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Welcome to CHR: One of the World’s Most Advanced Fertility Clinics

Dr. Norbert Gleicher, medical director and chief scientist at the Center for Human Reproduction, gives a brief overview of CHR history, as one of the first IVF clinics in the US and pioneers with DHEA to combat infertility. He also provides insight into the strides CHR has made in the field of fertility, in the past and in the present.

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Welcome to the official website of the Center for Human Reproduction or as we call ourselves CHR. I’m Norbert Gleicher MD. I’m the medical director and chief scientist here at the center. Let me start by telling you a little bit about the history of CHR. We were founded in 1981 in Chicago and for many years, we were only in Chicago and our center was one of the first IVF centers in the country. Indeed, we started doing IVF in 1981.

Over the years CHR has become known all over the world, not only for our clinical work, but really for all three of the legs we are standing on. Clinical care is obviously our priority but CHR also maintains indeed has greatly expanded a significant research effort over all of those years. Some of the most important discoveries in our field actually were initiated here at CHR. So for example, CHR was the first IVF center ever to do a vaginal egg retrieval. Until we reported that one can retrieve eggs through the vagina, those were surgical procedures done in the operating room with laparoscopy. CHR was also the first to do trans-vaginal tubule catheterizations, now widely used all over the world. CHR brought androgen treatment into infertility, you may have heard about DHEA using older women or women with low ovarian reserve. All of that started here at CHR and many, many other things in it in addition to that.

The third leg we are standing on is education we also feel very, very responsible for making sure that the right information gets out into the community of colleagues, but also of patients and therefore, in all of those years CHR has maintained a strong continuous medical education arm for colleagues and patients. Over the years, CHR has been recognized for its special clinical areas of expertise. Some I’ve already mentioned like tubal disease and our ability to recanalize tubes through the vagina. But over the last decade or so, the expertise for which CHR has become particularly known all over the world is the treatment of what we call “older ovaries”, meaning either ovaries in older women or ovaries in younger women which prematurely aged.

CHR has developed a very special expertise in this field characterized by quite a number of unique treatments which were here developed and introduced and are increasingly used all over the world. As a consequence of our expertise, CHR has also become known as a so-called “center of last resort”. We therefore today see in a majority, a large majority, patients who have previously failed IVF cycles, often quite a number of them and in quite a number of different IVF centers and yet, if you look at CHR’s outcomes despite such an adverse patient selection, you will see that the outcomes we are reporting, like other IVF centers, to the CDC and SART are pretty exceptional.

So being a “center of last resort” results in certain additional responsibilities. For example, many IVF centers do not offer patients treatment after certain ages. In general, most IVF centers will pretty automatically recommend egg donation to patients after age 42, certainly after age 43. Egg donation is a wonderful treatment and we are offering, here at CHR, probably the largest egg donor pool you will find at any IVF Center in the country, if not in the world, representing all ethnic backgrounds, all race, whatever you can just imagine. Yet at the same time, we here at CHR have a very different philosophy about the use of donor eggs. We very strongly believe that egg donation is a wonderful treatment but only as a last resort. In other words, we are not sending patients into egg donation until we are really absolutely convinced that they have no chance with use of their own eggs and in the end, it is always you the patient who makes the decision which treatment you will pursue at our center or elsewhere.

Indeed, we do not see it as our responsibility to tell you the patient how to live your life. We do see it, however, as our responsibility to tell you what exactly all of your options are and then to be brutally honest, and I re-emphasize the term brutally honest, in what your chances are with those various options and then it is up to you the patient to decide which way you want to go. It is this philosophy that has allowed us, over the last 10 years, to make amazing progress in our treatments of patients, particularly in our treatment of older patients.

We were incredibly excited, and just a few weeks ago, to be able to report the birth of a child to a woman who is probably the oldest woman that ever to give birth with use of her own eggs anywhere in the world. This patient was just 2 months short of age 48 when we transferred her embryos and yet she delivered a healthy baby. So this shows the progress we have made because maybe, even as recently as five to six or seven years ago, even our center would not have been able to help women above age 43. Nowadays 43, 45, even 46 are ages where women pretty routinely do get pregnant. 47, that’s where the real difficultlies start and we are still waiting for our first birth above age 48 but we are very sure that it is coming pretty soon.

By offering patients, the choice to try, we at CHR have given the chance to learn, to learn from our patients. Most of the innovations, that I have mentioned briefly before, came from patients. We therefore always listen very carefully to what our patients are telling us and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be able to try to help them in new ways, entering previously uncharted territories. With this brief introduction, I hope I have given you a starting idea about our center we invite you to contact us. We invite you to visit us and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.