Dr. Sher Blog

Official blog of Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Mini-IVF: A Blessing or a Curse?

by Dr. Geoffrey Sher on October 8, 2017

Mini-IVF is a procedure that involves ovarian stimulation using low dosage medications (often oral drugs like clomiphene and letrozole) under the premise that it is a “safer” and less expensive than conventional gonadotropin stimulation regimes while yielding comparable success. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that success rates per fresh mini-IVF cycle range between 10% and 12% (i.e., about one third of that which reported national average for conventional IVF performed on  women under 39y of age). And when it comes to older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), the success rate with mini-IVF is usually much lower still.

There can be little doubt that aside from a woman’s age, the method used for ovarian stimulation represents the most important determinant of egg/embryo quality and  thus of IVF outcome. There is no single stimulation protocol that is suitable for all IVF patients.  It must be individualized…. especially when it comes to women who, regardless of their age have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and for women over >40y of age. The reason for this is that in such cases, the pituitary gland often over-produces LH which in turn causes the ovarian stroma/theca (connective tissue) to thicken (stromal hyperplasia/hyperthecosis) and over-produce male hormones (mainly testosterone). This in turn adversely influences egg and follicle growth, resulting in poor egg/embryo “competency” and compromised IVF outcome.

So let us examine the validity of the claims made in support of mini-IVF:

  1. Milder stimulation using oral agents such as clomiphene, letrozole (alone or in combination with low dosage gonadotropins (Follistim/Gonal-F/Puregon/Menopur) reduces stress on the ovaries and overall risk associated with IVF. This argument while perhaps having some merit when applied to mini-IVF conducted in younger women who also have normal ovarian reserve, does not hold water for older women and those with DOR who (s stated above)  often already have excessive LH-induced ovarian testosterone production. Furthermore, addition of clomiphene and letrozole by  further  increasing pituitary LH (and thus ovarian testosterone) only serves to add “fuel to the fire” in such cases and Menopur which contains both LH and hCG ( that both have similar effects on ovarian testosterone production),  if administered in large amounts (>75U per day) can  also do harm in my opionion. 
  2. Women with DOR will respond better to “milder stimulation” and egg quality will so be enhanced. This assertion borders on the ridiculous. It is like saying that applying less force to a heavier object will increase the likelihood of moving it”. That is simply not how FSH stimulates follicle development. You see…the cell membranes that envelop the follicular granulosa cells that line the inside surface of ovarian follicles have on their surfaces, a finite number of FSH receptors. FSH molecules attach to these receptors and mediate intracellular events that lead to granulosa cell proliferation with production of estradiol and the concurrent development of the egg (oogenesis) that is attached to the inner wall of the follicle. Once all the FSH receptors on the cell membranes are saturated, any residual FSH is discarded. This is why, when it comes to older women and women with DOR whose granulose cell membranes harbor fewer FSH receptors, it is virtually impossible to overstimulate them. Excessive FSH will simply be rejected and discarded.
  3.  Use of fewer drugs translates into lower cost. This would be true, were it not for the fact that success rates with mini-IVF across the board are much lower than with conventional ovarian stimulation. More important is the fact that the cost of IVF should be expressed in terms of “the cost of having a baby” rather than “cost per cycle of treatment”. When this is taken into account the cost associated with mini-IVF will b be significantly higher than conventional IVF. Then there is the additional emotional cost associated with a much higher IVF failure rate with mini-IVF.
  4. Mini-IVF is less technology driven, less stressful and easier to execute. This assertion is in my opinion also without merit. Aside from reduced cost of medications, the same monitoring and laboratory procedures are needed for mini-IVF as with conventional treatment.

What is the best approach? When it comes to older women and those with DOR, it is in my opinion preferable to use a long pituitary down-regulation protocol with conversion from an I.M agonist (e.g. Lupron or Buserelin) to an antagonist such as Cetrotide/Orgalutron or Ganirelix (the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol) augmented with human growth hormone (HGH) and/or estrogen priming and combing this “embryo banking” over several cycles. In such cases preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) can be incorporated to help select the most “competent” embryos for transfer.

What about younger women with normal or increased ovarian reserve? If mini-IVF has any role at all, it could be in young women who have normal or increased ovarian reserve.  I do not o not advocate aggressively stimulating the ovaries of younger women who have normal or increased ovarian reserve (as assessed by basal FSH, AMH and estradiol) simply to try and access more eggs. In fact, such an approach is neither safe nor acceptable. In such women it is often wiser to use lower dosage stimulation to try and prevent the development of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which aside from putting the woman at severe risk of (sometimes) life-endangering complications, can also compromise egg/embryo quality. However, it is my fervent belief that in such women, the preferred approach to ovarian stimulation is through the use of low dosage FSHr-dominant gonadotropins (rather than oral agents such as clomiphene or letrozole and/or high dosage Menopur). This approach is referred to as Micro-IVF.

