Couples find hope as fertility technology grows

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Infertility is not a topic people deal with on a daily basis – unless you happen to be around the lively, bright and inviting office of Dr. Paul C. Magarelli, a Colorado Springs physician specializing in helping those with infertility conceive.

While infertility is becoming commonplace, technological advances are pushing the envelope as more and more couples are able to establish their families with a little help from science. It is a highly specialized field, with only 500 board certified reproductive endocrinologists and infertility specialists in the country, with just 380 in active practice. As one the only board certified REI specialist in Colorado Springs, Magarelli sees the frustration infertility brings, but he also sees the joy resulting from a successful pregnancy.

“One of the best parts of my job is watching the faces of a couple when I tell them they’re pregnant,” Magarelli said. “Many of these couples have been struggling for years to conceive, and it’s gratifying to be able to help them when they come in.”

Magarelli’s practice, the Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center, continues to exceed national statistics rates monthly for all patients at 40 percent, and as high as 46 percent pregnancy rates for patients less than 35 years old. Nationally, pregnancy rates for all IVF patients were 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports for 1999.

Magarelli’s numbers speak for themselves, and demonstrate that there is a difference between doctors. Why is Magarelli’s pregnancy rate so high? Education and experience obviously play a big role.

As southern Colorado’s only board certified REI specialist, Magarelli has undergone an additional two to three years of RE studies, exams and practice experience. Many OB/GYN doctors receive just a few weeks of training in infertility during medical school, internship and residency programs, Magarelli said.

Also contributing to Magarelli’s success are his state-of-the-art facilities. To offer utmost convenience to patients, Magarelli’s clinic offers an on-site surgical center, endocrinology lab, andrology (the study of sperm) lab, and an embryology/in vitro fertilization lab. It also offers radiological services and 24-hour per day security for all embryos, sperm and eggs.

“Patients may say, ‘Doc, I can’t get pregnant,’ but what they mean is ‘I’m feeling like I’m less of a woman or less of a man,’ or ‘I’m disappointing my partner,'” Magarelli said.

Most couples, as many as 90 percent, are able to conceive within the first year of trying, and if a couple doesn’t conceive during that time, it is a good idea to seek medical help. The good news is that a diagnosis of infertility is not the same thing as being sterile.

Up to 90 percent of all diagnosed fertility cases can be traced to specific causes, and two of every three infertile couples that seek treatment are able to have children, Magarelli said.

Research has developed a number of clinical interventions to help infertile couples conceive, among them is in vitro fertilization, where an egg and sperm are mixed outside the body for 24 hours, then reimplanted. Another is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). It, too, is accomplished outside the body, and involves injecting a single sperm into an egg.

Since 1981, in vitro fertilization has resulted in 300,000 babies, while over one million babies have been born because of all assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

Magarelli’s office has a donor program, with all donors going through extensive screening, including genetic testing, psychological evaluation and infectious disease screening.

Recent studies show achieving pregnancy through surgery can cost up to $70,000. The average cost to pregnancy after seeing a REI specialist is $2,000. In vitro fertilization costs about $28,000.

Most insurance companies cover the diagnostic testing and evaluation for infertile couples. Some companies pay part of an in vitro fertilization.