Sunshine Coast Advancements in Women's Health and Fertility Services

19 November 2014

Coastal IVF was Sunshine Coast’s first IVF unit and is now proud to announce a major extension of laboratory facilities and procedures as well as the opening of a new novel concept - the Coastal Women’s Health Clinic.

On Thursday 20th November at 6.30 pm, the Queensland speaker Fiona Simpson MP will be officially opening the clinic and new laboratories, co-located in a purpose-designed suite on the third floor, corner Esplanade & Second Avenue, Maroochydore. The Coast’s first set of IVF babies (twins born at 26 weeks), now 16 years old, will be providing entertainment with a duet of instrumental pieces.

Coastal Women’s Health Clinic will be managed and staffed by five female General Practitioners specialising in women’s health. The clinic which commences in the new year will offer well-woman checks, pap-smears and breast checks, contraceptive management and menopausal care. Appointment times out of normal office hours will also be offered at the clinic to provide flexibility for women who find appointments during work hours difficult to access. The clinic has been designed to ensure a comfortable and welcoming environment for the female patients.

Oversight and further medical support will be offered by Dr Paul Stokes, Obstetrician/ Gynaecologist, Director of Coastal IVF. This will include diagnostic ultrasound, advisory management and will also ensure that any complicated gynaecological problems receive access to immediate specialist intervention.

“It is very exciting to bring this service to the Sunshine Coast” said Dr Stokes, “for women on the coast to receive this care currently they usually need to visit their GP or other specialists, sometimes in a busy waiting room or via separate appointments at varying times. This clinic offers a dedicated service, with female doctors, in a supportive and comfortable environment, in one convenient location”.

Coastal IVF’s new embryology laboratories have been developed to further extend IVF services provided on the Sunshine Coast. Since the opening of Coastal IVF in 1995, the clinic has delivered premier fertility services to the Coast, from where patients had previously needed to travel to Brisbane and beyond to receive treatment.

The new laboratories represent the latest innovation to be delivered to the coast.

Coastal IVF is currently working in collaboration with a major pathology provider, Sullivan & Nicolaides (S&N) to introduce a novel technique, employing new application of established technologies to be able to provide genetic screening in every IVF cycle. This provides Coastal IVF the ability to screen all embryos in an IVF cycle for chromosomal abnormalities, increasing the pregnancy rate per transfer and decreasing the number of cycles patients need to undergo to fall pregnant.

S&N contribute to this initiative with considerable expertise as they run the largest cytogenetics laboratory in the Southern hemisphere.

Over the last 10-15 years there have been a number of techniques of genetic testing which have been available. These have been employed for specific investigation of known problems in the parents and have been successfully employed at Coastal IVF. This genetic testing was however often complicated, requiring biopsy and analysis of single embryos, time-intensive testing, and in some cases obtaining reliable results could be restricted to only 80-90% of the tested embryos - all involving a corresponding increased expense to patients. The expertise was often interstate providing further logistic obstacles.

The new laboratories and new technology enables Coastal IVF and S&N to now provide onsite laser biopsy of embryos and then screening of single-cells with DNA amplification and computerised analysis with a result rate over 98%. It also provides more information on the whole genome allowing more accurate selection of embryos and higher pregnancy success rates. The technology introduces robustness of testing and economies of scale because 20-30 tests can be completed simultaneously. This means genetic screening will be able to be offered to all patients rather than just those with known problems.

“It is that reliability and consistency that will make it available as an affordable screening test for all IVF patients” said Dr Stokes “.. genetics is clearly the direction of major development in this area of medicine and is the gold standard of modern IVF”.

Coastal IVF will initially be the only practice nationwide to deliver this technology when it is introduced but it is planned to present this quickly to be available to all other IVF units.