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Dear Patients,

I created this forum to welcome any questions you have on the topic of infertility, IVF, conception, testing, evaluation, or any related topics. I do my best to answer all questions in less than 24 hours. I know your question is important and, in many cases, I will answer within just a few hours. Thank you for taking the time to trust me with your concern.

– Geoffrey Sher, MD

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23,747 Comments

Katie

Dear Dr Sher,
After miscarrying last icsi cycle, I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant again with another fresh icsi cycle (only 2 follicles retrieved due to impact of chemo on my reserve- and both put back on day 3).
At 11dp3dt my Hcg was 128, progesterone 59 Ng/mL l and Estrogen was 163pg/ml.
At 17dp3dt, however, my levels are only 552 hcg, progesterone 31 Ng/ml and Estrogen 168 pg/ml.
I am using crinone 8 % once a day.
My nurse said progesterone fluctuates daily but I feel this is a huge drop. Despite being told that Hcg doubles every 2-3 days but I’m worried I’m more likely to have a non-viable pregnancy as it’s doubling well over 48 hours.
My levels are much better than last time (last pregnancy my estrogen was much lower and I was put on patches, progesterone was right at bottom of normal range despite using twice as much crinone daily and Hcg started at 47 and then took exactly 3 days to double. Last time, my lovely nurse was so thrilled I got pregnant and said my numbers could be okay. This time, she is similarly reassuring but I fear the worst.
I would appreciate your thoughts,
Thank you,
Katie

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Hi Katie!

I fully understand your consternation. However, I cannot add much except to say that using Crinone 8%, you will not see a bold rise in P4 …..and that is normal. I would not worry about this.

As to the viability of the pregnancy, you will need to do a few more serial (every 2 days) hCG measurement but it will take an US in 10-14 days to provide a conclusive determination of viability.

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

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Andrea

Hi Doctor,

2 of my only embryos are Complex Aneuploid.
1) -10q , -18
2) +1, +5

Do these fall into the category “ monosomies involving up to two (2) autosomes“?

I read your article and it gave me hope.

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Sara

Dear Dr. Sher,

On June 27, I had a spontaneous miscarriage with hemorrhaging at 10 weeks along. Period came on July 30 and another positive pregnancy test in late August. I have no idea when I ovulated. My HCG from Sept 11-15 went from 42,000 to 47,0000. Sono on Sept 17 showed tiny heartbeat measuring 5w6d.

I’m concerned the HCG isn’t rising much and that these numbers project me being more like 7 weeks. Is the baby developing too slowly? Or does the sonogram give us more accurate info at this point rather than tracking HCG increases?

I’m waiting a long two weeks for another sonogram so appreciate any insight in the meantime.

Sara

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Unfortunately, you will need to wait for your upcoming US to assess growth and viability!

Geoff Sher

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Kimberly B

I had 2-5 day Frozen blasts transferred on August 24th. At 14dp5dt Hcg 487, 16dp5dt 1345 and 20dp5dt 6632. On 20dp5dt I saw my OBGYN to adjust my insulin and a Transvaginal Sono was done to rule out ectopic as I had a tubal ectopic a few years ago. One gestational sac was seen but nothing else. Is it normal to only have seen only the gestational sac at this stage? I will be having a viability scan at 6 weeks 6 days but am walking on egg shells wondering what’s going on.

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Kimberly B

Thank you for your response!

So if I’m understanding correctly everything sounds like it should lead to a viable pregnancy?

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sheeba

Hello Dr Sher,

Hope all is well. I had a quick question related to IVF. I am on cycle day 10 on stimulation injectables( gonal f, ganirelix and menopur), coming close to egg retrieval. My nurse today was discussing with me on the instructions on the day of egg retrieval what to expect etc.. She also mentioned that the sperm sample needs to be collected at home and then we need to travel about 1 hour to the location where the egg retrieval happens. I was concerned a little bit if there would be any harm to the sperm sample that we carry from home to the hospital( it would be like 2 hours until we reach there), is it ok if the sample is outside with us for 2 hours? Please let us know your suggestions. Also, is it ok to collect at home or shall I request them to collect it in the hospital? Appreciate your response

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

We do not countenance sperm collection at home for obvious medico=legal reasons. However, I do not believe the 2 hour hiatus in getting the sperm to the lab will pose any real problem as far5 as quality preservation is concerned.

Geoff Sher

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sheeba

Thank you for the response. So we will be performing ICSI on all the eggs. Just wanted to confirm if it is absolutely ok since they pick the most viable sperm during ICSI to inject in the egg correct?So it should be ok even if there is a break of 2 hours.

reply
sheeba

Please can you send me any PDF’s or process or lnstructions on how to do the sperm collection at home with no harm to the sperm?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Sorry Sheeba. I cannot do this. You need to do this through your personal RE.

Geoff Sher

Lilit

Hi Dr Sher,
My surrogate is 8 weeks pregnant after frozen embryo transfer. Last 4 days she has been having a hard time keeping estrogen pills down due to nausea. My doctor just put her in Bonjest.
I am worried about her estrogen levels since she wasn’t able to keep the pills down sometimes, can her levels drop dangerously in 5 days? Her next blood draw is in 2 days.
Also can that meditation have a negative effect on my baby?

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Sarah Black

Hi Dr.

LMP – August 6 to 11
Ovulation date: August 22/23rd

I had an US and BW today. HCG was at 25,700 and I should be 5W6days but embryo was measuring ahead at 6W1day. However, the fetal heart rate was low at 85bpm. Should I prepare for a miscarriage? I have another US scheduled in two weeks but I want to prepare myself for anything.

Thanks in advance.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

The HB is slow. I would repeat the US sooner..perhaps in a week to ascertain if there has been a change for the better.

Geoff Sher

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Rahul

Dear dr.sher
My wife is 33 year old and we are trying ivf to conceive . She had a 5day embryo transfer on 25 th August . Her 7dp5dt hcg count on 1st sep was 99 and on 9dp5dt-3sep-250; On 12dp5dt-6sep was 596 . On 12 and 13 th day p5dt she had mild spotting and on 14dp5dt-8sep hcg count was 1042 followed by 16dp5dt on 10th sep hcg count was 2107. We did another test on 14Th sep 20dp5dt and was 5773 . Wanted to know is the pregnancy still looks good as we are really worried post spotting . Our first scan is on 25 th September .

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Vaginal bleeding occurs in about 25% of all pregnancies. When it happens, it almost invariably raises the concern of pregnancy loss (miscarriage). Bleeding can also be a sign of a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, and in cases where the distended Fallopian tube ruptures it can precipitate a life-threatening crises. However, a small amount of painless vaginal bleeding can also be the result of normal embryo implantation (i.e. implantation bleeding) or it can result a local erosion of the vagina or cervix and/or trauma during intercourse.

Geoff Sher

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Rahul

Hi dr. Geoffrey

My had a 5d embryo transfer on 25 th August , her first 7dp5dt on 1sep had Hcg was 99 and than 9dp5dt-3sep-250
; 12dp5dt-6sep -596; 12 th day had light spotting and 13 th as well . Post spotting did hcg test on 14dp5dt-8sep-1042
And than 16dp5dt-10sep-2107 And
20dp5dt-14sep-5773 ; want to know is the pregnancy viable and looking good . We have our first US scan on 25 th September .

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Unfortunately you will have to wait for the upcoming US to determine the viability of the pregnancy.

Geoff Sher

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Mairi Cox

Dear Dr Sher

I’m a 34 year old woman who is trying to concieve with donor sperm. I have a normal size/shaped uterus, normal AMH and I have had two cycles of IVF. I feel concerned about early bleeding and wonder whether I should have these worries? I don’t know whether I might require more progesterone/progesterone level tests.

I had single day 5 fresh blastocyst transfers (1x 4BA and 1x 3BB). On both of my transfers , I bled heavily from 7 days post transfer. By pregnancy test day (day 12), the negative result was confirmed and I had almost stopped bleeding by this time.

The progesterone support was 3x 200mg utogestan (pessaries) in cycle 1. It was changed to 1x 25mg subcutaneous injection of lubion per day in cycle 2.

I’d really value your opinion, thank you.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

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 15y 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
e. Ureaplasma Urealyticum (UU) Infection of cervical mucous and the endometrial lining of the uterus, can sometimes present as unexplained early pregnancy loss or unexplained failure following intrauterine insemination or IVF. The infection can also occur in the man, (prostatitis) and thus can go back and forth between partners, with sexual intercourse. This is the reason why both partners must be tested and if positive, should be treated contemporaneously.
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?
______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Sarah Coghlan

Dear Dr Sher,

Hello from Australia! I’m interested in your thoughts on stimulated ovulation induction using an immune protocol. I’m 35, otherwise very healthy with a great diet and regularly exercise. I have unfortunately recently had my 4th miscarriage. We haven’t been able to make it past the 8 week mark. We have undiagnose infertility and my husvand and I have both undergone detailed testing which has not turned up any clues other than high NKC for which clexane 40mg, prednisone 10mg are prescribed.
Of three full IVF cycles I was initially a poor responder, but with even slight increases in medications I suddenly have become hyperstimulated. It has happened all 3 times during IVF (one time that was life threatening when my heart stopped and I spent 4.5 weeks in hospital, 10 days in ICU). From all three cycles only one 5 day embryo was achieved which was a failed transfer. The best round in terms of yield from the severe OHSS cycle was 28 eggs, 12 fertalised, and 1 to freeze. The two prior cycles were 10 eggs, 8 fertilised none to freeze, and the first 5 eggs, 3 fertilised one day 3 embryo transfered.

We dropped back to ovulation induction after the sever OHSS using letrozole, puregon injections (150mg) and progynova for lining. From 6 OI cycles we have achieved 4 preganancies. Two of those chemicals where development has stopped between 9-11 days post ovulation. The other 2 have been 6 weeks when the HCG suddenly halved and the other was a miscarriage when the baby’s heart stopped somewhere between the 7 and 8 week scan (was measuring a week behind). I have had two D&C’s, tube flushing and laparoscopies all with no obvious issues.

My specialist has suggested we try another OI cycle this time this time with 75mg of puregon, 75 of menupur, metformin and progynova with an immune protocol of prednisone and clexane begining on the day of trigger with pregnul boosters days 3,6 and 9. We have used intralipid in the past with no diffrence. I was hoping you may have some ideas about what else may be beneficial as my specialist is at a loss as was my second opinion specialist. I have been told I am ‘tricky’ and that there is no reason why I shouldn’t be pregant. Any ideas what could be going on or what else I could investigate?
Thanks so much for your time and expertise.

I’m also taking 4mg compounded melatonin, 1000mg Vits D, E and C, 1000 CoQ10, 1000mg royal jelly for egg quality and acupunture and chinese herbs (I’m desperate!)

Sarah

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Sarah!

I think we should talk!

When it comes to reproduction, humans are the poorest performers of all mammals. In fact we are so inefficient that up to 75% of fertilized eggs do not produce live births, and up to 30% of pregnancies end up being lost within 10 weeks of conception (in the first trimester). RPL is defined as two (2) or more failed pregnancies. Less than 5% of women will experience two (2) consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.
Pregnancy loss can be classified by the stage of pregnancy when the loss occurs:
• Early pregnancy loss (first trimester)
• Late pregnancy loss (after the first trimester)
• Occult “hidden” and not clinically recognized, (chemical) pregnancy loss (occurs prior to ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy)
• Early pregnancy losses usually occur sporadically (are not repetitive).

In more than 70% of cases the loss is due to embryo aneuploidy (where there are more or less than the normal quota of 46 chromosomes). Conversely, repeated losses (RPL), with isolated exceptions where the cause is structural (e.g., unbalanced translocations), are seldom attributable to numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy). In fact, the vast majority of cases of RPL are attributable to non-chromosomal causes such as anatomical uterine abnormalities or Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID).
Since most sporadic early pregnancy losses are induced by chromosomal factors and thus are non-repetitive, having had a single miscarriage the likelihood of a second one occurring is no greater than average. However, once having had two losses the chance of a third one occurring is double (35-40%) and after having had three losses the chance of a fourth miscarriage increases to about 60%. The reason for this is that the more miscarriages a woman has, the greater is the likelihood of this being due to a non-chromosomal (repetitive) cause such as IID. It follows that if numerical chromosomal analysis (karyotyping) of embryonic/fetal products derived from a miscarriage tests karyotypically normal, then by a process of elimination, there would be a strong likelihood of a miscarriage repeating in subsequent pregnancies and one would not have to wait for the disaster to recur before taking action. This is precisely why we strongly advocate that all miscarriage specimens be karyotyped.
There is however one caveat to be taken into consideration. That is that the laboratory performing the karyotyping might unwittingly be testing the mother’s cells rather than that of the conceptus. That is why it is not possible to confidently exclude aneuploidy in cases where karyotyping of products suggests a “chromosomally normal” (euploid) female.
Late pregnancy losses (occurring after completion of the 1st trimester/12th week) occur far less frequently (1%) than early pregnancy losses. They are most commonly due to anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and/or cervix. Weakness of the neck of the cervix rendering it able to act as an effective valve that retains the pregnancy (i.e., cervical incompetence) is in fact one of the commonest causes of late pregnancy loss. So also are developmental (congenital) abnormalities of the uterus (e.g., a uterine septum) and uterine fibroid tumors. In some cases intrauterine growth retardation, premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption), premature rupture of the membranes and premature labor can also causes of late pregnancy loss.
Much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms involved in RPL. There are two broad categories:
1. Problems involving the uterine environment in which a normal embryo is prohibited from properly implanting and developing. Possible causes include:
• Inadequate thickening of the uterine lining
• Irregularity in the contour of the uterine cavity (polyps, fibroid tumors in the uterine wall, intra-uterine scarring and adenomyosis)
• Hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects). This most commonly results in occult RPL.
• Deficient blood flow to the uterine lining (thin uterine lining).
• Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). A major cause of RPL. Plays a role in 75% of cases where chromosomally normal preimplantation embryos fail to implant.
• Interference of blood supply to the developing conceptus can occur due to a hereditary clotting disorder known as Thrombophilia.

