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IVF: FACTORS AFFECTING EGG/EMBRYO “COMPETENCY” DURING CONTROLLED OVARIAN STIMULATION (COS)

by Dr. Geoffrey Sher on November 30, 2015

The potential for a woman’s eggs to undergo orderly development and maturation, while in large part being genetically determined can be profoundly influenced by the woman’s age, her “ovarian reserve” and proximity to menopause. It is also influenced by the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COH) which by fashioning the intra-ovarian hormonal environment, profoundly impacts egg development and maturation.

After the menarche (age at which menstruation starts) a monthly process of repeatedly processing eggs continues until the menopause, by which time most eggs will have been used up, and ovulation and menstruation cease. When the number of eggs remaining in the ovaries falls below a certain threshold, ovarian function starts to wane over a 5 to10-years. This time period is referred to as the climacteric. With the onset of the climacteric, blood Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and later also Luteinizing Hormone (LH) levels begin to rise…. at first slowly and then more rapidly, ultimately culminating in the complete cessation of ovulation and menstruation (i.e. menopause).

One of the early indications that the woman has entered the climacteric and that ovarian reserve is diminishing DOR) , is the detection of a basal blood FSH level above 9.0 MIU/ml and/ or an AMH level og <2.0ng/ml.

Prior to the changes that immediately precede ovulation, virtually all human eggs have 23 pairs (i.e. 46) of chromosomes. Thirty six to forty hours prior to ovulation, a surge occurs in the release of LH by the pituitary gland. One of the main e purposes of this LH surge is to cause the chromosomes in the egg to divide n half (to 23 in number) in order that once fertilized by a mature sperm ends up having 23 chromosomes) the resulting embryo will be back to having 46 chromosomes. A “competent” mature egg is one that has precisely 23 chromosomes, not any more or any less. It is largely the egg, rather than the sperm that determines the chromosomal integrity of the embryo and only an embryo that has a normal component of 46 chromosomes (i.e. euploid) is “competent” to develop into a healthy baby. If for any reason the final number of chromosomes in the egg is less or more than 23 (aneuploid), it will be incapable of propagating a euploid, “competent” embryo. Thus egg/embryo aneuploidy (“incompetence”) is the leading cause of human reproductive dysfunction which can manifest as: arrested embryo development and/or failed implantation (which often presents as infertility), early miscarriage or chromosomal birth defects (e.g. Down’s syndrome). While most aneuploid (“incompetent”) embryos often fail to produce a pregnancy, some do. However, most such pregnancies miscarry early on. On relatively rare occasions, depending on the chromosome pair involved, aneuploid embryos can develop into chromosomally defective babies (e.g. Down’s syndrome).

Up until a woman reaches her mid- thirties, at best, 1:2  of her eggs will likely be chromosomally normal. As she ages beyond her mid-thirties there will be a a progressive decline in egg quality such that by age 40 years only about 15%-20% of eggs are euploid and, by the time the woman reaches her mid-forties, less than 10% of her eggs are likely to be chromosomally normal. While most aneuploid embryos do appear to be microscopically abnormal under the light microscope, this is not invariably so. In fact, many aneuploid embryos a have a perfectly normal appearance under the microscope. This is why it is not possible to reliably differentiate between competent and incompetent embryos on the basis of their microscopic appearance (morphologic grade) alone.

The process of natural selection usually precludes most aneuploid embryos from attaching to the uterine lining. Those that do attach usually do so for such only a brief period of time. In such cases the woman often will not even experience a postponement of menstruation. There will be a transient rise in blood hCG levels but in most cases the woman will be unaware of even having conceived (i.e. a “chemical pregnancy”). Alternatively, an aneuploid embryo might attach for a period of a few weeks before being expelled (i.e. a “miscarriage”). Sometimes (fortunately rarely) an aneuploid embryo will develop into a viable baby that is born with a chromosomal birth defect (e.g. Down’s syndrome).

The fact that the incidence of embryo aneuploidy invariably increases with advancing age serves to explain why reproductive failure (“infertility”, miscarriages and birth defects), also increases as women get older.

It is an over-simplification to represent that diminishing ovarian reserve as evidenced by raised FSH blood levels (and other tests) and reduced response to stimulation with fertility drugs is a direct cause of “poor egg/ embryo quality”. This common misconception stems from the fact that poor embryo quality (“incompetence”) often occurs in women who at the same time, because of the advent of the climacteric also have elevated basal blood FSH/LH levels and reduced AMH. But it is not the elevation in FSH or the low AMH that causes embryo “incompetence”. Rather it is the effect of advancing age (the “biological clock”) resulting a progressive increase in the incidence of egg aneuploidy, which is responsible for declining egg quality. Simply stated, as women get older “wear and tear” on their eggs increases the likelihood of egg and thus embryo aneuploidy. It just so happens that the two precipitating factors often go hand in hand.

