Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I’m super excited to have Dr. Dorette Noorhasan here from Dallas.
Dr. Noorhasan, thank you for joining us today. For people who don’t know you, I want to make sure that everyone knows who you are, so I want to read a little bit about you.
For those of you who are joining us. Dr. Dorette Noorhasan is the medical director and co-founder of CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth. CCRM is one of the most famous and well-respected fertility clinics in the world and certainly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
She is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist. She is an expert on making babies.
She grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of the Virgin Islands and attended medical school at BU, Boston University School of Medicine. While in medical school she did medical missions to Guatemala and Mexico.
She went on to do her OB-GYN residency at the University of Texas, Houston, and her fellowship at New Jersey Medical School. She’s very well published and has written two books and we’re going to talk more about all of that.
Thank you, Dorette, for being on today’s show. I really appreciate you being here.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Thank you for having me today.
Dr. Aimee: Absolutely. So just tell me more about yourself. I know I just talked a lot about your accomplishments, please tell us more about yourself.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Let me tell you a little bit about just myself personally — I was born in South America and grew up in the United States, Virgin Islands. I started college there at the University of the Virgin Islands and then got accepted to the Early Medical School Selection Program at Boston University School of Medicine where I completed my medical doctorate degree.
I loved Boston — it’s so nice there, but it’s so cold and when you’re a girl from the islands, it’s so hard to live there. So I moved to Houston and did my residency at the University of Texas, Houston. My residency was in Obstetrics and Gynecology. I subsequently did a fellowship at New Jersey Medical School in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. I’ve been in private practice now for about 11 years, the last eight of which has been here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Dr. Aimee: Wow. Wow. And then tell me about your practice in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: I’m the medical director and practice director here at CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth. We offer comprehensive fertility care to patients here. So basic things like diagnostic testing, semen analysis, hysterosalpingograms to see if someone’s fallopian tubes are open, blood work, and ultrasounds.
We provide all forms of treatment. From basic treatments like pills such as Clomid and Femara and inseminations where we put the semen sample back into the uterus to more advanced treatments like in vitro fertilization where the woman takes injectable medications, we remove the eggs, fertilize the eggs with the sperm in a Petri dish, and then subsequently put the embryos back into the uterus.
We do genetic testing of embryos, preimplantation genetic testing, aneuploidy screening (PGT-A) for couples who desire to know if the embryo is euploid before transfer of the embryo. Euploid means having the correct number of chromosomes. We also offer fertility preservation. Back in the day women had to choose, do I get married and start my family early on or do I pursue my career or travel the world? And maybe once I find Mr. right then I’ll have a baby. Egg freezing now allows women to kind of have both of those options. And so we’re certainly excited to bring that option to our patients.
Dr. Aimee: Yeah. I mean, I tell patients that sometimes you have to choose between the love of a man and the love of the baby. Right?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Yeah, exactly. And you can now have both options — start a family early on in life or freeze your eggs while you wait for the right guy later.
Dr. Aimee: Exactly. I love that you use the word options because it is certainly about securing options for yourself so patients can come to see you if they are simply fertility curious and just want to learn about their bodies first. Just because they see you doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to do treatment, but sometimes doing a check-in with a specialist can reveal a roadmap for what you might want to consider for the future.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: That’s absolutely right. I have a lot of patients actually that will just come in for “testing.” They just want a checkup to see if everything’s okay and they don’t pursue the treatment immediately. And it could be a couple of years later before I see them again, or I hear down the road when they send me a birth announcement, “Hey, by the way — remember me? I got pregnant.” So there are patients I see as new patients that once they are done with the testing they don’t have to come back. They just want to know if things are okay. As part of the national infertility awareness week, that’s great that people just want to have a checkup to ensure they are fertile.
Dr. Aimee: Right. Patients don’t need a referral from their OB-GYN. They can just see you because they want to.