2. Genetic and/or structural chromosomal abnormality of the embryo.Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL. Structural chromosomal abnormalities are slightly more common but are also occur infrequently (1%). These are referred to as unbalanced translocation and they result from part of one chromosome detaching and then fusing with another chromosome. Additionally, a number of studies suggest the existence of paternal (sperm derived) effect on human embryo quality and pregnancy outcome that are not reflected as a chromosomal abnormality. Damaged sperm DNA can have a negative impact on fetal development and present clinically as occult or early clinical miscarriage. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which measures the same endpoints are newer and possibly improved methods for evaluating.

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA).
But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States.
Alloimmune IID, i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species, is believed to be a relatively common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage.
Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction.
However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated NK cells and CTL in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL
In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients.
Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include:

Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents
• Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens
• Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.)
• Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test)
• Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity
• Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.)
• Immunologic testing to include:
a) Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel
b) Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
c) Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies)
d) Reproductive immunophenotype
e) Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test)
f) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

TREATMENT OF RPL
Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated.
Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin.
Sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures.
Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.
Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: Modalities such as IL/IVIg, heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction.
The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL
In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option:
1. When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed.
2. In cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.
The reason for IVF being a preferred approach in such cases is that in order to be effective, the immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative
Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), with tests such as CGH, can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGD requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing.
There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha matching where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy.
The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• 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

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Sarah

Thank you Dr Sher for your incredibly detailed response. We have been tested for the DQ alpha gene and don’t have it, the embryo tissue was tested the first time and was ‘normal’ and I have a great lining (usually between 9-11 most cycles) so I think you may be onto something with uterine receptivity. I’m going to book and appointment with you to discuss further. Thank you for your insight. Look forward to speaking soon, Sarah

reply
Vanessa Hill

Dear Dr Sher
I am 37 and have had one natural and uncomplicated pregnancy at age 34. I have unexplained secondary infertility after 1 yr of trying to conceive. This includes 2 failed IUIs , 1 failed fresh embryo transfer and 1 failed FET. I had 4 excellent quality 5 day blastocysts from 13 eggs retrieved (11 fertilised).

My diagnostic blood tests 6 months ago have shown a very high Beta2 Glycoprotein result of 57 and 53 when re-tested. No other symptoms or indicia of ALS. My bloods also showed a mildly elevated Thyroglobulin AB result . I have been treated with low dose aspirin and low dose clexane but no luck with implantation. Do you have any views on steps I should take to determine whether an immunologic issue is the cause of implantation failure?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

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 15y 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
e. Ureaplasma Urealyticum (UU) Infection of cervical mucous and the endometrial lining of the uterus, can sometimes present as unexplained early pregnancy loss or unexplained failure following intrauterine insemination or IVF. The infection can also occur in the man, (prostatitis) and thus can go back and forth between partners, with sexual intercourse. This is the reason why both partners must be tested and if positive, should be treated contemporaneously.
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?
______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Rhian Thomas

Hi Dr Sher,
I’m 11w3days pregnant and have been taking 20mg of prednisone since before transfer. My doctor is going to start weening me off. Out of interest, what would be your weening off protocol for 20mg prednisone? 10mg then 5mg?
Thanks as always!

reply
Rhian Thomas

Thank you Dr Sher. How would you taper your patients off 20mg of prednisone? Reading online that the standard is 5mg increments. Do you think going from 20mg to 10mg is ok? I’ve been on 20mg for around 7 weeks now (I’m 11w3days pregnant). Just interests what you do in your practise?
Thanks as always!

reply
Amy Jo

Hi Dr. Sher,

Wondering if you have any suggestions on our case, our poor fertilization rate, our protocol and/ or next steps.

Brief history:
– I just turned 40
-I had first child with my husband in 2014 (at 34); fell pregnant very quickly and easy pregnancy, except for c-section due to breech baby
– I had second child with my husband 23 months later, in 2016 at age 36 (again, so pregnant very easily and very easy pregnancy, v-bac)
-I fell pregnant again within first month of trying for third child in early 2018, at 37 (almost 38) but miscarried at 14 weeks, after seeing heartbeat etc. (no previous miscarriages)
– since then have had 7 consecutive miscarriages (ranging from 5 week miscarriages to 12 week miscarriages), all with my husband (same partner). I get pregnant very very quickly but then lose the pregnancy time and time again now; testing of products of conception has shown 2 of these miscarriages were trisomies
– have had all the standard recurrent loss work ups at recurrent loss clinic in Vancouver, Canada
– decided to try ivf with PGT testing after my last miscarriage in May of this year
– 1st cycle in June/July 2020: estrace priming month followed by 225 puregon/225 Menopur for 9.5 days; this produced 16 eggs (15 mature) but only 4 fertilized by natural fertilization (and of those only 2 for testing, resulting in 1 abnormal and 1 mosaic)
-2nd cycle this September 2020 (back to back with first cycle): Same protocol: again, priming month with estrace followed by 225 puregon and 225 Menopur for 11.5 days; this produced 18 eggs (17 mature); used ICSI hoping for better fertilization, but of the 18, only 9 fertilized.

Wondering if the bad fertilization rates were are seeing, with of without ICSI, is just purely an age issue for me. I seem to respond very well to drugs and produce lots of eggs. I also have never had trouble getting pregnant. Could it be that I am very fertile but with all bad eggs (despite me having 2 kids relatively recently and with ease)? Could my protocol somehow be affecting fertilization rate? Any links that can be drawn between my ivf results and my history of recurrent losses?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Amy Jo

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Although it is true that age and diminishing ovarian reserve (DOR) have a detrimental effect on egg quality and that sporadic miscarriages are more often than not due to embryo “incompetency”, this general rule does not apply when the miscurriaged are recurrent. In such cases, the cause is more likely to be an implantation dysfunction. Accordingly, I believe it to be far more likely that you have developed an anatomical or immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID):

When it comes to reproduction, humans are the poorest performers of all mammals. In fact we are so inefficient that up to 75% of fertilized eggs do not produce live births, and up to 30% of pregnancies end up being lost within 10 weeks of conception (in the first trimester). RPL is defined as two (2) or more failed pregnancies. Less than 5% of women will experience two (2) consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.
Pregnancy loss can be classified by the stage of pregnancy when the loss occurs:
• Early pregnancy loss (first trimester)
• Late pregnancy loss (after the first trimester)
• Occult “hidden” and not clinically recognized, (chemical) pregnancy loss (occurs prior to ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy)
• Early pregnancy losses usually occur sporadically (are not repetitive).

In more than 70% of cases the loss is due to embryo aneuploidy (where there are more or less than the normal quota of 46 chromosomes). Conversely, repeated losses (RPL), with isolated exceptions where the cause is structural (e.g., unbalanced translocations), are seldom attributable to numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy). In fact, the vast majority of cases of RPL are attributable to non-chromosomal causes such as anatomical uterine abnormalities or Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID).
Since most sporadic early pregnancy losses are induced by chromosomal factors and thus are non-repetitive, having had a single miscarriage the likelihood of a second one occurring is no greater than average. However, once having had two losses the chance of a third one occurring is double (35-40%) and after having had three losses the chance of a fourth miscarriage increases to about 60%. The reason for this is that the more miscarriages a woman has, the greater is the likelihood of this being due to a non-chromosomal (repetitive) cause such as IID. It follows that if numerical chromosomal analysis (karyotyping) of embryonic/fetal products derived from a miscarriage tests karyotypically normal, then by a process of elimination, there would be a strong likelihood of a miscarriage repeating in subsequent pregnancies and one would not have to wait for the disaster to recur before taking action. This is precisely why we strongly advocate that all miscarriage specimens be karyotyped.
There is however one caveat to be taken into consideration. That is that the laboratory performing the karyotyping might unwittingly be testing the mother’s cells rather than that of the conceptus. That is why it is not possible to confidently exclude aneuploidy in cases where karyotyping of products suggests a “chromosomally normal” (euploid) female.
Late pregnancy losses (occurring after completion of the 1st trimester/12th week) occur far less frequently (1%) than early pregnancy losses. They are most commonly due to anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and/or cervix. Weakness of the neck of the cervix rendering it able to act as an effective valve that retains the pregnancy (i.e., cervical incompetence) is in fact one of the commonest causes of late pregnancy loss. So also are developmental (congenital) abnormalities of the uterus (e.g., a uterine septum) and uterine fibroid tumors. In some cases intrauterine growth retardation, premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption), premature rupture of the membranes and premature labor can also causes of late pregnancy loss.
Much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms involved in RPL. There are two broad categories:
1. Problems involving the uterine environment in which a normal embryo is prohibited from properly implanting and developing. Possible causes include:
• Inadequate thickening of the uterine lining
• Irregularity in the contour of the uterine cavity (polyps, fibroid tumors in the uterine wall, intra-uterine scarring and adenomyosis)
• Hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects). This most commonly results in occult RPL.
• Deficient blood flow to the uterine lining (thin uterine lining).
• Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). A major cause of RPL. Plays a role in 75% of cases where chromosomally normal preimplantation embryos fail to implant.
• Interference of blood supply to the developing conceptus can occur due to a hereditary clotting disorder known as Thrombophilia.

2. Genetic and/or structural chromosomal abnormality of the embryo.Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL. Structural chromosomal abnormalities are slightly more common but are also occur infrequently (1%). These are referred to as unbalanced translocation and they result from part of one chromosome detaching and then fusing with another chromosome. Additionally, a number of studies suggest the existence of paternal (sperm derived) effect on human embryo quality and pregnancy outcome that are not reflected as a chromosomal abnormality. Damaged sperm DNA can have a negative impact on fetal development and present clinically as occult or early clinical miscarriage. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which measures the same endpoints are newer and possibly improved methods for evaluating.

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA).
But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States.
Alloimmune IID, i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species, is believed to be a relatively common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage.
Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction.
However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated NK cells and CTL in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL
In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients.
Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include:

Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents
• Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens
• Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.)
• Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test)
• Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity
• Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.)
• Immunologic testing to include:
a) Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel
b) Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
c) Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies)
d) Reproductive immunophenotype
e) Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test)
f) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

TREATMENT OF RPL
Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated.
Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin.
Sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures.
Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.
Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: Modalities such as IL/IVIg, heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction.
The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL
In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option:
1. When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed.
2. In cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.
The reason for IVF being a preferred approach in such cases is that in order to be effective, the immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative
Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), with tests such as CGH, can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGD requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing.
There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha matching where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy.
The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• 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

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
sheeba

Hello Dr Sher,

Hope all is well. My age is 34 and I am in the stimulation phase now(Gonal-F 225 IU daily and Menopur 75IU Daily). I have been taking these injectables from 6 days. My current cyle ultrasound and blood work results are below:

9/13- bloodwork results and ultrasound:
– LH: 2.19 mIU/mL
– ESTRADIOL: 586.9 pg/mL
– PROGESTERONE: 0.361 ng/mL
– Left Ovary:< 10mm 8 to 9, Follicles: 10mm, 10mm, 12mm
– Right Ovary:< 10mm 8 to 9, Follicles: 10mm, 10mm, 8mm, 9mm

Ultrasound results 9/11:
– Left Ovary:< 10mm 10+
– Right Ovary:< 10mm 10+ , Follicles: 11mm

Ultrasound results 9/8
– Left Ovary:< 10mm 10+
– Right Ovary:< 10mm 10+

I had a quick question on ICSI vs Petri dish or natural method of fertilization. My Nurse was asking me to choose the number of eggs I would like to fertilize using ICSI and number of eggs with normal method(petri dish). I am not sure on what basis do I choose the number of eggs for these 2 methods. I would like your inputs or suggestions, please. Also, does implantation of these 2 methods impact in any way? does embryo quality decrease in either of the method? I am planning to do the PGD PGS testing of the embryos too.

Appreciate your response. Thank you!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

This is a controversial issue. However, I personally recommend universal ICSI for my patients (all eggs).

Geoff Sher

reply
Lade

Hello Dr Sher,

A quick history before I ask my question.