The importance of the IVF stimulation protocol on egg/embryo quality cannot be overstated. This factor seems often to be overlooked or discounted by those IVF practitioners who use  a “one-size-fits-all” approach to ovarian stimulation. My experience is that the use of individualized/customized COS protocols can greatly improve IVF outcome in patients at risk – particularly those with diminished ovarian reserve (“poor responders”) and those who are “high responders” (women with PCOS , those with dysfunctional or absent ovulation, and young women under 25 years of age).

While no one can influence underlying genetics or turn back the clock on a woman’s age, any competent IVF specialist should be able to tailor the protocol for COS to meet the individual needs of the patient.

During the normal ovulation cycle, ovarian hormonal changes are regulated to avoid irregularities in production and interaction that could adversely influence follicle development and egg quality. As an example, small amounts of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone) that are produced by the ovarian stroma (the tissue surrounding ovarian follicles) during the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle enhance late follicle development, estrogen production by the granulosa cells (cells that line the inner walls of follicles), and egg maturation.

However, over-production of testosterone can adversely influence the same processes. It follows that protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS should be geared toward optimizing follicle growth and development (without placing the woman at risk from overstimulation), while at the same time avoiding excessive ovarian androgen production. Achievement of such objectives requires a very individualized approach to choosing the protocol for COS with fertility drugs as well as the precise timing of the “trigger shot” of hCG.

It is important to recognize that the pituitary gonadotropins, LH and FSH, while both playing a pivotal role in follicle development, have different primary sites of action in the ovary. The action of FSH is mainly directed towards the cells lining the inside of the follicle that are responsible for estrogen production. LH, on the other hand, acts primarily on the ovarian stroma to produce male hormones/ androgens (e.g. androstenedione and testosterone). A small amount of testosterone is necessary for optimal estrogen production. Over-production of such androgens can have a deleterious effect on granulosa cell activity, follicle growth/development, egg maturation, fertilization potential and subsequent embryo quality. Furthermore, excessive ovarian androgens can also compromise estrogen-induced endometrial growth and development.

In conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is characterized by increased blood LH levels, there is also increased ovarian androgen production. It is therefore not surprising that “poor egg/embryo quality” is often a feature of this condition. The use of LH-containing preparations such as Menopur further aggravates this effect. Thus we recommend using FSH-dominant products such as Follistim, Puregon, and Gonal-F in such cases. While it would seem prudent to limit LH exposure in all cases of COS, this appears to be more vital in older women, who tend to be more sensitive to LH

It is common practice to administer gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa) agonists such as Lupron, and, GnRH-antagonists such as Ganirelix and Orgalutron to prevent the release of LH during COS. GnRH agonists exert their LH-lowering effect over a number of days. They act by causing an initial outpouring followed by a depletion of pituitary gonadotropins. This results in the LH level falling to low concentrations, within 4-7 days, thereby establishing a relatively “LH-free environment”. GnRH Antagonists, on the other hand, act very rapidly (within a few hours) to block pituitary LH release, so as achieve the same effect.

Long Agonist (Lupron/Buserelin) Protocols: The most commonly prescribed protocol for Lupron/gonadotropin administration is the so-called “long protocol”. Here, Lupron is given, starting a week or so prior to menstruation. This results in an initial rise in FSH and LH level, which is rapidly followed by a precipitous fall to near zero. It is followed by uterine withdrawal bleeding (menstruation), whereupon gonadotropin treatment is initiated while daily Lupron injections continue, to ensure a “low LH” environment. A modification to the long protocol which I prefer using in cases of DOR, is the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP) where, upon the onset of a Lupron-induced bleed , this agonist is supplanted by an antagonist (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) and this is continued until the hCG trigger. In many such cases I supplement with human growth hormone (HGH) to try and further enhance response and egg development.