I think that’s a common myth that people feel like they somehow have to have a struggle or wait six months or a year or longer. Or that they feel they have to go through lots of heartbreak before they get to see an expert like yourself.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: That’s, that’s exactly correct. You can just be curious and just show up, make an appointment and come and find out if you’re fertile. One of the good things about doing that, getting the testing and just knowing what your options are initially is if you do need treatment, you’re at least are aware of it early on and there’s no harm in a little bit of knowledge about yourself. This can help you to make decisions down the road.
Dr. Aimee: Exactly. So what made you decide to become an OB-GYN?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: I decided to become an OB-GYN — A lot of it had to do with certain tragedies in my life and then watching my mom go through her reproductive years.
My family were immigrants and my mom had six children, four of whom are alive. I watched her go through several events in her reproductive life. One of them was when she lost a baby who was about seven months old from just a gastrointestinal bug. Here in America gastrointestinal bugs are easily treatable. But just severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration led to losing a seven-month-old.
I was five years old when that happened. And I do remember knowing that I wasn’t going to see my sister again. With my mother’s subsequent pregnancy, she was very good about having her prenatal care visits. She showed up for her delivery and actually her delivery was scheduled on my birthday.
When she showed up for her delivery, the baby did not have a heartbeat anymore. She had two traumatic losses and then her subsequent pregnancy, with my brother she had severe preeclampsia towards the end.
Preeclampsia is where women have high blood pressure. They can also have protein in their urine, large swelling in their legs, more so than just having swelling associated with pregnancy. Some women will have multiple electrolyte abnormalities in their blood and then they could potentially have seizures or lose a pregnancy in very severe cases.
She had an emergency C-section with my brother. When my brother was about five, my mom passed out in the kitchen from massive bleeding. She knew she had fibroids, but I don’t think she knew what fibroids were or how severe it would be.
She eventually got a transfusion and subsequently had a hysterectomy. So just watching her go through her own reproductive life had certainly planted a seed in me that I want to help women and children. This seemed to be my calling in life. But certainly, I didn’t know anything about being a doctor until I got into medical school. I kept an open mind when I was in medical school. As you know, we rotate through the various departments of medicine and every rotation I loved and I thought, “Oh yeah, I’m going to be a pediatrician. I’m going to be a surgeon. I’m going to do internal medicine.” But at the end of the day, I chose the route of OB-GYN as it gave me a little bit of medicine, a little bit of surgery, and I get to take care of women!
And then during my OB-GYN residency, I did a rotation in reproductive endocrinology and infertility and that’s when I found my true calling in life.
I really enjoy helping people who are struggling with fertility and helping them to fulfill their family dreams. I have two favorite parts of my jobs.
The first one is when someone first finds out that they’re pregnant and come to the office for the first obstetrical ultrasound. They’re nervous and we do the ultrasound and when they see the pregnancy and hear the heartbeat, they have such tears of joy. It’s an amazing moment.
And then the other time that I really enjoy my job is when nine months later they show up at my office with the baby and I get to take a picture with the baby and hold the baby. I’m sharing in their excitement and their joy and happiness. It makes me feel like I’m doing good for other people. So I really enjoy doing what I do.
Dr. Aimee: Right. I mean, you’re bringing more love into this world. Every patient encounter you have is an opportunity to do that. And now more than ever, that’s important.
And I’m sure you’ve seen it as well as how this pandemic hasn’t necessarily slowed people or stop people’s desire for having children. If anything, it’s gotten them more focused on what their priorities are. Have you noticed the same thing?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: I’ve noticed the same thing, yes. With this pandemic we hear that there’s going to be a baby boom in nine months. But for women or just people in general who are struggling with fertility, they cannot get pregnant the old fashioned way and they’re not part of this baby boom that we’re going to see in nine months. And so now they’ve become particularly focused on their goals too. And so patients do want to get pregnant. They do want to pursue their families.
