Was It Time to Stop Assisted Reproductive Technology?

If it wasn’t for our amazing team cheering on Amy, she might have given up on assisted reproductive technology & her dreams of family.

Amy lying on a bed with her husband and baby Ava, who was born with assisted reproductive technology | LLU Center for Fertility & IVF | Loma Linda, CA
Amy, Marty and Ava.

After being together for 10 years, Amy and her husband got married and decided it was time to start a family. They were able to get pregnant naturally but unfortunately, she had a miscarriage. For the next year they tried to get pregnant, but they were unsuccessful.

Next, they sought out fertility treatments from a doctor at a clinic where Amy did four rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUIs), and they were all unsuccessful as well. They did a round of in vitro fertilization (IVF), and it didn’t work.

Stressed by fertility treatments and expenses

This was devastating to Amy and her husband, Marty, because these treatments are very expensive. The couple also had feelings of uncertainty and just being scared in general that they would be spending their life savings and wouldn’t have a child to show for it.

They weren’t feeling a great connection with their current doctor. With these troubling thoughts and the failures of five assisted reproductive technology treatments, Amy felt she needed to do some research and find a new doctor.

Smart shopping for the right fertility doctor

The couple used the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) website to search for the clinics with the best success rates in their area. They found Dr. Gihan Bareh at LLU Center for Fertility & IVF.

Different than other fertility doctors

Once she met with Dr. Bareh, Amy knew in her heart that Dr. Bareh was her doctor. Dr. Bareh went over her records from the other clinic and sat down with her for about an hour. Amy never expected this.

“As a nurse myself, I know Dr. Bareh is different than other doctors. She goes above and beyond, and she’s something very special,” says Amy.

It had been almost five years since Amy and her husband started their journey to grow a family and now, they had found the best of the best with Dr. Bareh and her team.

The promise of assisted reproductive technology, IVF in this case

Dr. Bareh suggested moving forward once again with IVF, the most advanced assisted reproductive technology. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is an advanced procedure that involves treatments that handle both sperm and eggs. IVF is the most well-known form of ART and the most successful. IUI is a more simplistic form of ART.

Another failure: chemical pregnancy

Initially, Dr. Bareh came up with a plan to give Amy supplements for three months to improve her chance of success. Amy’s IVF treatment resulted in six or seven good embryos.

But the embryo transfer resulted in a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy happens early on and is when the only sign of pregnancy is the presence of the chemical human chorionic gonadotrophic (hCG) hormone indicating implantation. But once the chemical level does not show, the embryo has ceased development.

Due to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing with treatment was delayed. As a COVID nurse herself, Amy knew all too well how the world essentially shut down and that she would have to put her dreams of starting a family on hold. They were heartbroken to have to wait another year to transfer again. But with Dr. Bareh, they were willing to wait.

Baby Ava, born with assisted reproductive technology, and her mom, Amy, visiting with Dr. Bareh and staff | LLU Center for Fertility & IVF | Loma Linda, CA
Baby Ava visiting Dr. Bareh and staff.

Encouraging Amy not to give up on assisted reproductive technology yet

After a year went by, Amy was able to do another transfer, but that ended in a miscarriage. So, when it came time for her third transfer at LLU Center for Fertility, Amy was very hesitant to start treatment and she was starting to give up. Seven failures were a lot of heartache for the couple to bear.

Amy was still very fearful of starting her fertility journey again because of the emotions involved, their finances riding on the treatments, and how it can all take a toll on a marriage. But the staff took the time to walk and talk Amy and her husband through their emotions along the way with the treatment. It made a difference.

Dr. Bareh would say, “Your success is my success,” which made Amy feel supported and like she wasn’t alone. Amy was so impressed with how knowledgeable and intelligent Dr. Bareh is and the way she worked so closely with the embryologist, which is not always the case with other fertility clinics in her experience.

Amy would also receive a call personally from Dr. Bareh to check-in on her in addition to the nurses calling, where other clinics she had been to the doctor wouldn’t even call her after a failed retrieval.

“When I gave up and couldn’t do it anymore, they were my biggest cheerleaders,” says Amy of the Center’s staff. The level of compassion all of the staff showed was a piece Amy was missing at other clinics. Ultimately, she believes that led to her success.

Switching up her IVF protocol

Dr. Bareh encouraged Amy to try one more time and switched up her IVF medications to an auto immune protocol despite Amy testing negative for an autoimmune disease. Dr. Bareh told her every now and then the protocol worked when she adds medications called Prednisone and Lovenox.

After pregnancy loss, a miracle baby

The protocol change for her third transfer worked, and she was pregnant! But she had found out before that she was pregnant and didn’t know if she should get her hopes up. The moment she saw that her hCG levels were strong, Amy definitely felt excited, but also scared at the same time that she would lose another baby.

Amy’s faith is what kept her trying to remain positive. She will never forget the time Dr. Bareh was doing her ultrasound and always referred to it as the “baby” even though it was barely an embryo.

“It’s traumatic trying to go for that ultrasound for the heartbeat,” Amy says, adding that was the biggest moment for her. “Finding the heartbeat is amazing, but you are also scared. I was shaking, and I was crying. Monica [RN] was in there, and I looked over at her and she had tears in her eyes. So, it was so sweet, and you feel like you’re with family.”

Amy now has a miracle baby thanks to Dr. Bareh. “They are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.” says Amy. Amy fully supported Dr. Bareh’s decision to switch up her protocol and when Amy asked Dr. Bareh, “Do you think that’s what it was?” Dr. Bareh said, “I think it was God, I think God helped us.”

That really helped Amy with her spiritual side and meant everything to her. Amy feels when you experience so much loss, you feel like it’s not real. This caused her to spend the majority of her pregnancy scared and paranoid, with the anxiety that she could lose her baby at any time.

Dr. Bareh put Amy at ease every time she voiced these concerns. There were definitely some low points for Amy, and it put a lot of pressure on her marriage. But in the end, it made their marriage stronger. She wouldn’t change her journey for anything.

Considering embryo donation

Amy’s pregnancy carried to term and she delivered a 9.2-pound baby girl via a c-section on August 12, 2022. Amy sent photos of her baby to the clinic, and Dr. Bareh checked in on her.

Amy is grateful for her blessing, but she and her husband will not be trying for another baby. She feels like the medications take a toll on your body, and she doesn’t want to experience a miscarriage again.

Having stored their other embryos, she thinks her story might be that they enjoy their little girl and donate their embryos. Amy is just thankful they were able to afford treatment and was cared for by Dr. Bareh. “She went out of her way to help us any way that she could and that meant the world,” says Amy.

Give yourself some grace

When it comes to sharing advice with other patients going through the fertility journey, Amy says, “Give yourself some grace, try not to give up hope.” She also places an emphasis on couples remembering to lean on their spouse. Keeping open communication is huge because talking things out helps with some of the fears. Amy is very grateful for Dr. Bareh and for not giving up on her when she wanted to give up on herself.


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