Share this post:

6 comments

Leave A Reply
  • Naya K - March 8, 2018 reply

    Dear Dr. Sher,
    I am wondering if it is time to try lower-dose stimulation. I am currently 36 and have done 4 IVF cycles to date. Prior to this, I did 7 failed natural IUIs at age 32.
    1) IVF/ICSI #1 – age 32, AMH 3.76, AFC 25, FSH 8. Did antagonist protocol with OCP (marvelon), Gonal F 150, luveris 75 and cetrotide 125 with ovidrel x 2 trigger with only 8 days of stim and rapid growth of follicles (2.0-2.7 cm) but only 8 eggs retrieved, 6 mature, failed cycle and was given letrozole for very high E2 (5000).
    2) IVF/ICSI #2 – age 33, AMH 3.6, AFC 25. Long Lupron starting CD21 at 0.1 cc then gonal F 225, luveris 75, Lupron 0.05 cc with 9 days of stim (14 follicles 1.8-2.3 cm, 2 follicles 1.6 cm, 1 follicle 1.7 cm), peak E2 3500, ½ dose HCG trigger 5000 units with 13 eggs retrieved, 8 mature (only 2 normal on “spindle view”), 7 fertlized by ICSI and had 2 embryos left at day 3, both made it to day 5, both grade 3AA – one fresh transfer failed, but the FET worked
    3) IVF/ICSI #3 – age 35 (10 months postpartum), AMH 1.8, AFC 9, day 3 FSH 6. LL protocol starting CD21 at 0.1 cc then gonal F 375, luveris 75, Lupron 0.5 cc with 13 days of stim (8 follicles 2-2.5 cm), peak E2 2100, HCG 10000 unit trigger with 8 eggs retrieved, 7 mature (29% normal on “spindle view”), 3 fertilized, all grew on day 3 but at day 5 only one was an early blast and at day 6, only one grade 3BC blast that was too fragile to biopsy for PGS so was frozen.
    4) IVF/ICSI#4 – age 35 (13 months postpartum), AFC 20. Estrace-priming 1 tab bid vaginally starting 1 week post-ovulation, gonal F 300, menopur 150, orgalutran 250 with stim for 12 days (7 follicles 2-2.25 cm, 3 follicles 1.6 cm), peak E2 3000 – NO HCG trigger given, got suprefact 0.5 with labs next day showing high LH/P4 but only 1 egg retrieved, fertilized and frozen at 2PN.

    I recently had my AMH/AFC repeated at age 36, 18 months post-partum and AFC was 25, AMH 4.6!
    I realize my egg quality seems to be a major issue resulting in very few blasts per IVF cycle and I don’t seem to produce a large number of eggs despite high doses of gonadotropins, so I am wondering if lower-dose stimulation would be worth a try – could it potentially yield better quality eggs and perhaps more than 0-2 blasts per cycle?

    Many thanks for your insights!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - March 8, 2018 reply

    Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
    It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
    1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
    2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
    We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
    3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
    4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
    a. A“ thin uterine lining”
    b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
    c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
    d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
    Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
    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.
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • 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
    • IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
    • “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
    • 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!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF?
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, 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 .

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

    Geoffrey Sher MD

  • Michelle k - October 23, 2017 reply

    I’m now 42 and I’ve done 3 icsi cycles 2915/16/17we have severe male factor first cycle 12eggs retrieved 8mature 6fertakized 2pgs normal! Transfered 1 misvarried 7weeks! Transferred second bfn which transfer was super difficult due to tilted uterus ! 2nd icsi 13 eggs 12 mature 11 fertilized 3made it to day 5 with 1 pgs normal again transfer was difficult bfn! Both cycles I was on 125-150 puregone 75 menspure added cetotode then trigger ovadrille lupron! 3 rd ivf cycle found had mthfr gene was on femara 150 gonal f 225 repronex 17 eggs 13 mature 8 fertilized 0 blastocyst! Now considering mini ive with clomid for 7 days 150 gonal f every other day then trigger ! Would that be something youd suggest? My amh his high for my age have pco not syndrome with 20afc fsh last check was 7.2 ! Maybe fewer eggs will result better quality and hubby has less hsn 1 million sleek had vericocle repair seems to have made things worse expect DNA frag went down from 45to 25! Morality 7% morphology 9%! Not sure what protocil to do next

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - October 23, 2017 reply

    Hi Michelle,

    I do NOT advocate mini-IVF…especially not older women. The success rate is far too low (at your age well under 10% per ER).