My partner and I have the sickle cell trait, we were lucky enough to get pregnant within the first month of trying on both occasions Jan & Dec 2011 when we started TTC but as luck would have it both were homozygous for SCD so I had a D&C. After the 2nd D&C we started experincing secondary infertility and tried on and off for some years until we decided to start fertility treatment with PGS/PGD embryos. That’s when I discovered that I have scarring and a stubborn thin endo-lining issue mostlikely due to the D&Cs.. My previous clinic had tried Gonal F injections to boost my lining but it never got up to 7mm, i asked my RE about Sildenafil but he wasnt open to it – my transfers were not succesful there.. I swicthed clinics and my new RE was very open minded. We tried a viagra and oral estrace protocol and my lining got to over 8mm, there was fluid found mid-way but my Dr gave me confidence that he wasnt worried about it and he was sure it would dry up and it did while i was on PIO. I had a final U/S check a day before transfer just to make sure.. I tranfered 1 embyo in July 2019 and it worked.. unfortunately I lost the baby due to anencephaly but she was genetically normal. In between that time and being prepared to try again my RE had left my fertility clinic. My new RE canceled my FET in July and August due to the fluid issue.. I was already over 7mm when she cancelled in July and said we should try Gonal because estrace can cause fluid side effects.. She put me on provera for 10 days and I had a sono and she said all looked fine. We tried gonal F along with viagra suppositories in August. The fluid still appeared plus my linning didnt even get up to 6mm. So it didnt work as i had suspected.

Now my confidence is really down and I am frustrated with this decade long journey. I have sent an email to my RE requesting that we use the protocol that has proven to work for me. Viagra + Oral Estrace.

What protocol would you recommend for a case like mine?

Looking forward to your feedback.

Lade

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

It was as far back as 1989, when I first published a study that examined the correlation between the thickness of a woman’s uterine lining (the endometrium), and the subsequent successful implantation of embryos in IVF patients. This study revealed that when the uterine lining measured <8mm in thickness by the day of the “hCG trigger” (in fresh IVF cycles), or at the time of initiating progesterone therapy (in embryo recipient cycles, e.g. frozen embryo transfers-FET, egg donation-IVF etc.) , pregnancy and birth rates were substantially improved. Currently, it is my opinion, that an ideal estrogen-promoted endometrial lining should ideally measure at least 9mm in thickness and that an endometrial lining measuring 8-9mm is “intermediate”. An estrogenic lining of <8mm is in most cases unlikely to yield a viable pregnancy.

A “poor” uterine lining is usually the result of the innermost layer of endometrium (the basal or germinal endometrium from which endometrium grows) ) not being able to respond to estrogen by propagating an outer, “functional” layer thick enough to support optimal embryo implantation and development of a healthy placenta (placentation). The “functional” layer ultimately comprises 2/3 of the full endometrial thickness and is the layer that sheds with menstruation in the event that no pregnancy occurs.

The main causes of a “poor” uterine lining are:

1. Damage to the basal endometrium as a result of:
a. Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis) most commonly resulting from infected products left over following abortion, miscarriage or birth
b. Surgical trauma due to traumatic uterine scraping, (i.e. due to an over-aggressive D & C)
2. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to:
a. Prolonged , over-use/misuse of clomiphene citrate
b. Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES). This is a drug that was given to pregnant women in the 1960’s to help prevent miscarriage
3. Over-exposure of the uterine lining to ovarian male hormones (mainly testosterone): Older women, women with diminished ovarian reserve (poor responders) and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome -PCOS tend to have raised LH biological activity.. This causes the connective tissue in the ovary (stroma/theca) to overproduce testosterone. The effect can be further exaggerated when certain methods for ovarian stimulation such as agonist (Lupron/Buserelin) “flare” protocols and high dosages of menotropins such as Menopur are used in such cases.
4. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium:
Examples include;
a. Multiple uterine fibroids - especially when these are present under the endometrium (submucosal)
b. Uterine adenomyosis (excessive, abnormal invasion of the uterine muscle by endometrial glands).

“The Viagra Connection”

Eighteen years ago years ago, after reporting on the benefit of vaginal Sildenafil (Viagra) for to women who had implantation dysfunction due to thin endometrial linings I was proud to announce the birth of the world’s first “Viagra baby.” Since the introduction of this form of treatment, thousands of women with thin uterine linings have been reported treated and many have gone on to have babies after repeated prior IVF failure.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the use of Viagra in IVF, allow me to provide some context. It was in the 90’s that Sildenafil (brand named Viagra) started gaining popularity as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. The mechanism by which it acted was through increasing penile blood flow through increasing nitric oxide activity. This prompted me to investigate whether Viagra administered vaginally, might similarly improve uterine blood flow and in the process cause more estrogen to be delivered to the basal endometrium and thereby increase endometrial thickening. We found that when Viagra was administered vaginally it did just that! However oral administration was without any significant benefit in this regard. We enlisted the services of a compound pharmacy to produce vaginal Viagra suppositories. Initially, four (4) women with chronic histories of poor endometrial development and failure to conceive following several advanced fertility treatments were evaluated for a period of 4-6 weeks and then underwent IVF with concomitant Viagra therapy. Viagra suppositories were administered four times daily for 8-11 days and were discontinued 5-7 days prior to embryo transfer in all cases.

Our findings clearly demonstrated that vaginal Viagra produced a rapid and profound improvement in uterine blood flow and that was followed by enhanced endometrial development in all four cases. Three (3) of the four women subsequently conceived. I expanded the trial in 2002 and became the first to report on the administration of vaginal Viagra to 105 women with repeated IVF failure due to persistently thin endometrial linings. All of the women had experienced at least two (2) prior IVF failures attributed to intractably thin uterine linings. About 70% of these women responded to treatment with Viagra suppositories with a marked improvement in endometrial thickness. Forty five percent (45%) achieved live births following a single cycle of IVF treatment with Viagra The miscarriage rate was 9%. None of the women who had failed to show an improvement in endometrial thickness following Viagra treatment achieved viable pregnancies.

Following vaginal administration, Viagra is rapidly absorbed and quickly reaches the uterine blood system in high concentrations. Thereupon it dilutes out as it is absorbed into the systemic circulation. This probably explains why treatment is virtually devoid of systemic side effects

It is important to recognize that Viagra will NOT be effective in improving endometrial thickness in all cases. In fact, about 30%-40% of women treated fail to show any improvement. This is because in certain cases of thin uterine linings, the basal endometrium will have been permanently damaged and left unresponsive to estrogen. This happens in cases of severe endometrial damage due mainly to post-pregnancy endometritis (inflammation), chronic granulomatous inflammation due to uterine tuberculosis (hardly ever seen in the United States) and following extensive surgical injury to the basal endometrium (as sometimes occurs following over-zealous D&C’s).

Combining vaginal Viagra Therapy with oral Terbutaline;
In my practice I sometimes recommend combining Viagra administration with 5mg of oral terbutaline. The Viagra relaxes the muscle walls of uterine spiral arteries that feed the basal (germinal) layer of the endometrium while Terbutaline, relaxes the uterine muscle through which these spiral arteries pass. The combination of these two medications interacts synergistically to maximally enhance blood flow through the uterus, thereby improving estrogen delivery to the endometrial lining. The only drawback in using Terbutaline is that some women experience agitation, tremors and palpitations. In such cases the terbutaline should be discontinued. Terbutaline should also not be used women who have cardiac disease or in those who have an irregular heartbeat.

About 75% of women with thin uterine linings see a positive response to treatment within 2-3 days. The ones that do not respond well to this treatment are those who have severely damaged inner (basal/germinal) endometrial linings, such that no improvement in uterine blood flow can coax an improved response. Such cases are most commonly the result of prior pregnancy-related endometrial inflammation (endometritis) that sometimes occurs post abortally or following infected vaginal and/or cesarean delivery.

Viagra therapy has proven to be a god send to thousands of woman who because of a thin uterine lining would otherwise never have been able to successfully complete the journey “from infertility to family”.

___________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

Patients are encouraged to share the information I provide, with their treating Physicians and/or to avail themselves of my personal hands-on services, provided through batched IVF cycles that I conduct every 3 months at Los Angeles IVF (LAIVF) Clinic, Century City, Los Angeles, CA.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

Addendum:

I recommend that you discuss the protocol FET as below , with your RE. I personally do not agree with the use of oral estrogen for FET.

Until less than a decade ago, most women undergoing IVF would have embryos transferred to the uterus in the same cycle that the egg retrieval was performed (“Fresh” Embryo Transfer). This was because embryo cryopreservation (freezing) was a hazardous undertaking. In fact, it resulted in about 30% not surviving the freezing process and those that did, having about one half the potential of “fresh embryos to implant and propagate a viable pregnancy. The main reason for the high attrition rate associated with embryo cryopreservation is that the “conventional” freezing” process that was done slowly and this resulted in ice forming within the embryo’s cells, damaging or destroying them. The introduction of an ultra-rapid cryopreservation process (vitrification) freezes the embryos so rapidly as to avoid ice crystals from developing. As a result, >90% survive the freeze/thaw process in as good a condition as they were prior to being frozen and thus without being compromised in their ability to propagate a viable pregnancy.
Recently, there have been several articles that have appeared in the literature suggest that an altered hormonal environment may be the reason for this effect. There have also been reports showing that when singletons (pregnancy with one baby) conceived naturally are compared to singletons conceived through a “fresh” embryo transfers they tend to have a greater chance of low birth weight/prematurity. This difference was not observed in babies born following FET. Hence, there is a suspicion that the altered hormonal environment during the fresh cycle may be the causative factor.
Available evidence suggests that FET (of pre-vitrified blastocysts) is at least as successful as is the transfer of “fresh” embryos and might even have the edge. The reason for this is certainly unlikely to have anything to do with the freezing process itself. It more than likely has to do with two factors:
a) An ever increasing percentage of FET’s involve the transfer of PGS-tested, fully karyotyped, euploid blastocysts that have a greater potential to propagate viable pregnancies, than is the case with “fresh” ET’s where the embryos have rarely undergone prior PGS selection for “competency”…and,
b) With targeted hormone replacement therapy for FET, one is far better able to better to optimally prepare the endometrium for healthy implantation than is the case where embryos are transferre3d following ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs.
There are additional factors other than method used for embryo cryopreservation that influence outcome following FET. These include
• An emerging trend towards selective transferring only advanced (day 5-6) embryos (blastocysts).
• (PGS) to allow for the selective transfer of genetic competent (euploid) embryos
• Addressing underlying causes of implantation dysfunction (anatomical and immunologic uterine factors) and
• Exclusive use of ultrasound guidance for delivery of embryos transferred to the uterus.
Against this background, the use of FET has several decided advantages:
• The ability to cryostore surplus embryos left over after fresh embryo transfer
• The ability to safely hold embryos over for subsequent transfer in a later frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle (i.e. Staggered IVF) in cases where:
1. Additional time is needed to perform preimplantation Genetic testing for embryo competency.
2. In cases where ovarian hyperstimulation increases the risk of life-endangering complications associated with critically severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
3. To bank (stockpile) embryos for selective transfer of karyotypically normal embryos in older women or those who are diminished ovarian reserve
4. The ability to store embryos in cases of IVF with third party parenting (Egg Donation; Gestational Surrogacy and Embryo donation) and so improve convenience for those couples seeking such services.
Preimplantation Genetic Sampling with FET:
The introduction of preimplantation genetic sampling (PGS) to karyotyping of embryos for selective transfer of the most “competent” embryos, requires in most cases that the tested blastocysts be vitribanked while awaiting test results and then transferred to the uterus at a later date. Many IVF programs have advocated the routine use of PGS in IVF purported to improve IVF outcome. But PGS should in my opinion should only be used selectively. I do not believe that it is needed for all women undergoing IVF. First there is the significant additional cost involved and second it will not benefit everyone undergoing IVF, in my opinion.
While PGS is a good approach for older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and also for woman who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) or “unexplained” recurrent IVF failure recent data suggests that it will not improve IVF success rates in women under 36Y who have normal ovarian reserve, who represent the majority of women seeking IVF treatment. Nor is it needed in women (regardless of their age) undergoing IVF with eggs donated by a younger donor. This is because in such women about 1:2/3 of their eggs/embryos are usually chromosomally normal, and in most cases will upon fertilization produce multiple blastocysts per IVF attempt, anyway. Thus in such cases the transfer of 2 blastocysts will likely yield the same outcome regardless of whether the embryos had been subjected to PGS or not. The routine use of
It is another matter when it comes to women who have diminished ovarian reserve and/or DOR contemplating embryo banking and for women with unexplained recurrent IVF failure, recurrent pregnancy loss and women with alloimmune implantation dysfunction who regardless of their age or ovarian reserve require PGS for diagnostic reasons.
Embryo Banking: Some IVF centers are doing embryo banking cycles with Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS). With Embryo Banking” several IVF cycles are performed sequentially (usually about 2 months apart), up to the egg retrieval stage. The eggs are fertilized and the resulting advanced embryos are biopsied. The biopsy specimens are held over until enough 4-8 blastocysts have been vitribanked, thus providing a reasonable likelihood that one or more will turn out to be PGS-normal. At this point the biopsy specimens (derived all banking cycles) are sent for PGS testing at one time (a significant cost-saver), the chromosomally normal blastocysts are identified and the women are scheduled for timed FET procedures….. with a good prospect of a markedly improved chance of success as well as a reduced risk of miscarriage.
Standard (proposed) Regimen for preparing the uterus for frozen embryo transfer FET) is as follows:

The recipient’s cycle is initiated with an oral contraceptive-OC (e.g. Marvelon/Lo-Estrin; Lo-Ovral etc) for at least 10 days. This is later overlapped with 0.5 mg. (10 units) Lupron/Lucrin (or Superfact/Buserelin) daily for 3 days. Thereupon the OC is withdrawn and daily 0.25 mg (5 units) of Lupron/Lucrin/Superfact injections are continued. Menstruation will usually ensue within 1 week. At this point, an ultrasound examination is performed to exclude ovarian cyst(s) and a blood estradiol measurement is taken (it needs to be <70pg/ml) until daily progesterone administration is initiated some time later. The daily Lupron/Lucrin/Superfact is continued until the initiation of progesterone therapy (see below).