Lupron Flare/Micro-Flare Protocol: Another approach to COS is by way of so-called “(micro) flare protocols”. This involves initiating gonadotropin therapy simultaneous with the administration of GnRH agonist (e.g. Lupron/Buserelin). The intent here  is to deliberately allow Lupron to elicit an initial surge (“flare”) in pituitary FSH release in order to augment FSH administration by increased FSH production. Unfortunately, this “spring board effect” represents “a double edged sword” because while it indeed increases the release of FSH, it at the same time causes a surge in LH release. The latter can evoke excessive ovarian stromal androgen production which could potentially compromise egg quality, especially in older women and women with PCOS, whose ovaries have increased sensitivity to LH. I am of the opinion that by evoking an exaggerated ovarian androgen response, such “(micro) flare protocols” can harm egg/embryo quality and reduce IVF success rates, especially in older women, and in women with diminished ovarian reserve. Accordingly, I do not prescribe them at all.

Estrogen Priming – My approach for “Poor Responders” Our patients who have demonstrated reduced ovarian response to COS as well as those who by way of significantly raised FSH blood levels are likely to be “poor responders”, are treated using a “modified” long protocol. The approach involves the initial administration of GnRH agonist for a number of days to cause pituitary down-regulation. Upon menstruation and confirmation by ultrasound and measurement of blood estradiol levels that adequate ovarian suppression has been achieved, the dosage of GnRH agonist is drastically lowered and the woman is given twice-weekly injections of estradiol for a period of 8. COS is thereupon initiated using a relatively high dosage of FSH-(Follistim, Bravelle, Puregon or Gonal F) which is continued along with daily administration of GnRH agonist until the “hCG trigger.” By this approach we have been able to significantly improve ovarian response to gonadotropins in many of hitherto “resistant patients”.

The “Trigger”: hCG (Profasi/Pregnyl/Novarel) versus Lupron:  With ovulation induction using fertility drugs, the administration of 10,000U  hCGu (the hCG “trigger”) mimics the LH surge, sending the eggs (which up to that point are immature (M1) and have 46 chromosomes)  into maturational division (meiosis)  This process is designed to halve the chromosome number , resulting in mature eggs (M2) that will have 23 chromosomes rather that the 46 chromosomes it had prior to the “trigger”. Such a chromosomally normal, M2 egg, upon being fertilized by  mature sperm (that following maturational division also has 23 chromosomes) will hopefully propagate embryos that have 46 chromosomes and will be “:competent” to propagate viable pregnancies. The key is to trigger with no less than 10,000U of hCGu (Profasi/Novarel/Pregnyl) and if hCGr (Ovidrel) is used, to make sure that 500mcg (rather than 250mcg) is administered. In my opinion, any lesser dosage will reduce the efficiency of meiosis, and increase the risk of the eggs being chromosomally abnormal.  . I also do not use the agonist (Lupron) “trigger”. This approach which is often recommended for women at risk of overstimulation, is intended to reduce the risk of OHSS. The reason for using the Lupron trigger is that by inducing a surge in the release of LH by the pituitary gland it reduces the risk of OHSS. This is true, but this comes at the expense of egg quality because the extent of the induced LH surge varies and if too little LH is released, meiosis can be compromised, thereby increasing the percentage of chromosomally abnormal and of immature (M1) eggs. The use of “coasting” in such cases (see below) can obviate this effect.

Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): Women with certain types of absent or dysfunctional ovulation as well as those who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are highly sensitive to gonadotropins and are at risk of developing OHSS. Such women are also more likely than others to produce poor quality eggs/embryos which, they are often led to believe is attributable to an intrinsic egg defect that is characteristic of their PCOS condition. This is not necessarily so. The most likely reason as to why many women with PCOS develop an excessive number of follicles and then go on to produce poor quality eggs/embryos has to do with the fact that, in an attempt to contain reduce the risk of OHSS they are often administered hCG prematurely – prior to the attainment of optimal egg maturation.

“Prolonged Coasting”: In the early nineties, we introduced “Prolonged Coasting”, a procedure which eliminates the risk of OHSS while allowing the hCG trigger to be deferred for long enough as to allow for optimal follicle/egg maturation to take place. Coasting involves withholding gonadotropin therapy while the administration of GnRH agonist/antagonist is continued. The daily measurement of blood estradiol is continued until the concentration drops below a safe threshold level, at which time HCG is administered (regardless of the number of follicles). When appropriately implemented “coasting” results in the production of good quality eggs/embryos, in circumstances where this might otherwise not have been possible.

