This year, National Infertility Week runs from April 24th to April 30th, and for many who have struggled to conceive, it holds special meaning. Locally, Greenwich Fertility has been providing reproductive services for the Fairfield/Westchester counties communities for almost 20 years. Yale Medicine physicians provide best-in-class care at offices in both Greenwich, CT and Tuckahoe, NY.
“We offer the full spectrum of fertility evaluations and treatments including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), fertility preservation (egg freezing), gestational carrier services, use of donor sperm and donor eggs, and reproductive surgery,” says Barry Witt, MD, medical director, Greenwich Fertility Center and associate professor of Clinical Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Yale School of Medicine. We spoke to Dr. Witt to learn more about what Greenwich Fertility has to offer, the latest developments in the field and more.
What separates your approach from other fertility practices?
We pride ourselves in our ability to provide personalized, compassionate care in a “boutique” practice, but also in having the most current technology and equipment and highly trained professional fertility nurses and embryologists. As a Yale-affiliated program, we have access to expertise that would be difficult to find in another suburban, community fertility center. We are also very rooted in providing evidence-based care and avoid unproven, untested treatments that are not clearly beneficial, and may have adverse effects.
What can someone expect when they come to you for the first time?
Our initial consultations at this time are mostly done virtually in order to allow us to get to know our patients (and vice versa) in a safe environment. During that visit, a complete history is obtained from the patient (or couple) and we have a detailed discussion of the causes of infertility, the various tests that should be scheduled, and the possible treatments that may be recommended. We encourage our patients to ask questions!
How has the infertility field changed in the past 20 years?
There have been major changes in the field over the past 20 to 30 years. Major improvements in success rates with fertility treatments have resulted from advances in genetics and cryopreservation (freezing) techniques. IVF success rates have more than doubled during that time. The great advances in genetic testing of embryos have allowed us to better identify which embryos will result in a healthy pregnancy and avoid miscarriages. This process, called preimplantation genetic testing, involves taking a small number of cells from an embryo and screening its chromosomes to make sure it has the normal number of chromosomes. Freezing embryos has improved and freezing eggs is now no longer considered experimental as a result of a process called vitrification, which is a fast freezing process that has very high success rates associated with it.
What are the latest breakthroughs in the field?
The latest advances in genetic carrier screening allows us to test couples for over 400 different diseases in order to find couples at risk for having an affected child. We can then offer preimplantation testing to find embryos that are unaffected and allow them to have a healthy child. There is also a great deal of research currently ongoing to find non-invasive ways of assessing the chromosomes of embryos but this is not yet “ready for prime time”.
What are the biggest myths out there about fertility/infertility treatment?
There are many myths about fertility. One unfortunate myth is that anyone with infertility can get pregnant if they just do IVF. Unfortunately, for women in their mid-to-late 40’s, IVF doesn’t work very well because egg numbers decline and the quality of eggs diminishes. It is best not to wait to have children until you are in your late 30’s or 40’s because it may be very difficult to be successful, even with IVF. The ability to freeze eggs in the early to mid 30’s allows us to preserve fertility for those who aren’t ready to get pregnant at that time.
Timing of intercourse is an overrated parameter for fertility. It isn’t required to know the exact timing of ovulation since sperm can survive in the female reproductive system for days. The use of expensive devices for timing ovulation has not been demonstrated to be any better than just knowing your menstrual cycle and having mid-cycle intercourse every 2 to 3 days over that 1 week period of time.
What are some ways we can all boost our fertility naturally?
The best thing one can do to boost their fertility is to have a healthy lifestyle and avoid bad habits. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains and not eating processed foods may help. Avoiding cigarette smoking, alcohol use, marijuana and limiting caffeine intake may help. Getting adequate exercise and sleep is also important. If you are obese, then weight loss would be a good recommendation prior to trying to conceive. If you have any medical conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, those need to be well controlled before getting pregnant.
When should a couple seek treatment for infertility?
The recommendations for waiting to seek treatment are typically 1 year for women under 35 or 6 months for women 35 or older. However, earlier evaluation is recommended for women with irregular periods, a history of endometriosis, or other significant gynecologic history.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Don’t be afraid to seek out help. In many cases, simple treatments or recommendations can be successful without having to go as far as doing IVF. Delaying treatment has the risk of further reduction is fertility due to aging, especially for women over 35, so make an appointment with a specialist if you are having trouble conceiving. Reproductive endocrinologists have an additional 3 years of training and have to go through multiple examinations to become board certified, so they are in a position to provide the most effective treatment.
To make an appointment at Greenwich Fertility:
55 Holly Hill Lane. Suite 270
Greenwich, CT 06830
This story is sponsored by Yale Medicine.