Four milligram (4mg) Estradiol valerate (Delestrogen) IM is injected SC, twice weekly (on Tuesday and Friday), commencing within a few days of Lupron/Lucrin/Superfact-induced menstruation. Blood is drawn on Monday and Thursday for measurement of blood [E2]. This allows for planned adjustment of the E2V dosage scheduled for the next day. The objective is to achieve a plasma E2 concentration of 500-1,000pg/ml and an endometrial lining of >8mm, as assessed by ultrasound examination done after 10 days of estrogen exposure i.e. a day after the 3rd dosage of Delestrogen.. The twice weekly, final (adjusted) dosage of E2V is continued until pregnancy is discounted by blood testing or an ultrasound examination. Dexamethasone 0.75 mg is taken orally, daily with the start of the Lupron/Lucrin/Superfact. Oral folic acid (1 mg) is taken daily commencing with the first E2V injection and is continued throughout gestation. Patients also receive Ciprofloxin 500mg BID orally starting with the initiation of Progesterone therapy and continuing for 10 days.

Luteal support commences 6 days prior to the ET, with intramuscular progesterone in oil (PIO) at an initial dose of 50 mg (P4-Day 1). Starting on progesterone administration-Day 2, PIO is increased to 100 mg daily continuing until the 10th week of pregnancy, or until a blood pregnancy test/negative ultrasound (after the 6-7th gestational week), discounts a viable pregnancy.

Also, commencing on the day following the ET, the patient inserts one (1) vaginal progesterone suppository (100 mg) in the morning + 2mg E2V vaginal suppository (in the evening) and this is continued until the 10th week of pregnancy or until pregnancy is discounted by blood testing or by an ultrasound examination after the 6-7th gestational week. Dexamethasone o.75mg is continued to the 10th week of pregnancy (tailed off from the 8th to 10th week) or as soon as pregnancy is ruled out. With the obvious exception of the fact that embryo recipients do not receive an hCG injections, luteal phase and early pregnancy hormonal support and immuno-suppression is otherwise the same as for conventional IVF patients. Blood pregnancy tests are performed 13 days and 15 days after the first P4 injection was given.

Note: One (1) vaginal application of Crinone 8% is administered on the 1st day (referred to as luteal phase day 0 – LPO). On LP Day 1, they will commence the administration of Crinone 8% twice daily (AM and PM) until the day of embryo transfer. Withhold Crinone on the morning of the embryo transfer and resume Crinone administration in the PM. Crinone twice daily is resumed from the day after embryo transfer. Contingent upon positive blood pregnancy tests, and subsequently upon the ultrasound confirmation of a viable pregnancy, administration of Crinone twice daily are continued until the 10th week of pregnancy.

GS

reply
Emma

Hello Doctor does the E2 levels during an IVF cycle have anything to do with mature eggs or is it just the follicle that’s produced the estrogen regardless of the quality or maturity of the egg inside?

reply
Nicholas Ellis

Dear Dr Sher,

My name is Nicholas Ellis and I am a Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, and Fertility Specialist living in Melbourne, Australia.

I have a special interest in Reproductive Immunology and have previously worked with Dr Nicholas Lolatgis, a Senior Fertility Specialist from Monash IVF, whose practice incorporates reproductive immunological techniques. Dr Lolatgis has spoken very highly of you, and he has referred me to your website. Today, I have purchased your latest book “In Vitro Fertilization : The A.R.T. of Making Babies” from Amazon Books, and look forward to reading it. I would also greatly appreciate if you could send me a copy of your ebook which you give to your patients after Skype consultations: “Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure – the Immunological Link”. If there is a cost for this ebook, please advise and I will pay accordingly.

My email is drnicholasellis@gmail.com

I look forward to reading your ebook and learning about the reproductive immunological investigations and treatments which I believe underpin most of the “unexplained infertility” we label.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Nicholas Ellis
MBBS, FRANZCOG, MRMed, DRANZCOG

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Thank you Dr. Ellis,

My E-book can be down-loaded free of charge from my website. The website URL is http://www.sherivf.com. When you get to the home page you will find an invitation to set up a Skype consultation with me. Click on this and it will take you to a second page where you will find a form to complete. Please do so. This will take you to a 3rd pager where you can access the book and down-load it. Feel free to invite your patients to access this book in the same way. Filling in the application will not compel anyone to have the consultation with me. However, it is the only way to access the E-book. My website also gives access to my copious blog articles which you should feel free to provide to your patients, as long as you reveal the source when you do so.

I look forward to an opportunity to interact with you in the future.

Please give Dr Lolatgis my fond regards!

Geoff Sher

reply
S Oji

Hi Dr Sher,

Would you recommend transfer of a 25% mosaic (-12)? I can’t see to find much information on Which adverse outcomes are likely with a -12? Also we have another embryo with a segmental duplication of Chromosome 11.. dup size 38MB. Which of these two would you prioritize?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I would prioritize the (-12). See below:

Human embryo development occurs through a process that encompasses reprogramming, sequential cleavage divisions and mitotic chromosome segregation and embryonic genome activation. Chromosomal abnormalities may arise during germ cell and/or preimplantation embryo development and represents a major cause of early pregnancy loss. About a decade ago, I and my associate, Levent Keskintepe PhD were the first to introduce full embryo karyotyping (identification of all 46 chromosomes) through preimplantation genetic sampling (PGS) as a method by which to selectively transfer only euploid embryos (i.e. those that have a full component of chromosomes) to the uterus. We subsequently reported on a 2-3-fold improvement in implantation and birth rates as well as a significant reduction in early pregnancy loss, following IVF. Since then PGS has grown dramatically in popularity such that it is now widely used throughout the world.
Many IVF programs that offer PGS services, require that all participating patients consent to all their aneuploid embryos (i.e. those with an irregular quota of chromosomes) be disposed of. However, growing evidence suggests that following embryo transfer, some aneuploid embryos will in the process of ongoing development, convert to the euploid state (i.e. “autocorrect”) and then go on to develop into chromosomally normal offspring. In fact, I am personally aware of several such cases having occurred in my own practice. So clearly, summarily discarding all aneuploid embryos as a matter of routine we are sometimes destroying some embryos that might otherwise have “autocorrected” and gone on to develop into normal offspring. Thus by discarding aneuploid embryos the possibility exists that we could be denying some women the opportunity of having a baby. This creates a major ethical and moral dilemma for those of us that provide the option of PGS to our patients. On the one hand, we strive “to avoid knowingly doing harm” (the Hippocratic Oath) and as such would prefer to avoid or minimize the risk of miscarriage and/or chromosomal birth defects and on the other hand we would not wish to deny patients with aneuploid embryos, the opportunity to have a baby.
The basis for such embryo “autocorrection” lies in the fact that some embryos found through PGS-karyotyping to harbor one or more aneuploid cells (blastomeres) will often also harbor chromosomally normal (euploid) cells (blastomeres). The coexistence of both aneuploid and euploid cells coexisting in the same embryo is referred to as “mosaicism.”
It is against this background, that an ever-increasing number of IVF practitioners, rather than summarily discard PGS-identified aneuploid embryos are now choosing to cryobanking (freeze-store) certain of them, to leave open the possibility of ultimately transferring them to the uterus. In order to best understand the complexity of the factors involved in such decision making, it is essential to understand the causes of embryo aneuploidy of which there are two varieties:
1. Meiotic aneuploidy” results from aberrations in chromosomal numerical configuration that originate in either the egg (most commonly) and/or in sperm, during preconceptual maturational division (meiosis). Since meiosis occurs in the pre-fertilized egg or in and sperm, it follows that when aneuploidy occurs due to defective meiosis, all subsequent cells in the developing embryo/blastocyst/conceptus inevitably will be aneuploid, precluding subsequent “autocorrection”. Meiotic aneuploidy will thus invariably be perpetuated in all the cells of the embryo as they replicate. It is a permanent phenomenon and is irreversible. All embryos so affected are thus fatally damaged. Most will fail to implant and those that do implant will either be lost in early pregnancy or develop into chromosomally defective offspring (e.g. Down syndrome, Edward syndrome, Turner syndrome).
2. Mitotic aneuploidy (“Mosaicism”) occurs when following fertilization and subsequent cell replication (cleavage), some cells (blastomeres) of a meiotically normal (euploid) early embryo mutate and become aneuploid. This is referred to as “mosaicism”. Thereupon, with continued subsequent cell replication (mitosis) the chromosomal make-up (karyotype) of the embryo might either comprise of predominantly aneuploid cells or euploid cells. The subsequent viability or competency of the conceptus will thereupon depend on whether euploid or aneuploid cells predominate. If in such mosaic embryos aneuploid cells predominate, the embryo will be “incompetent”). If (as is frequently the case) euploid cells prevail, the mosaic embryo will likely be “competent” and capable of propagating a normal conceptus.
Since some mitotically aneuploid (“mosaic”) embryos can, and indeed do “autocorrect’ while meiotically aneuploid embryos cannot, it follows that an ability to reliably differentiate between these two varieties of aneuploidy would potentially be of considerable clinical value. The recent introduction of a variety of preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) known as next generation gene sequencing (NGS) has vastly improved the ability to reliably and accurately karyotype embryos and thus to diagnose embryo “mosaicism”.
Most complex aneuploidies are meiotic in origin and will thus almost invariably fail to propagate viable pregnancies. The ability of mosaic embryos to autocorrect is influenced by stage of embryo development in which the diagnosis is made, which chromosomes are affected, whether the aneuploidy involves a single chromosome (simple) or involves 3 or more chromosomes (complex), and the percentage of cells that are aneuploid. Many embryos diagnosed as being mosaic prior to their development into blastocysts (in the cleaved state), subsequently undergo autocorrection to the euploid state (normal numerical chromosomal configuration) as they develop to blastocysts in the Petri dish. This is one reason why “mosaicism” is more commonly detected in early embryos than in blastocysts. Embryos with segmental mosaic aneuploidies, i.e. the addition (duplication) or subtraction (deletion), are also more likely to autocorrect. Finally, the lower the percentage of mitotically aneuploid (mosaic) cells in the blastocyst the greater the propensity for autocorrection and propagation of chromosomally normal (euploid) offspring. A blastocyst with <30% mosaicism could yield a 30% likelihood of a healthy baby rate with 10-15% miscarriage rate, while with >50% mosaicism the baby rate is roughly halved and the miscarriage rate double.
As stated, the transfer of embryos with autosomal meiotic trisomy, will invariably result in failed implantation, early miscarriage or the birth of a defective child. Those with autosomal mitotic (“mosaic”) trisomies, while having the ability to autocorrect in-utero and result in the birth of a healthy baby can, depending on the percentage of mosaic (mitotically aneuploid) cells present, the number of aneuploid chromosomes and the type of mosaicism (single or segmental) either autocorrect and propagate a normal baby, result in failed implantation, miscarry or cause a birth defect (especially with trisomies 13, 18 or 21). This is why when it comes to giving consideration to transferring trisomic embryos, suspected of being “mosaic”, I advise patients to undergo prenatal genetic testing once pregnant and to be willing to undergo termination of pregnancy in the event of the baby being affected. Conversely, when it comes to meiotic autosomal monosomy, there is almost no chance of a viable pregnancy. in most cases implantation will fail to occur and if it does, the pregnancy will with rare exceptions, miscarry. “Mosaic” (mitotically aneuploid) autosomally monosomic embryos where a chromosome is missing), can and often will “autocorrect” in-utero and propagate a viable pregnancy. It is for this reason that I readily recommend the transfer of such embryos, while still (for safety sake) advising prenatal genetic testing in the event that a pregnancy results.
What should be done with “mosaic embryos? While the ability to identify “mosaicism” through karyotyping of embryos has vastly improved, itv is far from being absolutely reliable. In fact, I personally have witnessed a number of healthy/normal babies born after the transfer of aneuploid embryos, previously reported on as revealing no evidence of “mosaicism”. However, the question arises as to which “mosaic” embryos are capable of autocorrecting in-utero and propagating viable pregnancies. Research suggests that that embryos with autosomal monosomy very rarely will propagate viable pregnancies. Thus, it is in my opinion virtually risk-free to transfer embryos with monosomies involving up to two (2) autosomes. The same applies to the transfer of trisomic embryos where up to 2 autosomes are involved. Only here, there is a risk of birth defects (e.g. trisomy 21/18, etc.) and any resulting pregnancies need to be carefully assessed and if needed/desired, be ended. Regardless, it is essential to make full disclosure to the patient (s), and to ensure the completion of a detailed informed consent agreement which would include a commitment by the patient (s) to undergo prenatal genetic testing (amniocentesis/CVS) aimed at excluding a chromosomal defect in the developing baby and/or a willingness to terminate the pregnancy should a serious birth defect be diagnosed. Blastocysts with aneuploidies involving > 2 autosomes are complex abnormal and should in my opinion, be discarded.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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.
• A Fresh Look at the Indications for IVF
• 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.
• 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.
• Hereditary Clotting Defects (Thrombophilia)
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers done 5-6 Days Following Fertilization are Fast Replacing Earlier day 2-3 Transfers of Cleaved Embryos.
• Embryo Transfer Procedure: The “Holy Grail in IVF.
• Timing of ET: Transferring Blastocysts on Day 5-6 Post-Fertilization, Rather Than on Day 2-3 as Cleaved Embryos.
• IVF: Approach to Selecting the Best Embryos for Transfer to the Uterus.
• Fresh versus Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET) Enhance IVF Outcome
• 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 and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
• IVF outcome: How Does Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Affect Egg/Embryo “Competency” and How Should the Problem be addressed.