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  • Kim D - May 22, 2017 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher,
    I just came across your website and it is the most helpful site I have found! I am 40 yrs, have had 2 miscarriages (one stopped developing at 6 weeks and the second showed a heartbeat at 6 wks, then natural miscarriage at 8 weeks). I have gone through 2 rounds of IVF:
    1st Round: BCP for 2 weeks after period, then 300 Gonal-F / 150 Menopur, final 6 days added Cetrotide, then Lupron trigger. 17 follicles but were in 2 groupings, 9 eggs, 6 mature, 3 made it to blastocyst. PGS showed all 3 aneuploid.
    2nd Round: took daily estrace (4 mg daily) after ovulation for 11 days, then started 300 Gonal-F/150 Menopur, added HGH (Omnitrope 0.5ml) on day 7 for 6 days and added Cetrotide on day 7 for 5 days. Lupron trigger again. About 17-19 follicles, 12 eggs, 9 mature, 5 fertilized, on Day 3 there were still 5 developing:
    • Two 8-cell embryos (grade 1)
    • Two 7-cell embryos (grade 1-2)
    • One 6-cell embryo (grade 1)
    But only 2 made it to blastocyst/PGS. Waiting for PGS results.

    I am also on 25mg of Levothryoxin
    Started taking Ubiquinol 100mg on round 2

    FSH: 9.7
    AMH: 2.88
    Estradiol: 59.2

    I had been debating if both of these blastocysts come back aneuploid whether to assume I am too old and need to move on to a donor. However, your article made me wonder if it is worth another try or 2 with a different protocol. Do you think the use of Menopur and Lupron trigger could be negatively affecting my results? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the best protocol for my situation.

    Thank you!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - May 22, 2017 reply

    I think we should talk! In my opinion, while age is undoubtedly a factor because it increases the risk of egg/embryo aneuploidy, the protocol for ovarian stimulation is also a critical factor. You have normal ovarian reserve , something going for you, but in my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation needs to be revised. I also am not in favor of the “Lupron trigger”…see below.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Why did my IVF Fail
    • Unexplained IVF Failure
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas
    • Should IVF Treatment Cycles be provided uninterrupted or be Conducted in 7-12 Pre-scheduled “Batches” per Year
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • “Triggering” Egg Maturation in IVF: Comparing urine-derived hCG, Recombinant DNA-hCG and GnRH-agonist:
    • The “Lupron Trigger” to Prevent Severe OHSS: What are the Pro’s and Con’s?
    • My Retirement in the Year Ahead: A letter of Thanks From me to You!

    ANNOUNCEMENTS:
    1. About my Retirement by mid-2018:
    After > 30 years in the field of Assisted Reproduction (AR), the time has finally come for me to plan on retiring from full-time clinical medicine within a year. If you are interested in my medical services prior to my retirement, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com. You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com.

    2. The 4th edition of my newest book ,
    “In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is now available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Geoffrey Sher MD

  • Laurie - May 6, 2017 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher,
    First off, let me say how invaluable I’ve found your website and blog. Extremely informative and having the perfect balance of being ‘scientific’ in descriptions and still being easily digestible. I’d be very appreciative for your opinion regarding our second IVF cycle which I expect to commence later this month. I am 40 years old (nearly 41) with an AMH of 11.1 and follicular FSH of 5.0. I have suffered two early missed miscarriages in the past year (both found at 7 week scan) – the first from natural conception and the second from conception via IUI. Genetics testing on retained products of conception from the second miscarriage confirmed trisomy 16. I expect and appreciate that due to advancing age, my eggs are just no longer good quality.
    My first IVF cycle (just completed unsuccessfully) followed a long 21 day protocol which included Synarel nose spray (200 mcg, 1 in each nostral 2x per day) beginning on day 21; Gonal f (300 iu, 12 days); Ovitrelle (250 mg, 36 hr before egg collection). I also have been taking ubiquinol (400) and DHEA (50mg, up until start of cycle). EC yielded 7 eggs from 7 follicles, of which 6 were ‘mature’ – 2 of which fertilised ‘normally’ with 2pn and 4 fertilised ‘abnormally’ with 3pn noted. Day 3 we had one grade 1 8 cell embryo (‘highest quality’) and one grade 2 7 cell embryo. By day 5, we had two morulas and we left them to try to grow to blastocyst the following day as we were trying to get them to good enough quality to do CGH testing and freeze. Unfortunately by day 6, one had arrested and the other only made it to early blast and was starting to degrade.
    Our second cycle is commencing immediately and again a long 21 day protocol is being recommended – same down-reg medication (Synarel) and trigger (Ovitrelle 250mg), though this time our consultant is recommending trying Menopur (375 iu) instead. I have discontinued the DHEA (based on one of your posts which suggested it might be problematic for some) but am continuing the CO-Q10 (ubiquinol).
    I’d be very keen to hear your thoughts on the protocol we are being recommended for our second cycle, considering we are trying to increase egg yield (if at all possible) and certainly ‘normal’ fertilisation rate and ultimately embryo quality. Are you happy for your patients to do consecutive cycles without much of a break? Thanks so much for your response (and apologies for the long post).