Dr. Aimee: Right, right. I want to get into a little bit about the two books that you’ve written. The first book is Miracle Baby. A Fertility Doctor’s Fight for Motherhood. Tell us about your book.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Miracle Baby: A fertility Doctor’s Fight for Motherhood is a memoir of my life story and it really details a lot of my own personal struggles with infertility and trying to have my son. So earlier on in this interview, you asked me about the types of services that I provide to patients in terms of testing and treatment options. I can tell you that I’ve stood in my patient’s shoes because I’ve done pretty much all that testing, all that treatment.
I’ve personally undergone five rounds of IVF, five egg retrievals. We did genetic testing PGT-A for our embryos and only had one euploid embryo after all of that work. That embryo was ultimately transferred to a surrogate. It’s because of my surrogate’s kindness that I am a mother today.
So the book, Miracle Baby, details a lot of my fertility struggles. But, there are two parallel stories.
The first story is my struggle to have a child. The second parallel story in that the book talks about the tragedies in my life and some of the stuff I watched my mother go through. The book details my very humble beginnings to become a successful physician.
The book is a book of hope, faith, perseverance, and certainly love. When you read the book, you will cry and then you will laugh sometimes. And there’ll be moments of hope and then there’ll be moments of despair. But the book ends with you walking away, feeling inspired, and feeling very happy.
Dr. Aimee: Awesome. And what was your hope or goal in writing the book?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: My hope in writing the book was to help other patients.
I am a very private person and actually putting my life story, my own struggles, my husband, and everyone else who was involved in this book and making it public — I never thought I would do that.
I’ve listened to thousands of people share their problems with me. Yet, I’ve internalized my own problems and never really talked about them. And so when my surrogate was pregnant and it was a few months before she was due the opportunity to leave private practice for a little while came about. I didn’t carry my son for nine months. I didn’t really know him. And so I decided I was going to take a break from working and then eventually come back. And when I was getting ready to leave private practice, I started telling patients, “Hey, I’m leaving. I’m expecting a baby.”
My patients looked at me and my non-enlarged belly, and said “You’re not expecting a baby, there’s no baby there.” I then had to share details of my story. “Okay. There’s a surrogate involved. She’s pregnant.” And so I started sharing my story with my own patients essentially because they were curious. They wanted to know why was I leaving. I have had numerous of my own patients tell me “You are kind but now that we know that you’ve been through what we go through, we have even more love for you.” This was a common pattern with numerous patients.
I even had several patients bring me baby gifts and I remember one of them brought me a gift for my child and I had not helped her as yet have a baby. I felt weird accepting the gift. I felt like I haven’t given her the gift that she was here to receive. I asked her “Why did she buy a baby gift for me when I have not helped her conceive as yet?” She said “Your kindness was enough. Even though I’m not pregnant, I have hope that I will get pregnant.” And so it’s my own patients that told me, you have to write a book. You need to share your story with the world. So that’s what led me to write the book.
Dr. Aimee: That’s awesome. And it’s not just one book. There’s also a second book as well. The Fertility Manual: Reproductive Options for Your Family.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: So I wrote a second book based on what I’ve noticed over the years. It’s very difficult for patients to digest all of the terminologies us doctors throw at them when it comes to infertility.
I wanted to write a simple and easy book. Not a 1000-page manual that sat on a shelf, but something quick and easy that could just explain the nuts and bolts. To answer questions like what is infertility? How do you know if have infertility? When should you see the doctor?
In the book, I walk you through what you should expect at that first doctor’s visit and what you should be looking for in your care. I explain the importance of following through with all of the testing they suggest and how the results of those tests typically lead to a treatment recommendation.
I give guidance on how to know which treatment is truly right for you. The book includes a chapter on donor egg, donor sperm, and surrogacy, because, sometimes you have to borrow an egg, sperm, or uterus, as in my case.
In the book, there is a chapter on recurrent pregnancy loss because unfortunately there are couples who are getting pregnant but just cannot hold on to the pregnancy. And so they need help to have a live birth.
The final chapter talks about the psychosocial aspect of infertility. As you know, fertility patients are very stressed out. They can struggle with anxiety and depression. It can affect the way they interact with their family and friends. For that reason, the last chapter explores the psychosocial aspect of being a fertility patient.
