Fertility’s Cutting Edge

Photography provided by Bethesda Fertility Center

As Cincinnati’s first and oldest practice dedicated to treating infertility, Bethesda Fertility Center has long been on the cutting edge of fertility treatment.

In August, Bethesda hired Isela Robertshaw, MD, who completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Cincinnati Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Robertshaw joins Kasey Reynolds, MD, and founding member Jennifer L. Thie, MD, as staff physicians, becoming Cincinnati’s only all-female fertility practice.

While Dr. Robertshaw and Dr. Reynolds tout the center’s array of services, utilizing the most advanced fertility technology, perhaps their most innovative offering is the one that simply involves commitment to women’s health.

Both physicians specialize in fertility preservation and its use in oncofertility – a field that explores future fertility options for patients preparing to undergo cancer treatment. With earlier detection and improved treatments making survival more likely, more patients are considering advance planning to preserve their ability to have children. Their goal is to create awareness about the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on the reproductive system, and the ability to bear children in the future and what methods they can take before treatment to preserve their fertility.

“In both oncology and fertility communities, awareness is increasing,” Dr. Reynolds says. “Even five years ago, this discussion wasn’t taking place between an oncologist and a fertility doctor. We’re really proud that we’re integrating that discussion into our practice counseling.”

Dr. Robertshaw plans to reach out to healthcare professionals to promote the inclusion of fertility in the discussion with their patients, and if the patients are interested, doctors can encourage them to schedule a visit to discuss future options. 

“I’d like to build a better niche with our fertility preservation options, particularly with cancer survivors,” Dr. Robertshaw says. “When you get a cancer diagnosis and are talking life or death, you’re not usually thinking of having children right then.”

“We just want patients to know their options – that you don’t have to do anything or make a decision right now, but just having that counseling visit is so empowering,” Dr. Reynolds says.

Bethesda offers egg freezing and embryo freezing for women and couples that want to take that next step. Egg freezing has gained attention thanks to media coverage and improved technology, giving patients an insurance policy of sorts toward future parenthood. 

“Fertility preservation can be recommended for several indications,” Dr. Reynolds says. “A woman undergoing gonadotoxic therapies that threaten fertility will want to be proactive before undergoing treatment and consider technologies like egg freezing or embryo freezing. A completely different cohort of patients seeking fertility preservation are those women who want to delay pregnancy because they’re not ready to start a family for various reasons; they’re un-partnered, they’re in the midst of a demanding career or completing an educational program that makes it difficult to start a family at the time. 

Dr. Robertshaw is also interested in examining environmental effects on fertility. She completed her doctoral work on the effects of the plastic bisphenol A (BPA) and fertility. That is a relatively new field of study, and focuses on potential disruptions to the implantation of a fertilized egg and whether a pregnancy is carried to term after implantation. 

In research with mice, she found that higher levels of BPA exposure affected implantation rates, and the effects were seen more frequently in the second generation. Such results pose new questions about the possibilities for human fertility even as BPA has been removed from most plastics during the past few years.

“What’s being derailed and is it causing a genetic change?” Dr. Robertshaw asks. “Will we start to see changes in overall fertility in the next few decades?”  

Other areas of expertise between both physicians include treating women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disorder considered one of the leading contributors to female infertility.

Both physicians have long ties to the area – Dr. Reynolds is a Cincinnati native and a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine grad, and Dr. Robertshaw completed her undergraduate studies at Miami University (where she met her husband, a Cincinnati native), and moved here after completing her medical degree at Ohio State.

“We’re both native to Cincinnati and we want to promote Bethesda Fertility Center as a female physician-run practice that’s a very welcoming place for women to seek treatment,” Dr. Reynolds says. “We see this as our way to give back to the community.”

That sense of commitment to community combined with an excitement about advances in fertility treatment keeps Dr. Robertshaw excited about her work.

“In-vitro fertilization has only been around 40 years, and I wonder what the next 40 years will show us,” she says. “We are on the leading edge of so many discoveries. It’s very exciting.”

The Bethesda Fertility Center is located at 10506 Montgomery Road, Suite 303, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, call 800.634.1222 or 513.865.1675 or visit www.BethesdaFertility.com.