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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Couples who need help having children often leave state

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Collinson Burgwin settles easily into his father's arms while his mother smooths his tufts of bright red hair.

The baby's birth eight months ago was the culmination of a 10-year process that sent the Highland Park couple out of state to find a fertility clinic that could help them have the child they yearned for.

"It was one thing after another, but I kept saying to my husband, 'Maury, we're destined to have a baby. We're not giving up,' " said Maria Burgwin.

The Burgwins are among a growing number of couples who leave Western Pennsylvania to better their chances of conceiving a baby. Fertility experts inside and outside the state say couples travel for treatment for several reasons, including a larger, more diverse pool of donor eggs, shorter wait times for a donor egg and more attractive financial options. Others say it's simply a case of effective marketing by bigger out-of-state clinics.

A Maryland center called Shady Grove Fertility, which is holding a free seminar today at the Sheraton Hotel in Station Square about its donor egg program, is on track to increase its number of Pittsburgh patients by 50 percent over the last year. Three dozen area couples signed up for today's seminar.

"There are all sorts of different reasons people might choose a program outside of Pittsburgh," said Dr. Carolyn Kubik, practice director for Reproductive Health Specialists, a private fertility center in Wexford and Monroeville.

"There are some people who might go to New York or New Jersey simply because they have family there that they can stay with," she said. "Or sometimes they're not familiar with the success rates of programs here. And cost is certainly a reason some couples might explore other programs."

Western Pennsylvania has three fertility centers registered with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, a membership organization that collects data and sets standards for fertility treatments. In addition to the independent Reproductive Health Specialists, there is the University of Pittsburgh Physicians Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at Magee-Womens Hospital and the Jones Institute at West Penn Allegheny Health Systems.

Maria Burgwin's doctor advised her to travel out of state for treatment, first to Cornell University's Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility and then, when treatments there failed, to Shady Grove. Both centers are fertility powerhouses, each treating more than three times the number of patients treated by Western Pennsylvania's clinics combined.

"We are one of the biggest and most successful programs in the country," said Dr. Melissa Esposito, one of the Shady Grove doctors giving today's presentation in Station Square. "So we're able to offer more. We have a money-back guarantee program for (in vitro fertilization) using your own eggs or using the donor egg program. It's really very enticing."

All three of Western Pennsylvania's fertility centers said they have versions of the money-back guarantee program, as well as donor egg programs. They conceded, however, that the region has less diversity of egg donors, which can make for longer waits. The Jones Institute can tap into a bigger pool of donors from its parent institute in Norfolk, Va.

Clinics such as Shady Grove "are very, very entrepreneurial and competitive — that's a fair statement. They have a very large clinic that they've built up, and they offer a lot of programs," said Dr. Scott Kauma, director of the Jones Institute at West Penn Allegheny. "But really, there's nothing that they have to offer that I think is really any better than anything that we might have to offer."


To read more, visit the Tribune-Review web site.

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