Tens of thousands women thought they couldn't have babies: But what if they could - Monica Halem, MD, FAAD

Tens of thousands women thought they couldn't have babies: But what if they could - Monica Halem, MD, FAAD

Endofound Medical Conference 2017
"Breast, Ovary and Endometriosis"
October 28, 2017 - Lotte New York Palace Hotel

**“Tens of thousands women thought they couldn't have babies: But what if they could.” Panel Discussion **New York Magazine: Sep 18 – Oct 1, 2017 Edition

Monica Halem, MD, FAAD

The New York Dermatologic Surgery Cosmetic Laser Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

 

Thank you, Dr. Seckin, for having me. It's an honor to be here. I'm basically here to share my story that was just came out in New York Magazine in the beginning of the month, and it's a pretty amazing story. I feel very blessed.

I struggled with fertility for quite a long time. I decided when I was 40 I was going to be a mom, and even as a physician, no idea of the struggle of the journey that I was about to embark on. It was a long road and many aspects to the journey, but suffered from multiple miscarriages until somebody found out that I had immunology issues, and then also from ... suffered from silent endometriosis that nobody had diagnosed for a long time, and not until I corrected both of those problems was I able to even have my first child. So, six miscarriages later I finally became a mom and it was a blessing.

Then, I decided to test faith again and decided I wanted to be a second mom ... have a second child, and a couple miscarriages later with what's called ... We did something PGD, which I know you guys are all familiar with. When I was told about this PGD, I was basically told that it was the way to go and that it was almost 100%. Most of my embryos that I put back were PGD tested, and I still suffered miscarriages with PGD-normal embryos and couldn't really understand.

So, we decided to go back and take a few more embryos and bank some embryos, and I was 44 at the time as we just learned about the quantity of normal oocytes at that age is very, very small. So, we did something called embryo banking, and I basically just did cycle after cycle. We were able to bank for nine months and put together 18 day-five embryos. When we sent for PGD testing, every single one came back as abnormal.

Luckily, I was working with, work with Dr. Braverman at the time who works very closely with Dr. Gleicher. He said to me, he said, "There some of them in here that are normal," and I said, "Well, how do you know? That's crazy." He said, "It's not 100%. We've had a couple of cases that we've actually put back abnormal embryos and they've actually gone full-term and are normal embryos."

So, this was shocking to me because most of the fertility places, when a PGD test comes back as abnormal, most fertility places throw away the embryo. It's an automatic response to throw away the embryo. Several places that I was at, Columbia, Cornell, NYU, just multiple fertility places, that's the protocol is to throw away the embryo. But the place I was at, at the time, New Hope Fertility, they did not throw their embryos away.

So, I was able to go back and say, "Okay, let's give it a try." We had a long talk about what the risks were and what I was facing, and really, I just did not think about it. I just kind of went and did it and really had no clue that it would even take. I was really, "This is not going to take, so let's just do it, and so let's do it so I can move on to the next step, whatever it is."

I got pregnant. We put four abnormal embryos back in, PGD-tested abnormal embryos back in, and I got pregnant. I was very scared. I had no idea how this was going to be, how could I make certain decisions or what I was going to do. Finally, at like 12 weeks we did a CVS and it was a normal girl, and I have a 20-month-old daughter from an abnormal embryo that was PG tested that would've never been here had it not been for people like Dr. Gleicher and Dr. Braverman, and people who think out of the box that this PGD testing is really not 100%.

This story that they did in the New York Magazine was about all this, that women have choices, and it's almost criminal that how many embryos have been thrown away that are really normal. I would've never known. Nobody ever talked about it. It was always PGD, PGD, PGD because it increases the numbers of the fertility centers, and, and ... That's my take.

I think there is a role for it, but I think that women have choices and they need to be educated. They need to know that this testing is not 100% and to not throw their embryos away, and maybe before they move on to their next step to really take a look at what other options that they do have. So, that's my story and so it's been quite a journey, but if can help other people, that's why I put it out there. If I can help other women, then that's what I went through it for. Thank you.