About 2 months ago, I took a leap of faith and approached Dr. Zhang at New Hope Fertility Center to see if I might try new cycles of egg freezing using a low stimulation approach. I had noticed over the last 3 cycles (2 completed) at NYU that they just pumped me to the max with hormones, yet the outcomes were always the same (7 follicles, 3 mature eggs each time). Why did I need ALL of those hormones when the more was not necessarily the merrier in my case? I ventured onto the internet to scope out different opinions on the matter and learned that the philosophy of the mini-IVF approach at New Hope is as follows:
Mini-IVF™ treatment is our trademarked in vitro fertilization protocol. Like our Natural Cycle IVF, it is a holistic approach to fertility care and offers a gentle alternative toConventional IVF. It differs from Natural Cycle IVF in its use of a minimal amount of oral medication which stimulates the ovaries so they produce the maximum number of “quality” eggs in a single cycle.
Only 3-5 high quality eggs are ideal for developing a healthy baby. When more aggressive IVF drug treatments are used (like with conventional IVF), although more eggs are produced, those beyond 3-5 are typically not viable and are either discarded prior to implantation or are prone to failing in a later natural miscarriage.
I had been hesitant about the New Hope experience after reading so many negative reviews about the clinic – particularly their poor communication with patients and the sense that it operated like a factory of patients only there to help the clinic make money.
Being a scientist, I had also checked out peer-reviewed articles published by Dr. Zhang to see if he really was legit. I found articles published by him with Dr. Grifo of NYU. I realized that Dr. Zhang had been a postdoctoral fellow and then staff member at NYU back in the day before launching his own clinic focusing on mini-IVF. I also found an article published in Reproductive Biomedicine that supposedly, on the basis of New Hope’s success rates, strengthened the argument for a mini-IVF approach. However, upon reading a critique article in the same journal, I realized that the statistics were not well-controlled and elaborated. In short, the numbers were really not a great indicator of success rates. Having said that though, I recognized that I was a prime candidate for the approach. I *expect* lower success rates by virtue of me being a non-responder anyway. If it requires that I do multiple cheaper cycles to attain the same benefit, then so-be-it. It is worth a try! So, I shoved all hesitations aside and made an appointment.
In early March, I walked into the clinic on Columbus Avenue and discovered a state-of-the-art facility complete with TVs in the waiting area, breakfast pastries and tea and coffee. This was not the Chinatown-esque facility I was expecting (i.e., some basement cellar with leaky ceilings). It was gorgeous, modern and well-maintained. It felt good. I noticed that many of the patients were Asian like me, so that felt comforting in a weird way.
After an initial check of my bloods and an ultrasound, I met with Dr. Zhang who was personable and informative. He explained his philosophy to me and handed out some reading material, including the article that I had already read. He said he would call me back later that day to determine whether it would be good for me to start soon. I said that I preferred to wait a cycle as I had a work trip coming up, and he said that was fine. He noticed some cysts on my right ovary that were likely associated with previous extractions, but they didn’t seem to bother him. He said that I would probably only need my one leftover 900 IU Gonal-F pen for the next 2 cycles and just Clomid and Letrozole (low cost prescription meds). Not bad!
I left feeling hopeful and positive.
As promised, he called me the next day and left me a message summarizing our discussion and gave me my numbers and said that I was ready to start whenever I wanted. Yay!