The IVF treatments were harder on her body, but ultimately produced the greatest rewards.

“There’s an emotional pull and a physical pull,” Pelzel says. “With the prep work, shots, and medicine—it’s just like anything. Some of it is going to make you feel good and some not.”

In vitro is a fertilization process that manually combines the egg and sperm in a Petri dish.

Fertilization usually occurs in the fallopian tube, but if a patient has a tubal obstruction or advanced reproduction age, then the eggs are retrieved during a day surgery procedure.

Once the eggs are fertilized with the sperm in the lab they are called embryos. Healthy embryos divide into cells, and after a three- or five-day period, they’re implanted in the woman’s uterus.

A nationwide movement to implant one embryo at a time has helped reduce the number of multiple births, as well as pre-term labor, birth defects, and other complications.

infertile_02 The Pelzels’ twin sons were conceived via IVF. photography by Sara Kerens

Cases like the Octomom are highly unusual these days; even triplet rates have dipped to less than 1 percent, Rodriguez says.

“Our job as a physician is to guide you properly,” he says. “Every couple that walks in the door wants to be pregnant yesterday, and they are willing to risk having twins over having none.”

Barnett notes that some countries have laws in place that mandate single embryo transfers, but the United States only offers guidelines in this area.

“We have pregnancy rate data records and stats that we share,” he says. “Patients sometimes seek us out so they don’t have twins again. We encourage women to do [single embryo transfers], but many refuse. They have been on a long path to fertility and having twins is an acceptable outcome.”

These days it’s not uncommon for some school classes to have three or four sets of twins. The neonatal intensive care units are full of pre-term labor twins, Barnett says.

Single embryo transfer “is a movement of ours,” he says. “To do that, you need to have established rates and a good IVF staff.”

Healthy Outcomes
Many fertility clinics offer additional screenings for patients with a genetic disease or those who are potential carriers, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, or Down syndrome. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, can help identify healthy embryos, which improves the outcome of a successful IVF procedure.

Dallas IVF also provides services that aren’t as common at other programs across the country, Dr. Barnett says. Single women in their mid- to late-30s who see their reproductive window narrowing with no partner in sight are choosing to freeze their eggs for future use. The service also is available to women with cancer who are concerned that chemotherapy will make them sterile.

Family balancing is another area of specialty at Dallas IVF. Families who have three girls and want a boy for cultural reasons, for example, can request that healthy male embryos be transferred to the mother, Barnett says.

Dallas IVF has been around since 1997 and has grown to a three-physician practice with a new 11,000-square-foot freestanding facility in West Frisco. The practice, which performs all IVF procedures onsite and includes an ambulatory surgery center and a team of embryologists, plans to open a McKinney office later this year.

“We serve patients in McKinney, Sherman, and Van Alstyne, and they want local care,” says Dr. Dara L. Havemann, a Dallas IVF partner. “We’re focusing our growth on McKinney.”

Prior to becoming a founding partner at Dallas IVF, Barnett worked at the ARTS program at Presbyterian Hospital Plano. It differs from Dallas IVF because it’s hospital-based—not a walkup—with access to a full-service team and subspecialists on campus, including labor and delivery.

When choosing a fertility provider, patients should consider the types of services offered and the expertise available onsite. Some OB/GYN doctors can administer fertility treatments, but experience is key, as IVF pregnancies can be higher risk.

Other patients might not require the extensive services offered by a full-service clinic if they are able to pursue less invasive treatments.

Pelzel says similar treatment philosophies and an emotional connection with the staff were important in choosing her doctor. She’s looking forward to seeing him again soon.

“We’d like to have one more [child], so there’s a good chance Dr. Rodriguez will see us again,” she says. “We owe everything we have to that man. He helped us get the one thing we so desperately wanted.”