    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.

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, 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 .

    *FYI
    The 4th edition of my 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

    Amanda cey - November 14, 2017 reply

    I am 39 years old and have a 3 yr old daughter, who was conceived after trying for a year naturally and on the 2nd IUI. I have a history of endometriosis and had a laparoscopy about 9 months prior to conceiving. I had my left tube removed at that time. I have had two prior laparcopys when I was 19 and 20 years old. It was severe then, but I seem to have gotten it under control with a plant based diet and superfood regimen. Meaning, i don’t have any symptoms but it could still be causing infertility. I have a rather low AMH reserve, but I’ve watched it fluctuate over the years so I don’t know how much weight this really holds. My very first test showed a .17, and after a year of fertility diet and supplements, and just prior to conceiving it got to 1.8. The last few tests recently have showed it to be .54, and day 3 FSH was 10.

    I just completed my first round of mini IVF and it was a total fail. I was given aygestin on day 23 of my last cycle. My period broke through on Day 31 (normally my cycles and ovulation are super regular-27-28 days and ovulation day 13 or 14). The Dr. suggested I stay on Aygestin for the full 10 days, and my cycle broke through the whole time until I stopped,and then full flow began 2 days later. They started me on Letrazole on “their” day 2, and when I came in for my next ultrasound on day 7 of cycle (or could have been more like day 9 or 10 in my books) I had two follicles that were 21 in size. They told me to go home and take all of my drugs (follistim, cetrotide,and menopur) and in the evening to take the lupron,and novarel. I was asked to come in today 36 hrs later, and the two follicles had no eggs. They decided to give me an IUI in the case that there was an egg stuck to the side or something. I was pretty devastated but more so just questioning the protocol,and if it was right for me. I had been with another clinic for years,that helped conceive my daughter and when I saw the IVF protocol that consisted of estrace to start, and a ton of drugs I jumped ship to a new clinic that i heard had great success with mini-ivf. To me the idea of trying to get a fewer high quality eggs with less drugs was much more appealing.

    Now I am questioning if I should go back to a regular cycle. I know I have DOR but not clear if anything else is causing my infertility, except that we have been TIC for 2 years now and nothing. I had an HSG test recently and my right tube was clear.

    I’m torn on if what happened today was the result of the protocol, or was just a bad cycle for me. Something seemed off the whole time and feel like the Aygestin totally screwed up my cycle and letrazole seemed to overstimulate me, and then with all else on top of it-who knows. Contemplating going back to a regular IVF cycle, or to just stick with my new Dr. and give the minimal stim a shot.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 14, 2017 reply

    There are several issues to consider. First there is the DOR which in my opinion requires a very individualized protocol of treatment. 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”.

    The second issue is your endometriosis. When women with infertility due to endometriosis seek treatment, they are all too often advised to first try ovarian stimulation (ovulation Induction) with intrauterine insemination (IUI) ………as if to say that this would be just as likely to result in a baby as would in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nothing could be further from reality It is time to set the record straight. And hence this blog!

    Bear in mind that the cost of treatment comprises both financial and emotional components and that it is the cost of having a baby rather than cost of a procedure. Then consider the fact that regardless of her age or the severity of the condition, women with infertility due to endometriosis are several fold more likely to have a baby per treatment cycle of IVF than with IUI. It follows that there is a distinct advantage in doing IVF first, rather than as a last resort.

    So then, why is it that ovulation induction with or without IUI is routinely offered proposed preferentially to women with mild to moderately severe endometriosis? Could it in part be due to the fact that most practicing doctors do not provide IVF services but are indeed remunerated for ovarian stimulation and IUI services and are thus economically incentivized to offer IUI as a first line approach? Or is because of the often erroneous belief that the use of fertility drugs will in all cases induce the release (ovulation) of multiple eggs at a time and thereby increase the chance of a pregnancy. The truth however is that while normally ovulating women (the majority of women who have mild to moderately severe endometriosis) respond to ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs by forming multiple follicles, they rarely ovulate > 1 (or at most 2) egg at a time. This is because such women usually only develop a single dominant follicle which upon ovulating leaves the others intact. This is the reason why normally ovulating women who undergo ovulation induction usually will not experience improved pregnancy potential, nor will they have a marked increase in multiple pregnancies. Conversely, non-ovulating women (as well as those with dysfunctional ovulation) who undergo ovulation induction, almost always develop multiple large follicles that tend to ovulate in unison. This increases the potential to conceive along with an increased risk multiple pregnancies.