___________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
S Oji

Dr Sher – Thank you for the very detailed response confirming my preference to prioritize the (-12) low level mosaic. Assuming implantation is successful… what risks are we potentially exposed to? Would cvs / amnio give any new information or would NIPTs be sufficient

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

The absence of chromosome 12 in its entirety is unlikely to result in a viable pregnancy. Loss of the long arm of chromosome 12 (!2p-deletion) is another matter. This can be associated with developmental defects but it is a very rare occurrence. That is why, my suggestion is that in the event you should conceive, an amniocentesis would be advisable….just in case this 1s a 12p deletion.

Geoff Sher

Geoff Sher

reply
Susan

Dear Dr. Sher,
I have heard a lot that vitamin D has very important role for immune system. Can vitamin D deficiency trigger autoimmune or wrong immunologic reaction and cause early miscarriage?

reply
Melissa Lorang

I have a child born from my first FET of a PGS normal embryo from my first IVF cycle in 2017 (only issue found in 2016 was male factor with low normal morphology <2%). We made 6 blasts, 3 PGS normal, 3 aneuploid with one chromosome issue each). I did two FETs in 2019 for the raining normal embryos using the same protocol that worked for my daughter and both failed to implant. In between there was a normal saline sono and endometrial biopsy. I tried to do another round of IVF this year, but now I have DOR (AMH 0.087 and AFC 5) and did not respond well enough for that clinic to go forward with egg retrieval (two large and two smaller follicles responded) and IUI failed. I have switched to a new clinic and the doctor is recommending a D&C with hysteroscopy. He believes there could be old endometrium not shedding or something not seen on saline sono causing the implantation failures. What are your thoughts on this? Could I still have IID after having a successful pregnancy? What about an ERA in case something changed with my implantation window after having my daughter? Thank you!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Yes indeed you could…especially an alloimmune IID which often is characterized by the couple having a 1st baby quite easily and then having problems conceiving or holding a pregnancy beyond the ist trimester.
Unless tests for immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) are performed correctly and conducted by a one of the few reliable reproductive immunology reference laboratory in the United States, treatment will likely be unsuccessful. . In this regard it is most important that the right tests be ordered and that these be performed by a competent laboratory. There are in my opinion only a handful of reliable Reproductive Immunology Laboratories in the world and most are in the U.S.A. Also, it is my opinion that far too often, testing is inappropriate with the many redundant and incorrect tests being requested from and conducted by suboptimal laboratories. Finally for treatment to have the best chance of being successful, it is vital that the underlying type of IID (autoimmune IID versus alloimmune) be identified correctly and that the type, dosage, concentration and timing of treatments be carefully devised and implemented. I recommend that my patients be tested by ReproSource Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratory, Boston, MA.
WHO SHOULD UNDERGO IID TESTING?
When it comes to who should be evaluated, the following conditions should in always raise a suspicion of an underlying IID, and trigger prompt testing:
• A diagnosis of endometriosis or the existence of symptoms suggestive of endometriosis (heavy/painful menstruation and pain with ovulation or with deep penetration during intercourse) I would however emphasize that a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis requires visualization of the lesions at laparoscopy or laparotomy)
• A personal or family history of autoimmune disease such as hyper/hypothyroidism (as those with elevated or depressed TSH blood levels, regardless of thyroid hormonal dysfunction), Lupus erythematosus, Rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, scleroderma etc.)
• “Unexplained” infertility
• Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL)
• A history of having miscarried a conceptus that, upon testing of products of conception, was found to have a normal numerical chromosomal configuration (euploid).
• Unexplained IVF failure
• “Unexplained” intrauterine growth retardation due to placental insufficiency or late pregnancy loss of a chromosomally normal baby
What Parameters should be tested?
In my opinion, too many Reproductive Immunologists unnecessarily unload a barrage of costly IID tests on unsuspecting patients. In most cases the initial test should be for NK cell activation, and only if this is positive, is it necessary to expand the testing.
The parameters that require measurement include:
o For Autoimmune Implantation Dysfunction: Autoimmune implantation dysfunction, most commonly presents with presumed “infertility” due to such early pregnancy losses that the woman did not even know she was pregnant in the first place. Sometimes there as an early miscarriage. Tests required are: a) blood levels of all IgA, IgG and IgM-related antiphospholipid antibodies (APA’s) directed against six or seven specific phospholipids, b) both antithyroid antibodies (antithyroid and antimicrosomal antibodies), c) a comprehensive reproductive immunophenotype (RIP) and, c) most importantly, assessment of Natural Killer (NK) cell activity (rather than concentration) by measuring by their killing, using the K-562 target cell test and/or uterine cytokine measurement. As far as the ideal environment for performing such tests, it is important to recognize that currently there are only about 5 or 6, Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories in the U.S capable of reliably analyzing the required elements with a sufficient degree of sensitivity and specificity (in my opinion).
o For Alloimmune implantation Dysfunction: While alloimmune Implantation usually presents with a history of unexplained (usually repeated) miscarriages or secondary infertility (where the woman conceived initially and thereupon was either unable to conceive started having repeated miscarriages it can also present as “presumed” primary infertility. Alloimmune dysfunction is diagnosed by testing the blood of both the male and female partners for matching DQ alpha genes and NK/CTL activation. It is important to note that any DQ alpha match (partial or complete) will only result in IID when there is concomitant NK/CTL activation (see elsewhere on this blog).

How should results be interpreted?
Central to making a diagnosis of an immunologic implantation dysfunction is the appropriate interpretation of natural killer cell activity (NKa) .In this regard, one of the commonest and most serious errors, is to regard the blood concentration of natural killer cells as being significant. Rather it is the activity (toxicity) of NK cells that matters as mentioned. Then there is the interpretation of reported results. The most important consideration is the percentage of target cells “killed” in the “native state”. In most cases a level of >10% killing should be regarded with suspicion and >12% overtly abnormal. In my opinion, trying to interpret the effect of adding IVIG or Intralipid to the sample in order assess whether and to what degree the use of these products would have a therapeutic benefit is seriously flawed and of little benefit. Clinically relevant NK cell deactivation can only be significantly effected in vivo and takes more than a week following infusion to occur. Thus what happens in the laboratory by adding these products to the sample prior to K-562 target cell testing is in my opinion likely irrelevant.
There exists a pervasive but blatant misconception on the part of many, that the addition of Intralipid (IL) /immunoglobulin-G IVIG) can have an immediate down-regulatory effect on NK cell activity. This has established a demand that Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories report on NK cell activity before and following exposure to IVIG and/or IL. However, the fact is that activated “functional” NK cells (NKa) cannot be deactivated in the laboratory. Effective down-regulation of activated NK cells can only be adequately accomplished if their activated “progenitor/parental” NK cells are first down-regulated. Thereupon once these down-regulated “precursor” NK cells are exposed to progesterone, they will begin spawning normal and functional NK cells, which takes about 10-14 days. It follows that to assess for a therapeutic response to IVIG/IL therapy would require that the patient first be treated (10-14 days prior to embryo transfer) and thereupon, about 2 weeks later, be retested. While at 1st glance this might seem to be a reasonable approach, in reality it would be of little clinical benefit because even if blood were to be drawn 10 -14 days after IL/IVIG treatment it would require an additional 10 days to receive results from the laboratory, by which time it would be far too late to be of practical advantage.

Neither IVIG nor IL is capable of significantly suppressing already activated “functional NK cells”. For this to happen, the IL/IVIG would have to down-regulate progenitor (parent) NK cell” activity. Thus, it should be infused 10-14 several prior to ovulation or progesterone administration so that the down-regulated “progenitor/precursor” NK cells” can propagate a sufficient number of normally regulated “functional NK cell” to be present at the implantation site 7 days later. In addition, to be effective, IL/IVIG therapy needs to be combined with steroid (dexamethasone/prednisone/prednisolone) therapy to down-regulates (often) concomitantly activated T-cells.
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.
• 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) Why did my IVF Fail
• Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL): Why do I keep losing my PregnanciesGenetically Testing Embryos for IVF
• Staggered IVF
• Staggered IVF with PGS- Selection of “Competent” Embryos Greatly Enhances the Utility & Efficiency of IVF.
• 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?
• 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!
• 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

___________________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Kay

Hi Dr. Sher,
Thanks so much for creating this forum and providing access to helpful information while navigating infertility.

I am a 25 year old female, had one successful pregnancy, gave birth to a boy 2 years ago conceived on the first try. When trying for a second baby I started running into issues. I conceived right away again but have been unable to sustain a pregnancy. I’ve had 2-3 chemicals and 1 6 week miscarriage w no hb on us. Hormone panel came back normal, TSH was elevated after MC but came back down to 1.7. Antithyroid antibodies are negative. Lining is always 8-10mm, progesterone around 10-13 on 7 dpo and my RE does not seem to want to run any additional tests. He agreed to run some anticoag tests: Lupus anticoagulant , Protein s, protein c, Lightened factor 5 mutation. Husbands SA is normal. The only problem I seem to have is a unicornuate uterus found on an exploratory lap/hyst when looking for endo or scar tissue after my D&C for my 6 week Mc, none of those problems were discovered. I am so tired of having early miscarriages and just wanted your opinion to see if it is worth having my RE look into this IID/NK problem. So far he just wants to try a medicated cycle next to try and produce more eggs with the hope that one of those with be a successful implantation. I’m not opposed to trying this but would like to keep looking for an explanation for my RPL.
I greatly appreciate any input you can give me. Thank you for your time!!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

This presentation suggests an immunologic implantation dysfunction that could well be alloimmune in origin. I do not believe it to be due to a unicornuate uterus.

When it comes to reproduction, humans are the poorest performers of all mammals. In fact we are so inefficient that up to 75% of fertilized eggs do not produce live births, and up to 30% of pregnancies end up being lost within 10 weeks of conception (in the first trimester). RPL is defined as two (2) or more failed pregnancies. Less than 5% of women will experience two (2) consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.
Pregnancy loss can be classified by the stage of pregnancy when the loss occurs:
• Early pregnancy loss (first trimester)
• Late pregnancy loss (after the first trimester)
• Occult “hidden” and not clinically recognized, (chemical) pregnancy loss (occurs prior to ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy)
• Early pregnancy losses usually occur sporadically (are not repetitive).

In more than 70% of cases the loss is due to embryo aneuploidy (where there are more or less than the normal quota of 46 chromosomes). Conversely, repeated losses (RPL), with isolated exceptions where the cause is structural (e.g., unbalanced translocations), are seldom attributable to numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy). In fact, the vast majority of cases of RPL are attributable to non-chromosomal causes such as anatomical uterine abnormalities or Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID).
Since most sporadic early pregnancy losses are induced by chromosomal factors and thus are non-repetitive, having had a single miscarriage the likelihood of a second one occurring is no greater than average. However, once having had two losses the chance of a third one occurring is double (35-40%) and after having had three losses the chance of a fourth miscarriage increases to about 60%. The reason for this is that the more miscarriages a woman has, the greater is the likelihood of this being due to a non-chromosomal (repetitive) cause such as IID. It follows that if numerical chromosomal analysis (karyotyping) of embryonic/fetal products derived from a miscarriage tests karyotypically normal, then by a process of elimination, there would be a strong likelihood of a miscarriage repeating in subsequent pregnancies and one would not have to wait for the disaster to recur before taking action. This is precisely why we strongly advocate that all miscarriage specimens be karyotyped.
There is however one caveat to be taken into consideration. That is that the laboratory performing the karyotyping might unwittingly be testing the mother’s cells rather than that of the conceptus. That is why it is not possible to confidently exclude aneuploidy in cases where karyotyping of products suggests a “chromosomally normal” (euploid) female.
Late pregnancy losses (occurring after completion of the 1st trimester/12th week) occur far less frequently (1%) than early pregnancy losses. They are most commonly due to anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and/or cervix. Weakness of the neck of the cervix rendering it able to act as an effective valve that retains the pregnancy (i.e., cervical incompetence) is in fact one of the commonest causes of late pregnancy loss. So also are developmental (congenital) abnormalities of the uterus (e.g., a uterine septum) and uterine fibroid tumors. In some cases intrauterine growth retardation, premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption), premature rupture of the membranes and premature labor can also causes of late pregnancy loss.
Much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms involved in RPL. There are two broad categories:
1. Problems involving the uterine environment in which a normal embryo is prohibited from properly implanting and developing. Possible causes include:
• Inadequate thickening of the uterine lining
• Irregularity in the contour of the uterine cavity (polyps, fibroid tumors in the uterine wall, intra-uterine scarring and adenomyosis)
• Hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects). This most commonly results in occult RPL.
• Deficient blood flow to the uterine lining (thin uterine lining).
• Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). A major cause of RPL. Plays a role in 75% of cases where chromosomally normal preimplantation embryos fail to implant.
• Interference of blood supply to the developing conceptus can occur due to a hereditary clotting disorder known as Thrombophilia.

