Mainers who want clinical treatments for infertility can once again get them without leaving the state.

A Boston-based medical group announced Wednesday that it has opened a full-service infertility treatment center in South Portland. Boston IVF The Maine Center fills the void left when Maine Medical Center closed its clinic about nine months ago. It even occupies the same space, at 778 Main St.

Women who have wanted to conceive using in vitro fertilization, and couples seeking a range of other treatments, have had to travel to the Boston area for clinical procedures.

”We’re going to be able to make it that much more convenient for patients in Maine,” said Alan Penzias, surgical director for Boston IVF.

While two-hour drives and hotel stays may not hurt the chances of successful fertility treatment, they don’t help, he said.

”We know that one of the factors that can be an impediment is stress,” he said. ”Anything that we can do to help make it less stressful” is good.

Boston IVF has been providing services to Maine men and women for more than 10 years at its center in Waltham, Mass. The new clinic is the only one of its kind in Maine, and has a full-time staff and one full-time physician.

Two more Boston IVF physicians will work in South Portland as needed, and the group’s doctors will continue to go to medical offices in Bangor, Scarborough and Lewiston to work with patients outside the treatment center.

The clinic in South Portland opened last week, offering a full range of infertility and reproductive health services for men and women, from simple drug therapies to in vitro fertilization and other clinical procedures.

Boston IVF decided to set up the clinic after Maine Medical Center offered to lease its space and sell its equipment. Maine Medical Center opened its clinic in 2006 and was doing about 100 in vitro cycles a year, not enough to support the full-time clinic, said Stephen Kasabian, chief executive officer of Maine Medical Partners, a subsidiary of Maine Med that operated the clinic.

”It’s an expensive procedure and an expensive service to deliver,” he said. ”(Boston IVF) can take the volume that they were sending south to Boston and keep that in Maine, plus the segment of the market that we were servicing. When you combine the two, you end up with a more viable financial model.”

Kasabian said Maine Med’s physicians plan to work closely with Boston IVF. ”It’s just good for patients,” he said.

Boston IVF expects 200 or more in vitro patients in the first year, or as many as 250 in vitro cycles, Penzias said. A cycle includes a period of drug therapy, followed by separate visits to the treatment center to remove an egg and then, once it is fertilized in the lab, implant the egg in the patient’s uterus.

It is an intimate, intense and expensive process, and the fact that women have had to go to Massachusetts for the clinical work has added to the stress, said Anne Belden of Cape Elizabeth.

Belden went to Massachusetts for in vitro fertilization years ago and is now leading infertility support groups and helping couples through the treatment process as part of her business, Sea Changes Life Coaching.

”It just adds a whole other layer of complications and challenges to what is already a physically and emotionally challenging situation,” Belden said. ”It also is an added expense” because patients often stay in hotels when making the trips for treatments.

Belden said word spread quickly about the new clinic, and patients are excited because Boston IVF is well known and respected in the field.

”It’s really wonderful to have them here,” she said.

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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