    So let me take a stab at explaining why IVF is more successful than IUI or surgical correction in the treatment of endometriosis-related infertility:
    1. The toxic pelvic factor: Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. While this process begins early in the reproductive life of a woman, with notable exceptions, it only becomes manifest in the 2ndhalf of her reproductive life. After some time, these deposits bleed and when the blood absorbs it leaves a visible pigment that can be identified upon surgical exposure of the pelvis. Such endometriotic deposits invariably produce and release toxins” into the pelvic secretions that coat the surface of the membrane (the peritoneum) that envelops all abdominal and pelvic organs, including the uterus, tubes and ovaries. These toxins are referred to as “the peritoneal factor”. Following ovulation, the egg(s) must pass from the ovary (ies), through these toxic secretions to reach the sperm lying in wait in the outer part the fallopian tube (s) tube(s) where, the sperm lie in waiting. In the process of going from the ovary(ies) to the Fallopian tube(s) these eggs become exposed to the “peritoneal toxins” which alter s the envelopment of the egg (i.e. zona pellucida) making it much less receptive to being fertilized by sperm. As a consequence, if they are chromosomally normal such eggs are rendered much less likely to be successfully fertilized. Since almost all women with endometriosis have this problem, it is not difficult to understand why they are far less likely to conceive following ovulation (whether natural or induced through ovulation induction). This “toxic peritoneal factor impacts on eggs that are ovulated whether spontaneously (as in natural cycles) or following the use of fertility drugs and serves to explain why the chance of pregnancy is so significantly reduced in normally ovulating women with endometriosis.
    2. The Immunologic Factor: About one third of women who have endometriosis will also have an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) linked to activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa). This will require selective immunotherapy with Intralipid infusions, and/or heparinoids (e.g. Clexane/Lovenox) that is much more effectively implemented in combination with IVF.
    3. Surgical treatment of mild to moderate endometriosis does not usually improve pregnancy potential:. The reason is that endometriosis can be considered to be a “work in progress”. New lesions are constantly developing. So it is that for every endometriotic seen there are usually many non-pigmented deposits that are in the process of evolving but are not yet visible to the naked eye and such evolving (non-visible) lesions can also release the same “toxins that compromise fertilization. Accordingly, even after surgical removal of all visible lesions the invisible ones continue to release “toxins” and retain the ability to compromise natural fertilization. It also explains why surgery to remove endometriotic deposits in women with mild to moderate endometriosis usually will fail to significantly improve pregnancy generating potential. In contrast, IVF, by removing eggs from the ovaries prior to ovulation, fertilizing these outside of the body and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) to the uterus, bypasses the toxic pelvic environment and is therefore is the treatment of choice in cases of endometriosis-related infertility.

    I am not suggesting that all women with infertility-related endometriosis should automatically resort to IVF. Quite to the contrary…. In spite of having reduced fertility potential, many women with mild to moderate endometriosis can and do go on to conceive on their own (without treatment). It is just that the chance of this happening is so is much lower than normal.

    In young ovulating women (< 35 years of age ) with endometriosis, who have normal reproductive anatomy and have fertile male partners, expectant treatment is often preferable to IUI or IVF. However, for older women, women who (regardless of their age) have any additional factor (e.g. pelvic adhesions, ovarian endometriomas, male infertility, IID or diminished ovarian reserve-DOR) IVF should be the primary treatment of choice. 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.
    • 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
    • Fast Replacing Earlier day 2-3 Transfers of Cleaved Embryos.
    • Embryo Transfer: The “Holy Grail in IVF.
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
    • Staggered IVF
    • Staggered IVF with PGS- Selection of “Competent” Embryos Greatly Enhances the Utility & Efficiency of IVF.
    • 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 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!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • A Thin Uterine Lining: Vaginal Viagra is Often the Answer (update)
    • 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
    • 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
    • Early -Endometriosis-related Infertility: Ovulation Induction (with or without Intrauterine Insemination) and Reproductive Surgery Versus IVF
    • Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.
    • Effect of Advanced Endometriosis with Endometriotic cysts (Endometriomas) on IVF Outcome & Treatment Options.

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, 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 .
    *FYI
    The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Geoff Sher

Ask a question or post a comment