2. Genetic and/or structural chromosomal abnormality of the embryo.Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL. Structural chromosomal abnormalities are slightly more common but are also occur infrequently (1%). These are referred to as unbalanced translocation and they result from part of one chromosome detaching and then fusing with another chromosome. Additionally, a number of studies suggest the existence of paternal (sperm derived) effect on human embryo quality and pregnancy outcome that are not reflected as a chromosomal abnormality. Damaged sperm DNA can have a negative impact on fetal development and present clinically as occult or early clinical miscarriage. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which measures the same endpoints are newer and possibly improved methods for evaluating.

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA).
But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States.
Alloimmune IID, i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species, is believed to be a relatively common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage.
Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction.
However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated NK cells and CTL in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL
In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients.
Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include:

Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents
• Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens
• Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.)
• Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test)
• Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity
• Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.)
• Immunologic testing to include:
a) Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel
b) Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
c) Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies)
d) Reproductive immunophenotype
e) Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test)
f) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

TREATMENT OF RPL
Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated.
Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin.
Sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures.
Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.
Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: Modalities such as IL/IVIg, heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction.
The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL
In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option:
1. When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed.
2. In cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.
The reason for IVF being a preferred approach in such cases is that in order to be effective, the immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative
Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), with tests such as CGH, can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGD requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing.
There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha matching where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy.
The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• 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

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Kay

Thank you for your quick response!
If this was the case, are my odds of having a successful pregnancy with no interventions very low ?

reply
Olivia Emmerson

I live in the UK and have just had my progesterone tested. I have cycles that range from 28-30 days in length. Normal flow etc. I did the test on CD22. My results were ‘The progesterone level in the sample you provided is normal at 17.5 nmol/L, This indicates that ovulation may have occurred in that cycle, either just before or after you took your blood and the results are reassuring’ – however below it states ‘>30 nmol/L usually indicates ovulation’.

I am now extremely worried – have I ovulated or not?

Please help if you can – thank you.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You likely have. The higher value applies to P4 level soon after ovulation. By day 22 it is often half the value immediately following ovulation.

Good luck!

Ge4off Sher

reply
Fabia

Dear Mr. Geoffrey,
After finding no reason for my RPLs (3 losses after first healthy pregnancy) I decided to consult with a hematologist anyway. Among standard hematologic tests (rejected thrombophilia, etc.), I went through some immunologic testing as well, with rejected APS, normal levels of ANA, anti-beta-2-clycoprotein, but slightly high anti-dsDNA (20.7 U/mL with reference norm mentioned as below 25). The doctor says the latter is a problem and taking aspirin might help with it. I kind of can’t figure out why it is a problem if it’s within lab norm range and how aspirin will help with it. She also advised plasmapheresis therapy considering bad history of miscarriages. Will be grateful if you share your thoughts on these and give valuable advice.
Thanks.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

When it comes to reproduction, humans are the poorest performers of all mammals. In fact we are so inefficient that up to 75% of fertilized eggs do not produce live births, and up to 30% of pregnancies end up being lost within 10 weeks of conception (in the first trimester). RPL is defined as two (2) or more failed pregnancies. Less than 5% of women will experience two (2) consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.
Pregnancy loss can be classified by the stage of pregnancy when the loss occurs:
• Early pregnancy loss (first trimester)
• Late pregnancy loss (after the first trimester)
• Occult “hidden” and not clinically recognized, (chemical) pregnancy loss (occurs prior to ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy)
• Early pregnancy losses usually occur sporadically (are not repetitive).

In more than 70% of cases the loss is due to embryo aneuploidy (where there are more or less than the normal quota of 46 chromosomes). Conversely, repeated losses (RPL), with isolated exceptions where the cause is structural (e.g., unbalanced translocations), are seldom attributable to numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy). In fact, the vast majority of cases of RPL are attributable to non-chromosomal causes such as anatomical uterine abnormalities or Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID).
Since most sporadic early pregnancy losses are induced by chromosomal factors and thus are non-repetitive, having had a single miscarriage the likelihood of a second one occurring is no greater than average. However, once having had two losses the chance of a third one occurring is double (35-40%) and after having had three losses the chance of a fourth miscarriage increases to about 60%. The reason for this is that the more miscarriages a woman has, the greater is the likelihood of this being due to a non-chromosomal (repetitive) cause such as IID. It follows that if numerical chromosomal analysis (karyotyping) of embryonic/fetal products derived from a miscarriage tests karyotypically normal, then by a process of elimination, there would be a strong likelihood of a miscarriage repeating in subsequent pregnancies and one would not have to wait for the disaster to recur before taking action. This is precisely why we strongly advocate that all miscarriage specimens be karyotyped.
There is however one caveat to be taken into consideration. That is that the laboratory performing the karyotyping might unwittingly be testing the mother’s cells rather than that of the conceptus. That is why it is not possible to confidently exclude aneuploidy in cases where karyotyping of products suggests a “chromosomally normal” (euploid) female.
Late pregnancy losses (occurring after completion of the 1st trimester/12th week) occur far less frequently (1%) than early pregnancy losses. They are most commonly due to anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and/or cervix. Weakness of the neck of the cervix rendering it able to act as an effective valve that retains the pregnancy (i.e., cervical incompetence) is in fact one of the commonest causes of late pregnancy loss. So also are developmental (congenital) abnormalities of the uterus (e.g., a uterine septum) and uterine fibroid tumors. In some cases intrauterine growth retardation, premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption), premature rupture of the membranes and premature labor can also causes of late pregnancy loss.
Much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms involved in RPL. There are two broad categories:
1. Problems involving the uterine environment in which a normal embryo is prohibited from properly implanting and developing. Possible causes include:
• Inadequate thickening of the uterine lining
• Irregularity in the contour of the uterine cavity (polyps, fibroid tumors in the uterine wall, intra-uterine scarring and adenomyosis)
• Hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects). This most commonly results in occult RPL.
• Deficient blood flow to the uterine lining (thin uterine lining).
• Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). A major cause of RPL. Plays a role in 75% of cases where chromosomally normal preimplantation embryos fail to implant.
• Interference of blood supply to the developing conceptus can occur due to a hereditary clotting disorder known as Thrombophilia.

2. Genetic and/or structural chromosomal abnormality of the embryo.Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL. Structural chromosomal abnormalities are slightly more common but are also occur infrequently (1%). These are referred to as unbalanced translocation and they result from part of one chromosome detaching and then fusing with another chromosome. Additionally, a number of studies suggest the existence of paternal (sperm derived) effect on human embryo quality and pregnancy outcome that are not reflected as a chromosomal abnormality. Damaged sperm DNA can have a negative impact on fetal development and present clinically as occult or early clinical miscarriage. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which measures the same endpoints are newer and possibly improved methods for evaluating.

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA).
But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States.
Alloimmune IID, i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species, is believed to be a relatively common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage.
Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction.
However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated NK cells and CTL in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL
In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients.
Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include:

Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents
• Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens
• Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.)
• Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test)
• Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity
• Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.)
• Immunologic testing to include:
a) Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel
b) Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
c) Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies)
d) Reproductive immunophenotype
e) Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test)
f) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

TREATMENT OF RPL
Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated.
Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin.
Sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures.
Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.
Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: Modalities such as IL/IVIg, heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction.
The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL
In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option:
1. When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed.
2. In cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.
The reason for IVF being a preferred approach in such cases is that in order to be effective, the immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative
Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), with tests such as CGH, can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGD requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing.
There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha matching where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy.
The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• 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

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ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Yvonne

Hello Dr. Sher,

I live in Canada and I am 33 years old. I did my 1st egg retrieval at 32 years old and retrieved 9 eggs. 5 eggs failed to fertilize using conventional IVF and 3/4 eggs fertilized with ICSI which resulted in 2 untested (3BB & 5BA) blastocysts. We did a fresh transfer of the 3BB embryo which ended in a chemical pregnancy. An ERA was performed and it came back normal, receptive at 6 days. We then did a frozen embryo transfer of the 5BA embryo which ended in a miscarriage at 5.5 weeks (no heartbeats at 7 week ultrasound, embryo had split into twins and measured at approximately 5.5 weeks). Karyotyping of both my husband and I came back normal. Husband has normal semen analysis and sperm DNA fragmentation. I have normal FSH, TSH & prolactin, retroverted uterus but normal cavity (polyps removed prior to transfer), normal BMI, uterline lining > 12 mm.

A 2nd egg retrieval retrieved 9 eggs once again. 8/9 fertilized with ICSI and resulted in 2 embryos (6BC & 6BB) which were genetically tested. Only 1 embryo was euploid (6BB). I am now preparing for another egg retrieval to hopefully bank more PGS tested euploid embryos.

At this point, we only know that there is an issue with fertilization for us. Would you recommend additional testing prior to another frozen embryo transfer? If so, what would you recommend? Any insight/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

