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Fertility Doctor of the Month: Carolyn R. Givens, M.D.

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Dr. Carolyn Givens, Pacific Fertility Center

October 2014

“If we try and uphold the highest ethical standards, we never go wrong. That’s been a guiding light for our practice.”

Dr. Carolyn Givens is a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist who treats fertility patients at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, CA. She co-directs the Bay Area Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis Program and directs Pacific Fertility Center’s PGD/PGS Program. FertilityAuthority is pleased to honor Dr. Givens as Fertility Doctor of the Month.

As an undergrad and in medical school, her interests were genetics and women’s health; as she was finishing her residency IVF was starting to take off. Givens says that so much of today’s infertility practice incorporates genetics. “It’s all dovetailed together – aspects of my prior training with what I know and love.”

Givens helped grow Pacific Fertility’s PGD/PGS program at its onset. PGD, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, tests embryos for specific genetic diseases. PGS, preimplantation genetic screening, screens chromosomes for aneuploidy (an abnormal number of chromosomes). “When we think of PGD we think of people who have a particular at-risk status for having a child with a disorder due to their carrier status,” Givens says. “So I’ve taken care of a lot of Cystic Fibrosis patients over the years, patients with Huntington’s Disease, some common things like BRCA mutation carriers, a lot of balanced translocations. It’s been really rewarding to help these people, who sometimes already have an affected child, to avoid that going forward and to give them an option besides termination.”

“I think it’s an area that’s really going to continue to grow as we get more understanding of what the molecular genetic basis is behind more and more diseases and disease states, and as more patients get screened with multiple gene panel testing and we find more people are at risk for things,” she says.

This year approximately 65 percent of Pacific Fertility’s patients will do comprehensive chromosomal screening (CCS). “We tend to have a little bit of an older population and I think that’s where the benefits really are, to screen the embryos in women 35 and older for their chromosomal status,” she adds.

“Not since ICSI came along in the early 90s, has there been such a revolutionary shift in what we’re doing. And it is absolutely a game changer,” Givens says.

Another strong area of interest for Givens is egg freezing which she refers to as a risk reduction strategy: reducing your risk of having age related infertility in the future. “You may not eliminate it,” she says, “but you feel a lot more control. If it’s empowering, that’s wonderful.”

She says that initially she “had a little trepidation” about the fact that these single women may choose to freeze their eggs and may possibly live their lives because they feel like they have this insurance. “It’s always been my only hesitation,” she says. “But on the other hand, what if we’re saving them from making a bad decision vis a vis a relationship, or a father of a baby or creating a family? Maybe we’re helping them make good decisions rather than bad decisions,” she adds.

At Pacific Fertility, Givens says, “We found over the years that our approach to anything – research, new clinical developments, how we treat patients – if we try and uphold the highest ethical standards we can, we never go wrong. That’s been a guiding light for our practice.”

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