When I was writing the book, I gave the first draft to my husband to read. He said to me, “I wished someone gave me this book before we started our journey.”
Keep in mind, this comment came from a man who’s married to a fertility doctor! I can sit down and explain everything to him all the time. But, he felt that if he had this book, at least he would have the knowledge that he needed to ask the right questions because sometimes he didn’t even know what the right questions were to ask.
Dr. Aimee: So maybe the book is also for family members, for people who are struggling. So let’s say you have a mother or mother-in-law who’s not sure what you’re going through. A patient could potentially give their family member a copy of your book so they understand a little bit more about what the patient is going through.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Absolutely! That also helps your mom or mother-in-law in terms of being supportive of what a patient is going through.
Dr. Aimee: Yeah. So how do you think we should make people more aware of infertility so they’re not finding out too late when there’s already a problem?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Back in the day, 20, 40, 60 years ago, people never talked about fertility. It was, “Oh, we just don’t know why we never had a baby”. People were afraid to talk about it. The biggest thing is that we’ve got to talk about it. Many people struggle with fertility. One in eight struggle with having a child, therefore we all know someone who’s having problems having a child. And the only way to make it less taboo is to talk about it. When we share our experiences we can all help each other.
Dr. Aimee: Do you think the experiences that you’ve had as a patient make you a better fertility doctor and more understanding, more compassionate?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Absolutely. I feel that I have become a good doctor by first being a patient. And so yes, it has helped me.
Dr. Aimee: What advice do you have for men and women who are struggling with infertility?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: The biggest advice that I can give to men and women struggling with infertility is to seek help. Go see a doctor. And then also start sharing your struggles with fertility — simply being aware that you are not alone. Talk to your friends, your family members, and join support groups. It’s really nice to know that there are other people struggling with the same thing and to bounce your experiences off of each other. That’s going to be very important. Parenthood is a real possibility today.
Dr. Aimee: And the CCRM name, it means a lot. What does that mean from a lab standpoint for a patient to know?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Yes, our system has an outstanding lab. We have very high pregnancy success rates. We have our own genetics lab. This means we don’t send out any of our specimens to other genetic labs. We do the pre-implantation genetic testing — aneuploidy screening that we talked about earlier in the interview. All of it is done by us. Hence, we have excellent quality control. It is very important that people know that we will provide good care to them.
Dr. Aimee: Absolutely. Well, thank you for joining me this afternoon. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your time. I appreciate all you’re doing for your patients. I love your approach. I love your hands-on and highly personalized care which you’ve described to us today.
If there’s one thing that you could tell someone who’s struggling with fertility, what would that one thing be?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: To not lose hope. That’s going to be the most important thing is just to remain hopeful as today we have numerous resources to help patients. Becoming a parent is a very real possibility.
Dr. Aimee: That’s so true. There are so many ways and creative ways. I mean, everyone wants a pregnancy with their own eggs, sperm, and uterus, but there can be other options. I have patients now that I might not even have been able to help five years ago, but I can help them today because of how technology has changed and we have more tests that we can do and different approaches.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: Yes, absolutely. The technology continues to improve, and 20 years from now it’s going to be even better than it is today. We can really help people with how outstanding the technology is today.
Dr. Aimee: Absolutely. So for a patient that’s out there that let’s say, saw a fertility doctor a year ago and still hasn’t achieved the success that they deserve, now is a great time to check in with a local fertility doctor. Don’t you think?
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: I absolutely agree, it’s now or never. So this is a good time to check in with a local fertility doctor and find out what are your options because it’s very possible now to have a baby.
Dr. Aimee: Thank you so much for all your work. Thank you for your passion projects. And the two books. It was wonderful talking to you today and I hope you have a great rest of your week.
Dr. Dorette Noorhasan: You too. Thank you.
You can catch more of me and fertility topics like this through The Egg Whisperer Show. The episodes are live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram and on Wednesdays at 4 PM PST. Subscribe to the podcast too! Sign up for my next class at the Egg Whisperer School.