At 33yof age there should not necessarily be intractable egg issues. Usually in my opinion, it has more to do with the protocol used for ovarian stimulation requiring revision. The importance of the IVF stimulation protocol on egg/embryo quality cannot be overstated. This factor seems often to be overlooked or discounted by t 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. 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.
Gonadotropins (LH and FSH), whether produced by the pituitary gland or administered by way of fertility drugs, have different “targeted” sites of action in the ovary. FSH targets cells that line the inner wall of the follicle (granulosa cells) and also form the cumulus cells that bind the egg to the inner surface of the follicle. Granulosa cells are responsible for estrogen production.
LH, on the other hand, targets the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca) that surrounds ovarian follicles resulting in the production of male hormones such as testosterone (predominantly), androstenedione and DHEA. These androgens are then transported to the granulosa cells of the adjacent follicles in a “bucket brigade fashion”. There FSH converts testosterone to estradiol, causing granulosa cells to multiply (proliferate) and produce estradiol, follicles to grows and eggs to develop (ovogenesis) It follows that ovarian androgens (mainly testosterone) is absolutely indispensable to follicle/ egg growth and development.
However, the emphasis is on a “normal” amount of testosterone. Over-exposure of the follicle to testosterone can in my opinion, compromise egg development and lead to an increased likelihood of chromosomal irregularities (aneuploid) following LH/hCG-induced egg maturational division (meiosis) and compromise embryo “competency/quality.
Ovarian androgens can also reach the uterine lining where they sometimes will compromise estrogen receptor -induced endometrial growth and development.
A significant percentage of older women and those who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have increased LH activity is increased. Such women either over-produce LH and/or the LH produced is far more biologically active. Chronically increased LH activity leads to overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca). This condition, which is often referred to as Stromal Hyperplasia or hyperthecosis can result in excessive ovarian androgen/testosterone production and poorer egg-embryo quality/competency, Similarly, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also characteristically have Stromal hyperplasia/hyperthecosis due to chronically increased LH activity. Thus they too often manifest with increased ovarian androgen production. It is therefore not surprising that “poor egg/embryo quality” is often also a feature of PCOS.
In my opinion, the over-administration of LH-containing menotropins such as Menopur, [which is comprised of roughly equal amount of FSH and hCG ,which acts similar to LH)], to older women, women with DOR and those who have PCOS can also lead to reduced egg/embryo competency . Similarly, drugs such as clomiphene or Letrozole that cause the pituitary gland to release excessive amounts of LH, are also potentially harmful to egg development and in my opinion, are best omitted from IVF COS protocols. This is especially the case when it comes to older women and those with DOR, who in my opinion should preferably be stimulated using FSH-dominant products such as Follistim, Puregon, Fostimon and Gonal-F.
Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa): GnRHa such as Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact, Gonopeptyl etc. are often used to launch ovarian stimulation cycles. They act by causing an initial outpouring followed by a depletion of pituitary gonadotropins. This results in LH levels falling to low concentrations, within 4-7 days, thereby establishing a relatively “LH-free environment”. When GnRHa are administered for about 7 days prior to initiating gonadotropin stimulation (“long” pituitary down-regulation”), the LH depletion that will exist when COS is initiated, will usually be protective of subsequent egg development. In contrast, when the GnRHa administration commences along with the initiation of gonadotropin therapy, there will be a resultant immediate surge in the release of pituitary LH with the potential to increase ovarian testosterone to egg-compromising levels , from the outset of COS. This, in my opinion could be particularly harmful when undertaken in older women and those who have DOR.
GnRH-antagonists such as Ganirelix, Cetrotide and Orgalutron, on the other hand, act very rapidly (within hours) to block pituitary LH release. The purpose in using GnRH antagonists is to prevent the release of LH during COS. In contrast, the LH-lowering effect of GnRH agonists develops over a number of days.
GnRH antagonists are traditionally given, starting after 5th -7th day of gonadotropin stimulation. However, when this is done in older women and those (regardless of age) who have DOR, LH-suppression might be reached too late to prevent the deleterious effect of excessive ovarian androgen production on egg development in the early stage of ovarian stimulation. This is why, it is my preference to administer GnRH-antagonists, starting at the initiation of gonadotropin administration.
My preferred Protocols for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS):
1. “Long” GnRHa (Lupron/Buserelin/Superfact/Gonopeptyl) Pituitary Down-regulation Protocol: The most commonly prescribed protocol for GnRHa/gonadotropin administration is the so-called “long protocol”. Here, GnRHa is given, starting a week or so prior to menstruation. This results in an initial rise in FSH and LH , which is rapidly followed by a precipitous fall to near zero. It is followed by a withdrawal bleed (menstruation), whereupon gonadotropin treatment should commence, while daily Lupron injections continue, to ensure a “low LH” environment. A modification to the “long protocol” which I prefer prescribing for older women and in cases of DOR, is the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP) where, upon the onset of a GnRHa-induced bleed, the agonist is supplanted by an antagonist (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) and this is continued until the hCG trigger. In many such cases I often supplement with human growth hormone (HGH) in such cases in an attempt to enhance egg mitochondrial activity and so enhance egg development. This approach is often augmented with preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
2. Short (“Flare”) GnRHa Protocol: Another GnRHa usage for COS is the so called “(micro) flare protocol”. This involves initiating gonadotropin therapy commensurate with initiation of gonadotropin administration. The supposed objective 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” constitutes “a double-edged sword”. 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/thecal androgen production which could potentially compromise egg quality, especially when it comes to older women and women with DOR. 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 when it comes to COS in older women, and in women with diminished ovarian reserve. Accordingly, I do not prescribe such protocols to my IVF patients.
3. Estrogen Priming – This is the approach I sometimes prescribe for my patients who have virtually depleted ovarian reserve , as determined by very low blood anti-Mullerian hormone AMH levels (<0.2ng/ml or 2 pmol/L) and are thus likely to be very “poor responders”. It involves a modified A/ACP. We start with estrogen skin patches applied every 2nd day (or with the BCP) for 10 days or longer, overlap it for 3 days with a GnRHa whereupon the estrogen priming is stopped. Th GnRHa is continued until the onset of menstruation (usually 5-7 days later) to cause pituitary LH, down-regulation. Upon menstruation and confirmation by ultrasound and measurement of blood estradiol levels that adequate ovarian suppression has been achieved, The patient is given twice-weekly injections of estradiol valerate (Delestrogen) for a period of 7-8 days whereupon COS is initiated using a relatively high dosage FSH-(Follistim, Fostimon, Puregon or Gonal F), which is continued along with daily administration of GnRH antagonist until the “hCG “trigger.” This approach is often augmented with HGH administration throughout the process of COS and by preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
Estrogen Priming has succeeded in significantly enhancing ovarian response to gonadotropins in many of otherwise very poor responders.
Triggering egg Maturation prior to egg Retrieval: hCG versus GnRHa
With ovulation induction using fertility drugs, the administration of 10,000U hCGu (Pregnyl; Profasi, Novarel) or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel) “trigger”) sends the eggs (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 they had prior to the “trigger”. Such a chromosomally numerically normal (euploid), mature (MII) eggs, upon being fertilized will (hopefully) propagate euploid embryos that have 46 chromosomes and will be “: competent” to propagate viable pregnancies. In my opinion, the key is to always “trigger” with no less than 10,000U of hCGu or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel). Any lesser dosage often will reduce the efficiency of meiosis and increase the risk of the eggs being aneuploid. I personally do not use the agonist (Lupron) “trigger”, unless it is combined with (low dosage) hCG. The supposed reason for using the agonist, (Lupron) “trigger” is that by inducing meiosis through compelling a surge in the release of LH by the pituitary gland, the risk it reduces the risk of OHSS. This may be true, but it 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 likelihood of aneuploid and immature (MI) eggs. And there are other better approaches to preventing OHSS (e.g. “prolonged coasting”), in my opinion.
Use of the Birth Control Pill (BCP) to launch IVF-COS.
In natural (unstimulated) as well as in cycles stimulated with fertility drugs, the ability of follicles to properly respond to FSH stimulation is dependent on their having developed FSH-responsive receptors. Pre-antral follicles (PAF) do not have such primed FSH receptors and thus cannot respond properly to FSH stimulation with gonadotropins. The acquisition of FSH receptor responsivity requires that the pre-antral follicles be exposed to FSH, for a number of days (5-7) during which time they attain “FSH-responsivity” and are now known as antral follicles (AF). These AF’s are now able to respond properly to stimulation with administered FSH-gonadotropins. In regular menstrual cycles, the rising FSH output from the pituitary gland insures that PAFs convert tor AF’s. The BCP (as well as prolonged administration of estrogen/progesterone) suppresses FSH. This suppression needs to be countered by artificially causing blood FSH levels to rise in order to cause PAF to AF conversion prior to COS commencing, otherwise pre-antral-to –antral follicle conversion will not take place in an orderly fashion, the duration of ovarian stimulation will be prolonged and both follicle and egg development may be compromised. GnRH agonists cause an immediate surge in release of FSH by the pituitary gland thus causing conversion from PAF to SAF. This is why women who take a BCP to launch a cycle of COS need to have an overlap of the BCP with an agonist. By overlapping the BCP with an agonist for a few days prior to menstruation the early recruited follicles are able to complete their developmental drive to the AF stage and as such, be ready to respond appropriately to optimal ovarian stimulation. Using this approach, the timing of the initiation of the IVF treatment cycle can readily and safely be regulated and controlled by varying the length of time that the woman is on the BCP.
Since optimizing follicular response to COS requires that prior to stimulation with gonadotropins, FSH-induced conversion from PAF to AF’s first be completed and the BCP suppresses FSH, it follows when it comes to women launching COS coming off a BCP something needs to be done to cause a rise in FSH for 5-7 days prior to menstruation heralding the cycle of CO S. This is where overlapping the BCP with a GnRHa comes in. The agonist causes FSH to be released by the pituitary gland and if overlapped with the BCP for several days and this will (within 2-5 days) facilitate PAF to AF conversion…. in time to start COS with the onset of menstruation. Initiating ovarian stimulation in women taking a BCP, without doing this is suboptimal.

Another issue relates to assessing the possible causes for implantation dysfunction:

Implantation dysfunction is unfortunately often overlooked as an important cause of IVF failure. In the pursuit of optimizing outcome with IVF, the clinician has a profound responsibility to meticulously assess and address this important issue if IVF success is to be optimized. This is especially relevant in cases of “unexplained IVF failure, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) and in women suspected of having underlying anatomical and immunologic factors. Doing so will not only maximize the chance of a viable pregnancy but enhancing placentation, will at the same time promote the noble objective of optimizing the quality of life after birth.”
IVF success rates have been improving over the last decade. The average live birth rate per embryo transfer in the U.S.A for women under 40y using their own eggs , is currently better than 1:3 women. However, there is still a wide variation from program to program for IVF live birth rates, ranging from 20% to near 50%. Based upon these statistics, the majority of women undergoing IVF in the United States require two or more attempts to have a baby. IVF practitioners in the United States commonly attribute the wide dichotomy in IVF success rates to variability in expertise of the various embryology laboratories. This is far from accurate. In fact, other factors such as wide variations in patient selection and the failure to develop individualized protocols for ovarian stimulation or to address those infective, anatomical and immunologic factors that influence embryo implantation are at least equally important.
About 80% of IVF failures are due to “embryo incompetency” that is largely due to an irregular quota of chromosomes (aneuploidy) which is usually related to advancing age of the woman and is further influenced by other factors such as the protocol selected for ovarian stimulation, diminished ovarian reserve (DOR)m and severe male factor infertility. However in about 20% of dysfunctional cases embryo implantation is the cause of failure.
Anatomical Endo-uterine Lesions: This blog article will focus on implantation dysfunction and IVF failure due to:
• Anatomical abnormalities in the uterine cavity (e.g. scarring, polyps and encroaching fibroid tumors)
• A thin endometrial lining
• Immunologic rejection of the embryos
Several studies performed both in the United States and abroad have confirmed that a dye X-Ray or hysterosalpingogram (HSG) will fail to identify small endouterine surface lesions in >20% of cases. This is significant because even small uterine lesions have the potential to adversely affect implantation. Hysteroscopy is the traditional method for evaluating the integrity of the uterine cavity in preparation for IVF. It also permits resection of most uterine surface lesions, such as submucous uterine fibroids (myomas), intrauterine adhesions and endometrial or placental polyps. All of these can interfere with implantation by producing a local “inflammatory- type” response similar in nature to that which is caused by an intrauterine contraceptive device. Hysterosonography (syn; HSN/ saline ultrasound examination) and hysteroscopy have all but supplanted HSG to assess the uterine cavity in preparation for IVF. HSN which is less invasive and far less expensive than is than hysteroscopy involves a small amount of a sterile saline solution is injected into the uterine cavity, whereupon a vaginal ultrasound examination is performed to assess the contour of the uterine cavity.
Endometrial Thickness: As far back as in 1989 I first reported on the finding that ultrasound assessment of the late proliferative phase endometrium following ovarian stimulation in preparation for IVF, permits better identification of those candidates who are least likely to conceive. We noted that the ideal thickness of the endometrium at the time of ovulation or egg retrieval is >9 mm and that a thickness of less than 8 mm bodes poorly for a successful outcome following IVF.
Then in 1993, I demonstrated that sildenafil (Viagra) introduced into the vagina prior to hCG administration can improve endometrial growth in many women with poor endometrial development. Viagra’s mechanism of action is improvement in uterine blood flow with improved estrogen delivery…thereby enhancing endometrial development.
Immunologic factors: These also play a role in IVF failure. Some women develop antibodies to components of their own cells. This “autoimmune” process involves the production of antiphospholipid, antithyroid, and/or anti-ovarian antibodies – all of which may be associated with activation of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the uterine lining. Activated NK cells (NKa) release certain cytokines (TH-I) that if present in excess, often damage the trophoblast (the embryo’s root system) resulting in immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). This can manifest as “infertility” or as early miscarriages). In other cases (though less common), the problem is due to “alloimmune” dysfunction. Here the genetic contribution by the male partner renders the embryo “too similar” to the mother. This in turn activates NK cells leading to implantation dysfunction. These IID’s are treated using combinations of medications such as heparin, Clexane, Lovenox, corticosteroids and intralipid (IL).

I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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.

• A Fresh Look at the Indications for IVF
• 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.
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• IVF and the use of Supplementary Human Growth Hormone (HGH) : Is it Worth Trying and who needs it?
• 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
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• IVF: Approach to Selecting the Best Embryos for Transfer to the Uterus.
• Fresh versus Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET) Enhance IVF Outcome
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
• Genetically Testing Embryos for IVF
• Staggered IVF
• Staggered IVF with PGS- Selection of “Competent” Embryos Greatly Enhances the Utility & Efficiency of IVF.
• 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
• Endometrial Receptivity Array (ERA): Is There an actual “There, There”?
• IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
• Diagnosing and Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• 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)
• Cervical Ureaplasma Urealyticum Infection: How can it Affect IUI/IVF Outcome?
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
• The Basic Infertility Work-Up
• Defining and Addressing an Abnormal Luteal Phase
• Male Factor Infertility
• Routine Fertilization by Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): An Argument in Favor
• Hormonal Treatment of Male Infertility
• Hormonal Treatment of Male Infertility
• Antisperm Antibodies, Infertility and the Role of IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
• 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
• Deciding Between Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
• Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Who Needs it & who Does Not: Pro’s & Con’s!IUI-Reflecting upon its Use and Misuse: Time for a Serious “Reality Check
• Mode of Action, Indications, Benefits, Limitations and Contraindications for its ue
• Clomiphene Induction of Ovulation: Its Use and Misuse!
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Lina

Hi Dr Geoffrey,

I did my frozen embryo transfer on 4th Aug 2020. Had my scan on 9th Sep 2020 and the gestational sac is empty. Should I wait further or do I just proceed with D&C?

