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On the job

Fertility specialist delivers hope

Dr. Alison Zimon, a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF, said technology has improved the egg-freezing process, allowing women to store their eggs and use them later.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Women need to begin thinking about their reproductive options early – in their 20s and 30s – rather than the 40s when it may be too late, said Alison Zimon, a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF, an infertility treatment center with locations in Boston and surrounding suburbs.

As women delay childbearing, there can be unrealistic expectations that medical science can undo the effects of aging.

“I do believe that most women understand age is important,” said Zimon, “but perhaps are unaware that age is the simple most predictive factor for reproductive success.”

Who is your typical patient?

We see all types of people, from women with longtime partners to those who have just broken off relationships. There are single women debating whether they should consider donor sperm, same sex couples hoping to build a family, those considering a surrogate mother, and more.


How often does treatment
result in pregnancy?

For in-vitro fertilization, the success rate is good — 50 to 60 percent pregnancy rate in one attempt. Of course, younger women have a much higher chance of pregnancy. With a donor egg – using someone else’s egg — it’s 65 percent.

What’s the approximate cost of fertility treatment?

Typically an IVF cycle is a little more than $8,000 dollars; genetic testing of an embryo,
$2,000 to $5,000.

Do you feel psychological health affects patients’ ability to get pregnant?

Infertility is incredibly stressful. A lot of data indicates that perhaps reducing stress may lead to better outcomes, but it’s not definite.

Isn’t infertility medicine amazing because it evolves so rapidly?

We’ve made tremendous strides especially when realizing that the first IVF baby was only 36 years ago.

Technological advances have improved the egg-freezing process, making it possible for women to delay motherhood, store their eggs, and use them later.


Why did you choose to become a fertility specialist?

You can really help people. It’s heartbreaking to see women struggle with infertility and very satisfying to offer treatment with such good outcomes.

What’s a success story that was meaningful to you?

Among the most meaningful is the story of a nurse with Hodgkins lymphoma. After a three-year course of chemotherapy and radiation, she overcame her cancer, but developed ovarian failure. Then, after a single-treatment cycle using donated eggs, she became pregnant. She gave birth to her daughter, now 2 years old, who is the joy of her and her husband’s life.

You were trained in obstetrics, but don’t deliver babies. What is it like saying goodbye to patients once they are pregnant?

These are happy goodbyes, and fortunately life often finds ways for me to reconnect.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.