Delivering Natalie's Dreams
By Cheo Tyehimba
For many people who want to start a family, waiting for the "stork" to deliver a healthy bundle of joy can be a trying experience. Kaiser Permanente member Natalie Dicks knows this first-hand. After successfully getting pregnant through in vitro fertilization at a Bay Area reproductive health clinic, she wasn't so lucky with successive attempts.
In vitro fertilization, first successfully done in the U.S. in 1981, occurs when fertilized human eggs are transferred into a woman's uterus, thereby producing a pregnancy. But it can be a long, emotional ordeal and the healthy delivery of a child is never promised.
In the Dicks's case, three years of struggling to get pregnant on their own without success made them once again turn to the IVF clinic. But nothing happened the second time around.
Natalie's doctors didn't know why their IVF treatment wouldn't work. After two unsuccessful attempts at in vitro fertilization using varying methods, in 2003 the couple finally decided to take a break. Then, Dicks' husband, Linsey Dicks, Medical Group Administrator for the Diablo Service Area, suggested she consider KP. However, his wife was not easily swayed.
"He was gung ho for Kaiser," she said. "But I wanted to stay with my old doctor."
Natalie Dicks with twins Caroline (left)
and Hannah (right).
However, Dicks changed her mind after meeting Wen-Hui Shen, MD, PhD, in vitro fertilization program director and reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at KP Fremont Medical Center's Reproductive Health Center.
Natalie felt confident in KP, and noticed its different approach.
"They asked a lot of questions and showed a lot of real concern," said Natalie. "Ultimately, they suggested that I have an exploratory laproscropy because there was concern that perhaps something had developed since my first procedure. They found scar tissue and other complications, which was the reason I was having difficulty getting pregnant."
In July 2005, Dicks gave birth to twin girls. She says coming to Kaiser Permanente was one of the best decisions she's ever made.
Making the decision to get help with getting pregnant is a big, and in most cases, expensive one. At KP, IVF is offered as a "fee-for-service" package and is quite comprehensive. For women who have been unable to conceive on their own for at least a year, IVF may be a good option.
IVF in Fremont and Now Sacramento
As the flagship IVF clinic across the region, KP Fremont's Reproductive Health Center, which opened its doors in October 2004, has a highly skilled staff, and led by Dr. Shen, has already charted some impressive pregnancy rates.
"The demand for in vitro fertilization has grown due to several reasons, including social changes that delayed child bearing for women, advanced technology now available to treat male factor infertility, significant improvement in laboratory techniques, and culturing conditions that have increased IVF success rates from 10 to 5 percent in the past to up to 70 to 80 percent for some patients," explained Dr. Shen.
As the second of only two KP IVF clinics in the region, the recently launched KP Sacramento IVF Program has used the successes in Fremont to prepare for its first group of women currently receiving IVF services.
"Our goal is to provide a full-range of high-quality, first-class services to patients needing infertility evaluation and treatment," said Kenneth Vu, MD, medical director and lab director for the IVF Program at the KP Sacramento Medical Center. "We are a Center of Excellence in Reproductive Health in the North Valley Region, and we're recognized not only as a medical technology leader, but also as a customer service leader."
Although Natalie Dicks was overjoyed with finally being able to get pregnant again and give her son siblings, she says the difference she experienced at KP's IVF clinic wasn't measured only by the medical science used but by the compassion KP delivered.
"My KP experience went beyond my expectations," she said. "They were wonderful, caring people who weren't in for the money but have a real desire to help people get pregnant. Now, I'm telling everybody about Kaiser Permanente."