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - May 6, 2017 reply

    I would strongly recommend keeping the Menopur at 75U and giving either 500mg of Ovidrel (not 250mcg) for the trigger or 10,000U hCG. A lower dosage will in my opinion only increase the incidence of egg aneuploidy (see below). Then do blastocyst biopsy + PGS.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Egg Maturation in IVF: How Egg “Immaturity”, “Post-maturity” and “Dysmaturity” Influence IVF Outcome:
    • Commonly Asked Question in IVF: “Why Did so Few of my Eggs Fertilize and, so Many Fail to Reach Blastocyst?”
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • Why did my IVF Fail
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • IVF: The first Choice for Infertile Women 40 to 43 Years of Age!
    • “Triggering” Egg Maturation in IVF: Comparing urine-derived hCG, Recombinant DNA-hCG and GnRH-agonist:
    • My Retirement in the Year Ahead: A letter of Thanks From me to You!

    ANNOUNCEMENTS:
    1. About my Retirement by mid-2018:
    After > 30 years in the field of Assisted Reproduction (AR), the time has finally come for me to plan on retiring from full-time clinical medicine within a year. If you are interested in my medical services prior to my retirement, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com. You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com.

    2. The 4th edition of my newest book ,
    “In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is now available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Geoffrey Sher MD

  • Nithi - March 9, 2017 reply

    Hi Doctor,

    I am 33 years old. I was diagnosed with endometriosis as the doctor saw endometriomas in my ovaries. They were small so the doctor did not remove them. I did 2 rounds of IUI which failed. The doctor then put me on a 3 month long Lupron to suppress my endometriosis. I did not recover from the Lupron even after 6 months – I didn’t get my period at all. So on the 7th month my period was induced and the doctor decided to do IVF the same cycle my period was induced. I was given Gonal F 175 for 4 days followed by 225 for 5 days then one day of 350 dosage. I also took centrotide. I only managed to get 7 eggs and I was told all my eggs were not of good quality. We managed to transfer 2 on day 2 and the rest didn’t survive past day 3. I have a normal FSH range, I believe range of 6. I am concerned about my egg quality and why I responded so poorly to the medication. Would you have any advise?

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - March 9, 2017 reply

    I somehow suspect that your response was linked to the protocol used for ovarian stimulation and its implementation but I would need to have far more information to comment authoritatively here. For example, the details regarding the protocol used for ovarian stimulation and its implementation of the protocol, the method and dosage of the “trigger” and what was your ovarian reserve as measured by your AMH level,your day 3-FSH/LH/E2 and your antral follicle count (AFC).

    Separately, please be aware that endometriosis can also affect embryo implantation….see below.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
    • A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
    • Optimizing Response to Ovarian Stimulation in Women with Compromised Ovarian Response to Ovarian Stimulation: A Personal Approach.
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Why did my IVF Fail
    • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
    • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
    • IVF: Selecting the Best Quality Embryos to Transfer
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • IVF: The first Choice for Infertile Women 40 to 43 Years of Age!
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas
    • Should IVF Treatment Cycles be provided uninterrupted or be Conducted in 7-12 Pre-scheduled “Batches” per Year
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
    • The Basic Infertility Work-Up
    • Endometriosis and Infertily
    • Endometriosis and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and IVF
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: Why IVF Rather than IUI or Surgery Should be the Treatment of Choice.
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: The Influence of Age and Severity on Treatment Options
    • Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Amy S. - February 19, 2017 reply

    Good morning,
    I am 43 and just went through my 1st IVF high stim protocol with Follistim and Menipur, trigger shot HCG. I’m am patient of UNIV of Iowa. We had 9 mature eggs, 7 fertilizer normally, only 1 ended up blastocyst for biopsy and came back Trisomy 11. We will do our second round next month and they want to do same protocol. I am up against a timeline obviously and want to be sure I’m on the right protocol. Any thoughts?

