December 11, 2018

A little over a year ago, Larissa Fletcher took a huge leap of faith and walked into Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center to carry out the plan she and husband made years earlier on the darkest day of their lives.

On that dark day, Larissa and her late husband John Fletcher learned he had stage four esophageal cancer, and would, at best, live another year. Knowing they wanted to give their then 1-year-old daughter, Emma, a sibling, the couple decided to freeze John’s sperm and store it at the Fertility Center’s state-of-the-art in vitro fertilization (IVF) lab until Larissa was ready to try to have another child.

Shortly after that day came, Larissa watched her embryologist zoom her microscope in on what would become the now 4-month-old Elliana “Ellie” Joy Fletcher. Using a leading-edge embryo monitoring system called the EmbryoScope, Larissa also was able to watch a video of Ellie from when she was just a few cells all the way up to the time she was ready to be transferred into her mother’s belly to develop and grow for the next nine months.

“I was in awe of all of it,” Larissa said of the video. “In that moment, everything became very real for me.”

Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center’s three EmbryoScopes bring to life what reproductive endocrinology specialists see under a microscope and then describe to their patients. The technology, which provides continuous time-lapse imaging of embryos as they grow, also enables specialists to identify the healthiest embryo to transfer to the patient, for improved IVF success rates.

Dr. Richard Cochran, the Family Fertility Center’s Laboratory Director, said he and his colleagues in the lab are looking at whether the EmbryoScope can also help improve patient outcomes. The technology, he said, allows clinicians to see how an embryo divides, which in turn gives them the opportunity to see certain abnormalities.

“Sometimes embryos will divide, and then the cells will remerge, and then re-divide,” Cochran said. “That’s very abnormal, and that’s something we would not see in a traditional incubator setting.”

In such a setting, clinicians typically look at an embryo two days after fertilization is attempted, again a day or two later and so on. What happens in-between observations isn’t captured, and could be an important predictor of developmental abnormalities. For similar logistical reasons, the EmbryoScope already has proven to be helpful at enabling specialists to identify the healthiest embryo to transfer to a patient.

“In the vast majority of laboratories, embryos are put in traditional incubators where you have to take them out and expose them to room temperatures to see them,” said Texas Children’s Chief of Reproductive Medicine Dr. William Gibbons. “With the EmbryoScope, handling of the embryos is minimized and visibility is 24/7, enabling us to ensue embryos are growing and reach the appropriate stages at the appropriate times before transplantation.”

Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center is the only location in Texas other than Dallas that is using the EmbryoScope. The center has been using the technology since it opened in 2014 and currently has three. One of the scopes is dedicated to research while the other two are for clinical use.

Larissa, a former Fertility Center patient and a pediatrician with the Texas Children Newborn Center, said her experience at the center was extraordinary from beginning to beautiful end.

“When I was eight weeks pregnant and had to move my pregnancy care from the Family Fertility Center to a traditional OBGYN, it was bittersweet,” she said. “The people there were like my second family.”

To learn more about the EmbryoScope and how clinicians with the Texas Children’s Fertility Center uses the technology, click here.

Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center has earned national and international recognition for advancing the understanding and treatment of reproductive disorders. Our reproductive endocrinology specialists are proud of the impact we have made on the lives of our patients, women and families across the globe. To learn more about our Fertility Center, click here.

May 3, 2017

On April 23, 25 walkers representing Texas Children’s Family Fertility Center participated in the Walk of Hope in Sugar Land Town Square, a one-mile walk to increase community awareness about infertility.

This year, Texas Children’s came in second of the top 10 teams in Houston for fundraising. The Family Fertility Center team raised $1,700 from bake and T-shirt sales.

The name “Walk of Hope” embodies the emotion that most people living with infertility feel. The Walk of Hope is an event that represents the infertility journey – a series of small steps, each one filled with hope and a reminder that no one should walk on this journey alone.

The Walk of Hope was held in several locations across the country. Funds raised from the event will support RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association created to improve the lives of women and men with infertility issues.

The funds from the Walk of Hope will support RESOLVE programming including support groups, the most up-to-date online information, public awareness initiatives and advocacy efforts to ensure family building options are available to all.

June 28, 2016

62916DrSchutt640Hearing the words, “you’re pregnant” can be an exciting, life-changing moment. But for many couples struggling with infertility, the journey to parenthood can be filled with frustration, stress, and at times, hopelessness.

Dr. Amy Schutt, a reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon who recently joined the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, knows these struggles since she faced infertility challenges of her own.

“While in medical school, I was learning how to be a physician, but at the same time – unknown to most family, friends and colleagues – I was also learning how to be a patient,” Schutt said.

After a miscarriage, two surgeries, countless ultrasounds and unsuccessful infertility treatments, Schutt and her husband ultimately conceived their now 7-year-old daughter through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“My daughter was born in my fourth year of medical school and she is a living, breathing testament to the medical and scientific advances that made her possible,” Schutt said. “What I didn’t know then, but know now, is that facing infertility taught me lessons about caring for women in ways that the classroom could never teach me.”

With her uniquely compassionate approach to care that comes from her own experience as an infertility patient, Schutt combines her clinical knowledge, surgical skills and research to advance the understanding of infertility and subsequently develop innovative treatment approaches to improve successful pregnancy outcomes.

While specializing in the care and treatment of reproductive and hormonal disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome, Schutt has extensive training in groundbreaking surgical techniques to treat the most challenging reproductive and endocrinology cases, including rare congenital anomalies of the reproductive tract. She finds it highly rewarding to provide continuity of care for her patients, helping women achieve conception after successful surgical treatment.

Schutt’s contributions to research has helped advance the treatment and understanding of reproductive and endocrinology disorders, including the influence of maternal health factors such as diet and obesity on a woman’s fertility and the long-term health of her baby. Currently, Schutt is collaborating with colleagues to examine the effects of protein restriction on egg quality before pregnancy to see whether a diet rich in protein optimizes egg health and development. In a separate study, Schutt is also looking at the effects of obesity on female fertility by studying the granulosa cells collected during IVF. These cells feed signals to the egg during the maturation process.

Prior to joining the Family Fertility Center, Schutt received her medical degree from Texas Tech University School of Medicine followed by an OB/GYN residency at the University of Virginia Health System. She recently completed a three-year fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We are excited to have Dr. Schutt join our team,” said Dr. William Gibbons, director of the Family Fertility Center and chief of reproductive endocrinology services at Texas Children’s. “She brings compassion, ability, enthusiasm and a diverse skill set to our Family Fertility Center family. I can’t wait to watch where she takes us.”

For Schutt, there’s one thing that fuels her passion more than anything – helping her patients achieve their dreams.

“I look forward to calling my patients with positive pregnancy tests, to celebrating pregnancy ultrasounds and to receiving birth announcements,” Schutt said. “My personal and educational experiences have taken me full circle and I look forward to being part of this incredible team at the Family Fertility Center.”

Click here to watch a video tour of the Family Fertility Center. If you have questions, want to schedule an appointment with the Family Fertility Center team of Drs. William Gibbons, Amy Schutt, Terri Woodard and Paul Zarutskie, or learn more about the benefits available to full-time Texas Children’s employees, call Ext. 6-7500.