by Sue Ann Rybak
Infertility affects about one in eight couples. Unfortunately, it is often a subject that goes largely undiscussed. Dr. Caleb Kallen, a fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist with Shady Grove Fertility, wants to change that. SGF is hosting a free Fertility Social on Dec. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at AR Workshop, 8702 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill.
Kallen, who attended Germantown Friends High School, said infertility affects “15% of all couples.”
“It’s not something anyone should be ashamed of,” he said. “Having difficulty getting pregnant is common. And in many cases, we are able to identify and treat the problem. In some cases, our testing comes back normal, and that’s called unexplained infertility. We have a great number of tools to help depending upon what we find. If you think about it by ingredients, we are going to need an egg, sperm, and at least one, open fallopian tube and a receptive environment in the uterus where it has to implant.
“In our initial evaluation, we try to check out each of these developments and determine how many problems we have. We have treatments for people who are just not ovulating, which is a very common problem. One of the most common problems for that is polycystic ovarian syndrome.”
Kallen said that 7% of all women have this. He added that scarring on the fallopian tubes is another common problem, that may be caused by several conditions including endometriosis. There are still ways to get pregnant without fallopian tubes, which involves in vitro fertilization. He said in IVF, a physician will remove one or more eggs from the ovaries that are then fertilized by the sperm in the laboratory.
He said one of the biggest misconceptions ab out infertility is that it is a women’s issue. About one-third of males and about one-thirf of females have fertility issues.
“We really have to assess both partners,” Kallen said. “Either one or both can be contributing factors. Some of them are treatable and reversible, and then you just have to work with the sperm you have. We always discuss all the treatments and their success rate. And of course, their risks.
“One of the most important things to remember for fertility for women is that time is the enemy. Somewhere around the age of 35, most women begin to experience diminishing egg supply, and that is probably one of the most common reasons couples come to us. The age of the woman is one of the most important predictors of success.”
He said ideally, around the age of 35, it would be his “wish that people would think about their long-term plans” and if those long-term plans included having a family, that they would consider coming in for some basic testing such as a blood test.
Kallen added that it is unfortunate that one of the biggest misconceptions some people have about IVF is that people think they can have a baby at any age.
“Patients see celebrities having babies and twins at 45, 47, 51, and so the interpretation is that all you have to do is go to a specialist and have a baby whenever you are ready,” he said. “And that is misleading. Almost all of those people who are having babies after age 44 are using donor eggs, and that’s a different category of treatment that I want patients to know about.
“In cases in which the egg supply is so diminished that even the most aggressive treatment is not going to work such as IVF, and that is the majority of where IVF will not work. There is an option to use donor eggs, but donor eggs are never Plan A. No woman ever grew up wishing to use a donor egg, but I can tell you it’s an incredibly important option for people determined to have children. And that’s not to say there aren’t 46-year-old women having babies – they do – it exists. It’s just probably the top 1% of women who are able to do that in terms of fertility.”
Visit Shady Grove Fertility's website for more information.