Cover Story

Nudging Nature

Huntington Fertility Center celebrates 25 years of babies

By EDDIE RIVERA, Editor, Living Section
Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014 | 4:12 PM

Sometimes Mother Nature needs a nudge.

When young couples eager to raise a family find that, for one reason or another, nature isn’t cooperating, that’s when modern technology steps in.  And some of the newest of that technology is being used in Pasadena at HRC Fertility (HRC), currently celebrating its 25th year of creating life.

Dr. John Wilcox of Huntington Fertility Center

“This company all started here in Pasadena, so it’s a homegrown product,” says Dr. John Wilcox, one of the fertility doctors at HRC.   “We’ve struggled to provide the best possible opportunity for patients to get pregnant from our early days, until now.”

The work has certainly paid off. HRC was recognized in 2011 to have the highest pregnancy rates in California.

“We’ve always wanted to provide very affordable fertility services at the highest possible rate,” said Dr. Wilcox.

The company was the first in the country to come up with multiple cycle programs, Dr. Wilcox told Pasadena Now.  “The goal is to get people access to the technology, so we packaged or ‘bundled’ these programs that allowed people to get a discount (and) give them essentially a better chance to conceive,” He said.  “So we’ve always been on the leading edge, and we very creatively to try to find ways to help people afford fertility treatment.”

As the company has grown and produced thousands of babies for couples, the emotional rewards have certainly grown, as well. And once in a while, a case stands out, as Dr. Wilcox recalled:

“I had a pretty neat situation a few years ago. These two women had grown up together.  They’re best friends and one of the women had no eggs.  She had gone through premature ovarian failure so she wasn’t going to be able to have children.

“She’d had eggs probably at one point but she had a condition called premature ovarian failure where she went into early menopause.  So she wasn’t able to produce eggs for pregnancy.”  The woman was around 32, Dr. Wilcox explained, and her best friend was of the same age.

“They’d always talked about having children at the same time, and raising the children together. So they came in together, worked as a team basically, and her best friend was going to donate eggs.

“So they literally went through an ideal cycle, and we split the number of eggs, and each woman had embryos transferred and they conceived with twins, each one of them!  And so they had their dream fulfilled, and were able to have four children grow together.  So it worked out really nicely.”

This example of technology stepping in to help where nature can’t was just one of the things that attracted Dr. Wilcox to the field.

“Embryos are actually quite delicate,” he explained.  “They’re very difficult to grow.  When you look at humans and compare it to all the other animals that have been studied, we are definitely, as humans, the most difficult to reproduce.

“So if you have a state of the art laboratory that can successfully grow the embryos to day five, that gives you a tremendous advantage today, and we believe that’s what really separates our program from a lot of the small boutiques.  And one of the reasons why we have the highest pregnancy rates in California.

“We’ve gone to 100% Day Five Transfer, at least in my practice, and we’re doing about 40% genetic screening.  So I’m able to tell the patients 40% of the time this is the genetically normal embryo that we need to transfer and we’re getting 80% to 90% implantation rates with one embryo.”

The last four or five years have also seen tremendous advances in reproduction and fertility technology, says Dr. Wilcox.

“We’ve been able to genetically screen embryos with 98% certainty,” he explained. “And the programs that have the capacity to do Day Five Transfer and do it well, have a tremendous advantage.”

Creating life in a lab and providing a way for a family to give birth has been tremendously gratifying for Dr. Wilcox over the years, as one can imagine.

“After we focus on the pregnancy rates and we’re so proud of the results, we have to make sure that the patient’s experience is positive, too,” he said.  “And, there’s a lot of emphasis on how we can continue to improve their experience to make sure that their needs is being met. These are things you have to manage.  We’re extremely aggressive about trying to continue to make that experience positive.”

Huntington Fertility Center is at 333 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena. (626) 440-9161