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - February 20, 2017 reply

    In my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation, against the backdrop of age, and ovarian reserve are the drivers of egg quality and egg quality is the most important factor affecting embryo “competency”.
    Older women as well as those who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) tend to produce fewer and less “competent” eggs, the main reason for reduced IVF success in such cases. The compromised outcome is largely due to the fact that such women tend to have increased LH biological activity which often results in excessive LH-induced ovarian testosterone production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.
    Certain ovarian stimulation regimes either promote excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), augment LH/hCG delivered through additional administration (e.g. high dosage menotropins such as Menopur), or fail to protect against body’s own/self-produced LH (e.g. late antagonist protocols where drugs such as Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron that are first administered 6-7 days after ovarian stimulation has commenced).
    I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in older women and those with DOR, favoring instead the use of a modified, long pituitary down-regulation protocol (the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol-A/ACP) augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend Staggered IVF with embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-normal blastocysts in such cases. This type of approach will in my opinion, optimize the chance of a viable pregnancy per embryo transfer procedure and provide an opportunity to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality still exists, allowing the chance to “make hay while the sun still shines”.
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the“Conventional” Antagonist Aproach
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
    • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
    • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It Should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • Implications of “Empty Follicle Syndrome and “Premature Luteinization”
    • Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.
    Geoff Sher

  • Janice - January 30, 2017 reply

    Hi Dr Sher,

    I am 41 years old with AMH of 1.8. I just had 12 eggs retrieved after stimming with gonal-F/menopur but only 6 were ‘mature’. I was taking a high dose of menopur (4 vials) from CD2 and didn’t start ganirelix until 1 day before the trigger (partly because the nurse forgot to order my E2 test on CD9). Do you think overexposure to LH could be the cause of the high % of immature eggs? Many thanks, Janice.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - January 30, 2017 reply

    Respectfully, in my opinion, this is possible.

    In my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation, against the backdrop of age, and ovarian reserve are the drivers of egg quality and egg quality is the most important factor affecting embryo “competency”.
    Older women as well as those who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) tend to produce fewer and less “competent” eggs, the main reason for reduced IVF success in such cases. The compromised outcome is largely due to the fact that such women tend to have increased LH biological activity which often results in excessive LH-induced ovarian testosterone production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.
    Certain ovarian stimulation regimes either promote excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), augment LH/hCG delivered through additional administration (e.g. high dosage menotropins such as Menopur), or fail to protect against body’s own/self-produced LH (e.g. late antagonist protocols where drugs such as Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron that are first administered 6-7 days after ovarian stimulation has commenced).
    I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in older women and those with DOR, favoring instead the use of a modified, long pituitary down-regulation protocol (the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol-A/ACP) augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend Staggered IVF with embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-normal blastocysts in such cases. This type of approach will in my opinion, optimize the chance of a viable pregnancy per embryo transfer procedure and provide an opportunity to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality still exists, allowing the chance to “make hay while the sun still shines”.
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the“Conventional” Antagonist Aproach
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
    • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
    • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It Should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • Implications of “Empty Follicle Syndrome and “Premature Luteinization”
    • Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.
    Geoff Sher

  • Kizmine - July 23, 2016 reply

    Hello doctor, i am 35 and have PCOS, my doctor gave me metformin 500mg twice daily.. My question is how many months should I take the medication and expect the result in treating my PCOS.. Thank u..

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - July 23, 2016 reply

    About 2-3 months.

    Geoff Sher

  • gwendy - July 1, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher,

    I am 37 and just went through my first IVF cycle. I have two children (3 and 7) that were conceived naturally, but I have since had tubal ligation voluntarily and need IVF to conceive. There is no history of infertility in my or my family’s history (mother and grandmothers had children into their 40s). I was on a protocol of Gonal pen, Menopur and Cetrotide with an HCG (Novarel) trigger. I was instructed to take the trigger with a lead follicle of 17, a couple 16 and ten or so between 10-15. Twenty three eggs were retrieved, 20 were mature, 14 fertilized and only one made it to day 5 with a 3/2 rating. I have never heard of such drastic embryo arrest and am now very reluctant to try again. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - July 2, 2016 reply

    Hi there,

    Respectfully, I think the timing of theb trigger might have been a dfay early. Ideally you need several follicles at 18-22mm and 50% overal >15mm before triggering.

    Geoff Sher

    gwendy - July 5, 2016 reply

    Thank you s0 much for taking the time to provide thoughtful replies to me and the other couples on your website. This is truly the most helpful resource that I have found on the internet and I appreciate your providing this service.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - July 5, 2016 reply

    Thank you Gwendy! You are very kind!

    Geoff Sher

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