Dr. Sonya Kashyap: A Leader in Reproductive Health and Treatment

Dr. Sonya Kashyap is currently the Medical Director of Genesis Fertility Centre, which helps couples and individuals conceive using advanced reproductive technology and individualized, patient-centered care and treatment. Fertility issues are more relevant today than ever before, now that many women and couples are starting families later in life. New technologies are making it possible for women to have children when they choose, without jeopardizing their health AND EXTENDING  their options. Major breakthroughs in genetic testing increase the success of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). It is a procedure where eggs are harvested from a woman’s body and fertilized in an IVF laboratory with her partner’s/donor’s sperm to create embryos> THESE EMBRYOS CAN BE later used for pregnancy, GENETICALLY SCREENED TO  accelerate the time to delivery, and / OR GENETICALLY TESTED prevent the transmission of deadly diseases. This does not only impacts individual families but also has the potential to remove disease-causing genes effectively from future generations. Dr. Kashyap clearly has the passion for her work. “When you learn the impact of changing the destiny of somebody’s family by helping them bear a child that the INDIVIDUAL OR COUPLE otherwise may not have had, it’s fulfilling,” she beams.

Dr. Kashyap completed medical school, her residency, and a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa before specializing in reproductive medicine and infertility at Cornell Medical University in New York. Cornell has one of the best IVF clinics in the world. She returned to Ottawa to be a Clinician Scientist, dividing her time between research and clinical work, before going to the University of California San Francisco, and eventually settled in Vancouver to continue her work in the field. Dr. Kashyap took what she learned from many of the foremost experts in the field and had brought that experience and knowledge to Genesis Fertility Centre. “I wanted to bring back what I learned, and provide it here, to Canadians,” she recalls. Dr. Kashyap is certified both in Canada and the United States in Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

Fertility issues are increasingly becoming more RELEVANT, as the optimal window for a woman to start a family may not necessarily line up with her career and other life goals/plans. With major medical breakthroughs in the field, these women have considerably more options. With the average age of a woman’s first pregnancy in BC recently surpassing 31 years old, egg freezing is a viable option for reproductive or family planning. The process involves a woman’s eggs being extracted, frozen and stored indefinitely. The procedure is identical to in vitro fertilization except that eggs are frozen by a process called “vitrification” instead of being fertilized.

Dr. Kashyap notes that “studies suggest that if you freeze eggs at age 30, you can have greater success at having a baby and avoid the costs of several cycles of IVF treatment at age 40.” She believes that education about this treatment is as important as contraceptive planning when women are considering their reproductive options. Egg freezing enables more choices for women by providing the best chance of having a family when ready – whether that’s completion of education, reaching a certain career stage, or finding the right partner. BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT IT IS NOT A GUARANTEE AND IT WILL ALWAYS BE EASIER TO CONCEIVE AND HAVE A HEALTHY PREGNANCY AT A YOUNGER AGE. “Many women haven’t met someone they feel is right for them,” she explains, “so, egg freezing offers them an option to have children later in life, when they have met that person.”

Genetic testing and medical breakthroughs also can prevent the transmission of genetic illnesses. “There are many diseases we can test for,” Dr. Kashyap advises. “We can determine which embryo may have a particular illness, and we can skip that embryo and instead find an embryo that is disease-free. Thus, in same cases, we can prevent future transmission of that illness.” Genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, thalassemia, Huntington’s disease, factor V Leiden can be identified.

In addition to providing highly advanced, innovative treatments to patients, Dr. Kashyap also sees her role as being one of educating the public about common myths and misperceptions about infertility. “Twenty, maybe up to forty percent of the time, we don’t know the cause of infertility. People sometimes think infertility was caused by something a person did, which is often simply not true. Often the cause is something the person simply has no control over.”

Another misperception people often hold is that fertility treatment is an expense that is out of reach for many Canadians. “There are federal tax credits that help,” Dr. Kashyap explains. “These days treatment is much more accessible thanks to these tax credits.” She also notes that the workup and consult are also covered, under one’s Medical Services Plan. In many instances, the issue may not require fertility treatment VIA ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIE BUT RATHER THROUGH SURGICAL OR OTHER MANAGEMENT, and those procedures may be included. Furthermore, the cost of most fertility treatments and medications qualifies as a medical expense under section 118.2 of the Income Tax Act. This means that costs relating to fertility treatment may be claimed as a medical expense credit on one’s income tax return.

By Gary Thandi