How was your experience with Shawn Gurtcheff at Utah Fertility Center?
My husband and I started out seeing Dr. Peterson with the University of Utah. We had all three cycles of IUI with him. When we started into the IVF process, things got really messy and we knew that it wasn't the right fit. So we decided to do our homework. We had some good friends who had been to Utah Fertility Center, and had loved their experience. So we decided to set up a consult with Dr. Gurtcheff. Right away, we felt completely comfortable with her and even though we were taking this huge leap in the fertility world; we felt confident that we would be successful with her and she would guide us through the process each step. Dr. Gurtcheff was very confident that we would be successful. We were the "picture perfect" candidates for IVF and even though I had low egg reserve, we were sure that we would be successful on the 2nd or 3rd cycle. We started into our cycle, and I began injections, medications, daily appointments, etc. My body responded really well and I was one of the lucky ones who didn't have too many side effects from all the hormones. I did end up having to stem for an extra two days, so i did a total of 12 days of injections. Normally, I didn't see Dr. Gurtcheff for the ultrasounds (these were performed by the Nurse Practitioners or PA's). So on the day of egg retrieval, I was very excited to see our doctor again. She was very sensitive to my needs, taking the time to go over any questions we had before the retrieval. She was very kind and caring, almost nurturing in a way. This process is scary, and she helped ease our minds. The egg retrieval went really well, and we ended up with 17 follicles. Over the course of the 5 days, we ended up with 7 perfectly healthy embryos. So we felt very fortunate. We did not do PGS testing because we didn't really fit the bill. Looking back now, I wish so badly we would have. We proceeded with a 5 day fresh transfer and transferred 1 embryo. We froze the remainder. One thing I want to mention here is that I have a history of having an inadequate cervix (I had two surgeries on my cervix in the past). Dr. Gurtcheff was extremely concerned about this and took all the appropriate measures to ensure that we were handling the situation appropriately. She did not feel comfortable transferring more than 1 embryo at a time where we did not know how my cervix would hold up under pressure. I felt very confident in her expertise and knowledge, as well as comforted knowing she had my best interest in mind. The first cycle was unfortunately unsuccessful, but we had been prepared that might be the case. We didn't let us deter us, and we pressed forward. The first frozen transfer went smoothly; again, Dr. Gurtcheff was fabulous and walked us through the procedure. We chatted through the transfer like old friends. Fast forward... the second transfer also failed. We were all perplexed, but we still felt hopeful because we had 5 frozen embryos still and knew our chances continued to increase with each subsequent transfer. We proceeded with our third transfer (second FET). With hopeful hearts, we waited the 2 weeks (anyone in the fertility world knows that this is the worst 2 weeks ever and truly feels like a lifetime). The wait was finally over, we got the call and we were ecstatic to find out that we were pregnant! FINALLY pregnant! After 3 years of infertility. I can honestly say that is probably the happiest day of my life. Dr. Gurtcheff was excited for us and we started to prepare for the next step. A week later, I went in for an HCG test to make sure my levels were still rising. Unfortunately, they had not, and in fact, they had dropped. I was having a miscarriage and the pregnancy was not viable. We were crushed. Just like that, it was taken away from us. With no further answers, we directed our questions to Dr. Gurtcheff, and although she was uncertain why it hadn't worked either, she was sensitive and caring and literally spent almost an hour with me on the phone to comfort me and talk me through possible scenarios as well as new plans to move forward. Moving through the next few cycles was hard, and I was losing hope with each failed round. Dr. Gurtcheff did research and we tried new things, and new medications. We even tried a non-medicated cycle on one of them, and just used my own bodies hormones. We also transferred 2 embryos on another. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, none of them worked. We never even became pregnant again. At this point, I had been diagnosed with repeated implantation failure. After 6 full transfers, and no successful live births, we had officially shut down and our hearts were broken. We knew we needed to take a break. Dr. Gurtcheff remained compassionate and understanding. We met for a final consult after our last failed round, and we discussed the next plan of action; another retrieval, with PGS testing this time, and a few other tests. One or two more transfers, possibly. Then, we start looking at surrogacy if needed. Statistically, couples are more likely to be successful on their 6th or subsequent transfer. We hold onto that and hold onto the hope that when we are ready to try again, we will be successful and will get our miracle baby. It has been 4 years since we started infertility treatments, and we have not been successful yet. It has been truly the hardest trial of our lives. Even though we were not successful, I can honestly say that Dr. Gurtcheff made the process easier. Infertility is not an easy subject, and I'm sure that going into the profession is not an easy choice. Watching couples be successful is the most rewarding part of their job. But when couples aren't successful, it also negatively affects them, and I believe that Dr. Gurtcheff was sincerely disheartened every time we got a negative result. She felt the emotions with us. We have since taken 7 months off, and we are focusing on other things right now. But when we are ready to try again, we will be returning to Utah Fertility Center and we will see Dr. Gurtcheff. We have invested a lot of money and time, and emotions into this trial, and coming up empty handed has been extremely hard. But we are strong-willed, and are not ready to give up the fight yet.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Shawn Gurtcheff at Utah Fertility Center?
