Dr. Levens is always very thoughtful in his approach. He explains everything as thoroughly and simply as he can and also takes the time to answer any questions. He keeps up with all of the latest research and gives his honest opinions about IVF treatments. We were slightly disappointed that he was so focused on the medicine side of things and didn't entertain any thoughts we had on a more holistic approach. Though he wasn't involved in all of our procedures, due to scheduling constraints, he was thoughtful enough to call afterwards.
[Shady Grove] Strengths: multiple locations; beautiful facilities; IVF costs slightly cheaper than some of the other options; large staff; up-to-date equipment and procedures; wellness center (providing nutrition, counseling, and acupuncture); talented doctors, nurses, embryologists, etc; shared risk program. Weaknesses: their size can make them come across as impersonable, the nurses have so many patients that they can get information wrong; before the new facility in Fairfax
How was your experience with Eric Levens at Shady Grove Fertility?
Dr. Levens is always very thoughtful in his approach. He explains everything as thoroughly and simply as he can and also takes the time to answer any questions. He keeps up with all of the latest research and gives his honest opinions about IVF treatments. We were slightly disappointed that he was so focused on the medicine side of things and didn't entertain any thoughts we had on a more holistic approach. Though he wasn't involved in all of our procedures, due to scheduling constraints, he was thoughtful enough to call afterwards. However, the calls usually came later in the evening, and if you missed one the only number given was the general office number, which made getting a hold of him frustrating. When our last cycle failed he set aside adequate time so that he could be sure to answer all of our questions and let us grieve. The only fault we found with this session was that he assured us that I had responded well to the updated protocol when we actually retrieved fewer eggs than the first cycle. When I asked what he would do with a third cycle, he responded that he would go back to the initial protocol and push the trigger medication at the end. This made us feel that the protocol didn't actually do what he had hoped, and it almost felt as though he was trying to save face.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Eric Levens at Shady Grove Fertility?
Do your research and go in with questions. Make sure you find out everything that you need and want to know.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Eric Levens at Shady Grove Fertility?
Our in-person discussions/interactions as well as phone calls with Doctor Levens were always very friendly, informative and in depth; however, our interactions with nurses and office staff often left us feeling frustrated and neglected.
Describe the protocols Eric Levens used in your cycles at Shady Grove Fertility and their degree of success.
Antagonist - Vivelle Protocol. No birth control pills due to my Factor V Leiden's (heterozygote) disorder.
Priming cycle: Vivelle patch, ganirelix
First cycle: Follistim and Menopur; Pregnyl for "Trigger"; Zithromax taken day before retrieval; Progesterone in oil taken pre-transfer. This resulted in 10 retrieved eggs, 6 mature, 5 fertilized, 1 embryo. Embryo was biopsied for pre-genetic screening and came back normal. Embryo resulted in a chemical pregnancy.
Second cycle: Gonal F, Menopur, and microdose Lupron (to hopefully aid in producing more eggs); Pregnyl for "Trigger"; Zithromax taken day before retrieval; This resulted in 6 retrieved eggs, 5 mature, 5 fertilized, 0 embryos.
Dr. Levens commented that several of the follicles didn't have viable eggs to retrieve which is why if he did a third cycle he would attempt to push the trigger harder with Pregnyl as well as Microdose Lupron.
Describe your experience with your nurse at Shady Grove Fertility.
Most of the nurses I came in contact with were very capable, helpful, and compassionate, but there were several mishaps that made the process much more stressful than we hoped for. I had two primary nurses during my care. The first nurse was very personable but we had several instances where I had to correct her or ask for more detailed information on protocol. It could also be frustrating getting an answer from her in a timely manner because she was out of the office quite frequently. Eventually she left the company for another position. The second nurse was definitely better at getting back to us and helping us to feel looked after; however, there were still times we still felt like the amount of money we were paying didn't match the service we received. One of the biggest mishaps that we think is important to share was during the embryo development stage of our second cycle. The team had decided to push our embryos to day 7 because they were right on the edge of the blastocyst stage. On day 7 we waited the entire day to hear our results, holding out hope that no answer could be a good thing. By 4:00pm we finally had to call the after hour line because no one had called us. The after hours nurse called back and said that Dr. Levens had wanted to call us personally but that she could give us the results. She then proceeded to tell us that our embryos had stalled in their progression and had been discarded. When I told her we had waited all day by the phone, she replied, "Really?" So after waiting all day we heard the most devastating news we could hear from someone we didn't know and who didn't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. Dr. Levens called back very quickly after that and apologized profusely; however, we can't help but feel we were misused. We understand that there were good intentions but feel it was a very insensitive thing to put us through.
Describe your experience with Shady Grove Fertility.
Strengths: multiple locations; beautiful facilities; IVF costs slightly cheaper than some of the other options; large staff; up-to-date equipment and procedures; wellness center (providing nutrition, counseling, and acupuncture); talented doctors, nurses, embryologists, etc; shared risk program.
Weaknesses: their size can make them come across as impersonable, the nurses have so many patients that they can get information wrong; before the new facility in Fairfax, all of my procedures were done by doctors other than mine.
We also think it is important to note that at the time of our contract signing, the shared risk was only for those 38 and younger, making me at 39 ineligible to participate. Three weeks after treatment began, they updated the program to include 39-40, but did not make us aware of the upcoming changes.
Describe the costs associated with your care under Eric Levens at Shady Grove Fertility.
Because I was 39, I was ineligible for their shared-risk program. Our insurance doesn't cover infertility so we paid everything out of pocket.
Precycle costs (hysterosalpingogram, sperm testing, genetic testing, blood hormone tests, etc): At least $2,000
2 cycles, unlimited transfers: $18,500 (we only had 1 transfer)
$5,000 PGS for up to 6 embryos (we only tested 1 embryo)
Sedated transfer: $500
Discounted medications for 2 cycles around $12,000
What specific things went wrong at Shady Grove Fertility?
- Failed to call with results
- Provided conflicting information
- Failed to convey critical information
Describe the specific things that went wrong at Shady Grove Fertility.
I've already shared several things above; however, here are a few more things that made the process stressful:
Wrong information. For example: My nurse left a voicemail telling me to start my birth control pills. I have Factor V Leiden's which makes me more susceptible to blood clots and I should never take birth control. She called later with the correct information but instances like that can make you feel like just another number.
The medications coordinator called the pharmacies with the wrong insurance information so I had to call the pharmacies myself and figure out what was/wasn't covered and what the price difference was. She also left some of my prescriptions off the email to the pharmacy. Luckily I was able to spot the error and correct her list. All of this may sound simple, but when all of this is new to you and you're paying someone to do the leg work for you but don't feel like you can trust them, it can be very stressful.
I could list more but you get the idea. While there are many positive things I could say about the program, if someone asked me about my experience, I would say, "It could have been less stressful." It's hard to be so vulnerable, financially and emotionally, and feel like that investment isn't appreciated.