older woman or had already had failed previous transfers or cycles, the recommendation would have been different. However, since this was my first IVF and there was no reason to believe we wouldn't be successful with eSET, that was the recommendation. It's my understanding that this is considered a best practice by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, as well. I'm glad we went that way.