Make sure you have all the questions you want answered at the time of your consult. Also, inquire about resources; i.e. therapy, help groups, etc. My husband and I didn't really look into these options in the beginning and they would have been very useful throughout the process. I'm pretty sure it was mentioned in the consult, but perhaps it should have been a bigger part of the conversation. Infertility is very taxing on a couple and a marriage.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Shawn Gurtcheff at Utah Fertility Center?
Dr. Gurtcheff was extremely patient and sensitive to our needs and emotions the entire time. Unexplained infertility is a very emotional and taxing diagnosis. When you don't know why it's not working; its as frustrating to the doctor as it is for the patient. Dr. Gurtcheff was genuinely upset each failed cycle. She took additional time to help us through each failed cycle, and spent hours explaining as much as possible. Even though we were not successful, I love Dr. Gurtcheff and when we are ready to try again (for a complete new cycle and egg retrieval), I would go back to her in a heartbeat. Another thing I have to mention is that she always took the time to call me directly, rather than having her nurses do it.
Describe the protocols Shawn Gurtcheff used in your cycles at Utah Fertility Center and their degree of success.
I sort of already discussed our cycles in detail but some of the specifics I can remember that we did differently:
1) not transferring more than 1 embryo at a time (with the exception of one cycle and only after consulting with my high risk doctor).
2) 5 medicated cycles, and 1 natural cycle
3) Repeated testing (I did 2 HSG tests. Which btw are the WORST). But, when I had my first, i was with a different doctor and they did not put me under and I almost passed out from the pain. When Dr. Gurtcheff did it the second time, she was shocked to learn that they hadn't put me to sleep. We did this the second time and it was a much more pleasant experience. Again, a reason why Dr. Gurtcheff is amazing.
4) We tried a new medication called Neupogen due to repeated implantation failure.
5) We did not do PGS testing on our embryos. We plan to do that when we do our next full cycle.
Describe your experience with the nursing staff.
For the most part, the nurses and staff were really great to work with. I feel like I had a better overall experience with my nurses that were assigned to my FET cycles rather than my fresh. Occasionally, I felt like it was difficult to get in touch with the staff, and often felt like I was leaving voicemails rather than actually speaking to someone the first time I called. I do think that they organized my cycles really well, and they were good about getting medications called in in an appropriate time frame. The only complaint I think I had was sometimes, I waited longer in the waiting room, even though I had appointments, than I should have. But that's to be expected. In all honesty, 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, and we are in Utah, where more people are having families. I think that the clinic is extremely busy and I think they do the best they can to juggle the patient volume. I never felt like I was being ignored or like I wasn't a priority. Every patient there is there for the same reason I was; to have a baby.
Describe your experience with Utah Fertility Center.
The clinic is clean and organized. It's very welcoming. The baby pictures offer hope, and bring a smile to your face even when you're feeling hopeless. I live in Salt Lake City and I Loved how I could have all my blood draws and ultrasounds done at the Murray clinic (which is conveniently close to my house). This made each cycle so much easier to navigate. The amount of appointments per cycle is crazy, and it would not have worked as well if I would have had to drive to Pleasant Grove for every single one. The egg retrieval, HSG testing and embryo transfers were all done at the Pleasant Grove center. The PG clinic is very clean and I like the layout of it. Both clinics are conveniently located close to the freeway. I would always recommend going in comfy clothes when you go for your retrievals and transfers. Wear pants that are lose and comfortable because most likely, you'll go home and sleep/rest for a few days. Also, always, always, always wear socks! Warm feet= warm uterus! :) But for real, it's just better to have socks on when you're walking around the rooms in bear feet.
Describe the costs associated with your care under Shawn Gurtcheff at Utah Fertility Center.
OH boy.. how can I forget the absorbent costs associated with infertility treatments. hah. From beginning to end, with four years of infertility treatments, we have spent close to 30,000 dollars on TTC. Between medications, IUI, additional testing and actual IVF. Unfortunately, neither of our organizations that we work for, nor do our insurance companies, help with infertility expenses. It's always been a very troubling concept to me. They say where it's elective, it's not covered. But I can vouch for every single woman who struggles to have a child naturally, that being infertile is NOT elective. No one chooses to be diagnosed with infertility. Yes, the process of moving forward with infertility treatment is a choice; but only after couples have exhausted all other options. As women, we are physiologically designed to conceive and carry babies. When that piece of you is broken, it's an internal struggle every day to really believe that something is wrong with you. I wish more insurance companies would consider this. IVF is expensive. But how can you put a price on true happiness; how can you put a price on a child of your own.
Describe Shawn Gurtcheff's approach to eSET (elective single embryo transfer) vs. multiple embryo transfer at Utah Fertility Center.
We chose to do ICSI and had great results. We got 7 embryos that all made it to the full blastocyst stage and thawed beautifully each time. We did not grade them. But they always looked beautiful under the microscope. Obviously, there is no way to truly know without doing PGS testing.
What specific things went wrong at Utah Fertility Center?
- Failed to call in prescriptions to pharmacy