Last week, DOB had the pleasure of interviewing Wende Allen, PA-C, of Shady Grove Fertility. Wende is a physician assistant who works closely with patients and fertility doctors throughout every aspect of fertility treatment. Because we know that many people struggle through fertility issues, we understand it’s a topic close to the heart of many of our clients and we wanted to learn more about it.
What is your background? What attracted you to this field?
I’ve been a physician assistant for 24 years. After spending 2 years in pediatrics, I moved to obstetrics/gynecology so I have spent 22 years working in women’s health. I worked for an OB/GYN office doing annual exams and assisting clients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. A number of those patients also struggled with getting pregnant. It seemed like a natural transition for me to go into fertility work. When you know more, you want to do more. I wanted to expand my skill set into more advanced procedures like ultrasound.
How long have you been with Shady Grove Fertility?
I started with fertility work 12 years ago as part of GBMC’s assisted reproductive technology center, which became part of Shady Grove Fertility. I was the first “mid-level” provider at Shady Grove Fertility. It was several more years until another physician assistant was brought on. We now have 14 other advanced practice providers, to include other PAs, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives.
What are the services that Shady Grove Fertility provides? Can all procedures be done by Shady Grove Fertility or do patients need to go to other providers for some things?
Because our surgery centers are outpatient only, we refer out for large gynecological surgeries, otherwise we provide all tests and procedures on our patients’ journey. We begin the process by taking a thorough history and recommending appropriate testing that may help determine the cause of their infertility as well as what treatment option may be best—we look into number and health of eggs, whether the tubes are open, do a semen analysis—and then make treatment suggestions. Our centers provide basic treatments, like ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI), as well as more advanced treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), frozen embryo transfer, and genetic testing of embryos. We also assist patients with donor eggs or donor sperm and gestational carriers as well as provide elective egg freezing for future use or prior to cancer treatment.
When should a couple be concerned that they are not conceiving?
By definition, infertility is suspected when a couple has been attempting pregnancy for 12 months or longer. But not everyone should wait a year prior to discussing their concerns with a physician. For example, if a woman is 38 years old or older, we do not recommend waiting more than 6 months so we have as much time as possible to evaluate and treat the couple, considering factors relating to advanced age and poorer egg quality. And if there are irregular menses, known low sperm count, or blocked tubes, there is no reason to wait at all. Any patients experiencing these symptoms should make an appointment right away.
After conception, how long do patients stay under Shady Grove Fertility’s care?
We see patients until they are 8 weeks pregnant. The number of times we see them during treatment will depend on their treatment plan. Some of the treatments have fewer appointments but other patients may need to see us 10 to 20 times per month. It can be quite time consuming. Of course, some patients also need a lot of reassurance so having frequent appointments can be comforting.
Do you help patients through the whole process?
New patients initially meet with a doctor and are assigned a primary nurse. As physician assistants, we perform ultrasounds, mock embryo transfers, hysterosalpingograms (HSGs), intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), and other procedures. We also help to explain the process in detail and facilitate the treatment plan. We continue to see patients until their care is transferred back to their doctor/midwife after the 8 week mark.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?
It’s challenging when treatment takes longer than expected and when there are losses or complications. But when helping our patients navigate disappointing results we always have other options to explore. We will pull out all the stops until they are successful.
It’s, of course, so rewarding to discharge patients back to their regular care provider – pregnant! Another wonderful thing is developing and maintaining relationships with patients. They will send us cards or stop into the office even years after they’ve completed treatment – it’s so meaningful!
Thanks Wende for sharing with us!
Find more information by clicking on the image below!