Argentine native Dr. Claudio Benadiva is a nationally known lecturer on infertility. He is director of the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) Laboratory at The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, board certified specialist in endocrinology and infertility, and clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. He has a special interest in ovulation induction for IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.
Benadiva is one of the few physicians certified by the American Board of Bioanalysis as a high complexity laboratory director. This certification enables him to integrate clinical and laboratory protocols in an IVF program.
A native of Buenos Aires, he graduated from the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine in 1981. He completed his residency in obstetrics/gynecology at the UConn Health Center. He was a fellow in reproductive biology and endocrinology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and was a clinical fellow in reproductive endocrinology at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
He resides in Farmington with his wife, Lee Ann, a Realtor with Caldwell Banker. They have two college-age children.
Benadiva took time out from his busy schedule to speak with CTLatinoNews.com about the latest advances in treating infertility.
A: My interest started in the mid-1980s, when I came from Argentina to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia with a fellowship to do basic research in the, back then, new field of in vitro fertilization. I became fascinated by the new technologies that were allowing us to create human life in a petri dish. Later on, my wife and I also suffered ourselves from infertility. After successful treatments we are now blessed with two young adult children. I knew I wanted to help others, the same way we have been helped. There is nothing like being able to call a woman with the good news she is finally pregnant!
Q: Why has infertility become such a prevalent problem in our society?
A: Many changes in our society have resulted in women delaying childbirth until later in life, when they have completed their careers and finally found the right partner. Unfortunately, fertility declines with age. Despite many stories of miracle pregnancies in the media, the fact is that we still can’t stop the biological clock. Even as science and technology push back the age of reproduction, the efficacy of these advanced reproductive methods is still limited by nature’s timetable. We do all we can to help patients who want to conceive, but women who contemplate postponing childbearing should know they may not be able to conceive with their own eggs. Beyond a certain point, their only option may be to resort to egg donation, that is, using someone else’s genetic material.
Q: Can you tell our readers about the latest advances in the fields of infertility and reproductive endocrinology?
A: Egg freezing has been around for many years, but it’s only recently that the technique has been improved to provide excellent results, very similar to those obtained with fresh eggs. Please note that egg freezing is not the same as embryo freezing. Freezing embryos (fertilized eggs) is something we have been able to do successfully for a long time. The technique that allows us to freeze unfertilized eggs very effectively is called “vitrification.” Basically, it is a flash freezing method where the eggs are frozen very rapidly. By removing the water from the cell, the formation of ice crystals–that can damage the cell–is prevented.
Another great advancement in the field of IVF is what we call elective single embryo transfer. For patients that are good candidates, we are now able to identify the one embryo with the best chance of making a baby — significantly reducing the burden of multiple pregnancies. Although we still see a fair number of twins, the triplets and quadruplets that I used to see frequently when I first started practicing are rarely seen nowadays.
The human genome project has fostered incredible progress in DNA technology. We are now able to test embryos for a large number of genetic disorders prior to implanting them–significantly reducing the risk of miscarriage, or a child born with a genetic disorder.
Q: I’ve also read that women wanting to delay childbirth are freezing their eggs for the future. Is this a trend? Is this even advisable?
A: Absolutely, I’m seeing a growing number of single women who are coming to freeze their eggs. We know that the quality of the eggs decreases with maternal age. I think women are finally getting the message that egg freezing is the best thing they can do if they are not ready to start a family or have not found a partner yet. My advice is for women not to wait too long; unfortunately some patients are coming to see me to freeze their eggs in their late 30s or early 40s, when the number and the quality of their eggs is already diminished. The best time to think about this is in their early 30s — when they should still have good quality eggs to freeze and save.
Some people have questioned whether freezing eggs for “social reasons” may give women a false sense of security. They may wait even longer to start their families. Interestingly, recent studies have apparently found the opposite is true; women who freeze their eggs are more likely to find a partner sooner.
Q: What are some of the options for women suffering from breast cancer or other medical problems who want to have children?
A: Women suffering from breast cancer or other medical problems requiring treatments with chemotherapy or radiation have a high risk of becoming infertile after treatment. Fortunately, they now have many options to preserve their fertility before they undergo treatment, including freezing embryos if they have a partner, or freezing their eggs if they don’t. Those eggs can be used in the future to achieve a pregnancy after they have completed their treatment and hopefully are cancer-free.
Claudio Benadiva MD, HCLD, may be reached at The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington. Call 860 679-4580 or email him at email@example.com.