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Violet

Dear doctor,

I am seeking your knowledge about Ivig. I am wondering whether it acts in a “modulatory” way to the immune system (in reference to allo immune matching) or is it “suppressive ”. I ask because I want to know if by adding this in prematurely (along with prednisone and Intralipids etc) is it possible to “over surprise” the immune system ? I’ve read it acts like a shield to the embryo? So I can’t see it being “bad” to add in as I have a partial dq alpha match and natural killer cell activation.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

With the introduction of Intralipid, I no longer administer IVIG to my patients. They are both effective in regulating cytokine activity by “activated” NK cells but probably have a limited effect CTL cytokine production. Hence the addition of steroids to the mix. The fact is that IL appears to be equally effective and cost about 20 times less than IVIG. Also it is not a blood product and its administration is far less likely to result in serious side effects or cause risk to the patient.

While the precise mode of action of both IVIG and IL is not known, what is clear is that they need to be has to be infused >1 week (preferably >10 days) prior to the embryo reaching the uterus in order to adequately down-regulate NK cell activity. It is possible that these agents act on NK cell progenitors to modulate the activity of the NK cells they propagate…..and this takes time to effect. As such, I do not believe that either IVIG or IL can shield the embryo from the NKa-induced TH-1 cytokine onslaught. They act by down-regulating activated NK cells.

Sorry, that is the best I can offer in response to your inquiry.

Geoff Sher

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Kathy

Dear Dr. Sher,

2 clarification questions please on protocol. Thank you for your time.

1) On all your protocols, you say that gonadotropins stop on day of trigger. Are you saying last gonadotropin stimulation shot (ie. Gonal-F, Menopur, etc.) to be injected day before trigger, or last shot should also be injected same day as trigger? My RE has me take last gonadotropins shot on same day of trigger.

2) It looks like you recommend to take BCP at least 10 days before start of cycle. I didn’t take any BCP on my first cycle, and took BCP after my first egg retrieval prior to 2nd cycle. I am going to take a break after 2nd cycle to give my ovaries a rest, but how would I know precisely to start taking BCP again after skipping a cycle? I am thinking probably taking it after ovulation on next cycle to prepare for next retrieval cycle. However, how would I know exactly when ovulation takes place?

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

1) On all your protocols, you say that gonadotropins stop on day of trigger. Are you saying last gonadotropin stimulation shot (ie. Gonal-F, Menopur, etc.) to be injected day before trigger, or last shot should also be injected same day as trigger? My RE has me take last gonadotropins shot on same day of trigger.

A: The day of!

2) It looks like you recommend to take BCP at least 10 days before start of cycle. I didn’t take any BCP on my first cycle, and took BCP after my first egg retrieval prior to 2nd cycle. I am going to take a break after 2nd cycle to give my ovaries a rest, but how would I know precisely to start taking BCP again after skipping a cycle? I am thinking probably taking it after ovulation on next cycle to prepare for next retrieval cycle. However, how would I know exactly when ovulation takes place?

A: I do not agree with starting after ovulation. My recommendation is to start soon after the preceding period commences.

Geoff Sher

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Kathy

Dr. Sher,

Regarding the BCP, would you say to start after bleeding stops after preceding period?

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Kathy

Dr. Sher,

If the BCP is started early on previous cycle within 5 days of menstruation, does it mean the minimum amount of time to be on the BCP is greater than 10 days before starting the next stimulation cycle? Just trying to understand if taking the BCP earlier actually cuts down the average length of each cycle (i.e. 28 days).

Dr. Geoffrey Sher

No! It means that this is the time to initiate an overlap with a GnRH agonist such as Lupron for a further 3 days and then stopping the BCP while continuing on the GnRHa until a bleed ensues (usually within 5-6 days). This where following measurement of baseline E2 annd US to exclude a cyst, stimulation begins. The GnRH a is continued until the “trigger or it is supplanted by a GnRH antagonist such as Ganirelix, Cetrotide or Orgalutron…again continued until the day of the “trigger”.

Geoff sher

Kathy

Dr. Sher,

I think there’s some confusion. I understand your protocol to initiate an overlap with a GnRH agonist such as Lupron for a further 3 days and then stopping the BCP while continuing on the GnRHa until a bleed ensues (usually within 5-6 days).

My question is when does the BCP actually start? You always say at least 10 days of BCP. Assuming a fresh cycle with no prior egg retrieval, when should the BCP start? I know my RE put me on BCP after my last egg retrieval as I did back to back cycles, but taking a break now for at least a month. So on a fresh cycle start, what is ideal time to take BCP? I don’t want to keep on BCP for months until I am ready for next cycle to avoid side effects. So ideally would like to take just the minimum 10 days or so to start next egg retrieval cycle.

Dr. Geoffrey Sher

AS long as you use it as suggested, the BCP will NOT likely suppress you so it really does not matter how long you take it. However, you really only need to start after menstruation in the cycle prior to the planned IVF.

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

Shelby

Hey! I just wanted a little piece of mind. We’ve been TTC for over a year now, with pcos and endometriosis. This past cycle I did clomid and fermara with metformin.
I did my labs at 4w3d and it was 33 I repeated two days later at 4w5d and it’s was 92 I then repeated again at 5w3d and it was 822.
My doctor says it’s normal and it’s fine and I have a ultrasound next week but i wanted another opinion if that was indeed a good increase. I dig my self in a rabbit hole bc everyone’s seems so high.

reply
melania

Hi Dr. Sher,

I will stop breastfeeding a month before starting injections before FET (3 weeks of injections).

Does this sound alright?

Thanks

reply
penmetsa

hi sir, i got my positive pregnancy result after first ivf… my 13 day post 5 day embryo transfer was 1116
i was on progesterone IM once a day and vaginal suppository 400 mg BD until positive test, now am prescribed only progesterone suppository BD and was asked to stop oil injections.. i just wanted to know if this wont affect my pregnancy..i am currently 5 weeks
i am also on dehydrogesterone thrice daily

reply
Sheeba

Hello Dr Sher,

Hope all is well. I have been recently diagnosed with Hypothyroidism ( My TSH level was 4.53). My doctor started me on Levothyroxine 25mcg daily 1 tablet and it has been a week. After a week we repeated the bloodwork and below are the test results. I was unable to understand why my TSH level got increased in a week( 4.53 to 5.49). Please suggest and provide your inputs. Also, I will be doing my egg retreival end of september 2020. Is it safe to go for egg retreival haviing these levels of Thyroid along with taking the Levothyroxine? Will this impact the quality of eggs or embryo formation? Please suggest if you would like me to wait until my levels are completely normal before going for egg retreival?

1)Thyroxine (T4) Free, Direct, S – 1.02 ng/dL
2)TSH- 5.490 uIU/mL
3)Thyroid Perioxidase (TPO) Ab- <9 IU/mL
4)Antithyroglobulin Ab (Thyroglobulin Antibody)- <1.0 IU/mL

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

The throxine dosage needs to be increased. However, I do not think the TSH level will affect egg quality and Since you do not seem to have an autoimmune cause for your raised TSH, I doubt you have related autoimmune implantation dysfunction.

Geoff Sher

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Chrissy

Doctor I am on day 5 of my ivf cycle. I am doing the long lupron protocol where I started with birth control and then crossed it with lupron and then dropped the dose of lupron by 5 units after my period started. I continue the lupron until trigger. I have lots of follicles between 2 and 8 mm. The problem is there is already 2 follicles that are 12mm. On average I stim for 13 days ( I am banking embryos). My follicles do indeed grow about 2mm a day. That means in two days the two follicles that are at 12 will be 18mm and ready to go.

My question is, can my cycle be ruined by those 2 bigger follicles? Will they start to lutienize and ruin the others? What would you do with your patients in this situation if it wasn’t possible to aspirate the two bigger follicles? Thank you and I hope your day is going swimming .

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Not necessarily! If I were treating you I would skip 2 days and then do another US to see how things have progressed. I would trigger when at least 2 follicles are 18-22mm and 50% of all follicles are >15mm.

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

reply
Chrissy

Thank you for answering my question. Sorry it was poorly written but you seemed to understand me anyways!

You mean you would skip two days of meds or ultrasound? Thank you for taking the time for me.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You will need to restate your original question as I lost the “thread”.

Geoff Sher

reply
Lucy M

Hi Dr. Sher,

We would like to start by saying thank you for the enormous wealth of knowledge you have provided on your site and for all of the blog responses you have provided. This is an extremely frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming process and the information you have provided has really helped us be more knowledgeable and able to ask more specific questions with our doctor. We are just about to start our third round of IVF and were hoping to get your opinion on the plan our Dr. has had us on. Would you mind giving us some insight as to whether you think we’re on the right track? Thank you so much!!

I don’t have all of my AMH and FSH levels but after the most recent cycle the doctor said that my FSH was normal the first round but near 40 when measured prior to the retrieval. He said that the quality of my eggs is low. DOR hasn’t been mentioned but am curious if I have it.

Myself: 31
Husband: 32

1 early MC – 7/2018
1 baby – born 6/2019

We seeked out IVF because we both are Genetic Carriers, no previously known fertility problems

1st Retrieval
12 days of stims
225 gonal: Days 1-7
300 gonal: Days 7-12
75 menopur: days 1-9
150 menopur: days 9-12
Ganirelix: Days 7-12
Trigger 1.6ML Leuprolide, 2500 units HCG – exactly 36 hours prior to retrieval
13 retrieved
11 mature
9 fertilized
5 blasts
1 euploid

2nd Retrieval
12 days of stims
300 gonal: Days 1-12
150 menopur: days 1-9
225 menopur: days 9-12
Ganirelix: Days 7-12
Trigger 1.6ML Leuprolide, 2500 units HCG – exactly 36 hours prior to retrieval
9 retrieved
9 mature
7 fertilized
1 blasts – still waiting on PGS & PGT-M results

Planned 3rd Retrieval – scheduled start 9/25/20
300 gonal
150 menopur
Ganirelix
Trigger 1.6ML Leuprolide, 2500 units HCG

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Approaches to ovarian stimulation can and do differ. This having been said, although your AMH level (the most important measure of diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) is presently unavailable , it does sound as if you have significant DOR. In my opinion, this demands a very individualized and strategic approach to ovarian stimulation. I would choose an agonist antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), with dosage of medication being adjusted based upon your once your AMH (once that level is known).

The AACP concept:

I introduced the A/ACP for women with diminishing ovarian reserve (DOR,) in order to counter the suppression effect of the conventional long Pituitary agonist down-regulation protocol using a BCP + a GnRH agonist (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact; Decapeptyl, etc.) throughout the stimulation process. However, a BCP with a GnRH agonist overlap (for several days) is still required to launch the A/ACP protocol and here is why:
The administration of a GnRH-agonist several days before gonadotropin therapy is initiated, expunges FSH from its reservoir in the pituitary gland. The resulting surge in FSH converts preantral ovarian follicles to antral follicles which will respond optimally to subsequent ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins. In contrast, preantral follicles are incapable of responding optimally to stimulation with gonadotropins. Conversion of preantral to antral follicles is thus central to an optimal response to ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins and will not occur unless there is a premenstrual rise in FSH. It follows that when a BCP is given without overlapping with a GnRH agonist, antral follicle conversion will be suppressed, follicle development is often suppressed, the cycle of stimulation prolonged and egg/embryo quality compromised. Used along with a GnRH agonist in this way, the BCP will not suppress response to ovarian stimulation.
I currently prescribe the A/ACP to most of my IVF patients who have DOR. Results suggest that this is an optimal approach in such cases.
There is one potential draw back to the use of the A/ACP, in that the sustained use of a GnRH antagonist throughout the stimulation phase of the cycle, appears to compromise the predictive value of serial plasma estradiol measurements as a measure of follicle growth and development in that the estradiol levels tend to be much lower in comparison to cases where an agonist (e.g. Lupron) alone is used or where a “conventional” short GnRH antagonist protocol is employed. Rather than this being due to reduced production of estradiol by the ovary(ies), the lower blood concentration of estradiol seen with prolonged exposure to GnRH-antagonist, could be the result of a subtle, agonist-induced alteration in the configuration of the estradiol molecule , such that currently available commercial kits used to measure estradiol levels are rendered much less sensitive/specific. Thus, when the A/ACP is employed, we rely much more heavily on ultrasound growth of follicles along with observation of the trend in the rise of estradiol levels, than on absolute estradiol values. For this reason, I avoid prescribing the A/ACP in “high responders” who are predisposed to the development of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) where accurate measurement of plasma estradiol plays a very important role in the safe management of their stimulation cycles.

Women who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production, and/or biological activity, of LH. This can result in excessive ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production. This in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.
While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited.
I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy
Please visit my new Blog on this very site, www. SherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and 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 Approach
• 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)
• 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?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care 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: 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
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country–
• 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
• Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
• IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

___________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Lucy M

Hi Dr. Sher,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to us. We appreciate the depth and detail that you provided. This is a lot to take in but will help us learn and facilitate further discussions with our doctor. Thank you!!

reply
Stacey

Hi Dr Sher,
Is there any evidence that oral supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids or MCT oil can help reduce natural killer cell activation in the uterus? Or help with implantation in other ways?
Thanks!

reply
Sarah

Hi Dr Sher,

Is it possible for an endometrioma to disappear after pregnancy? Mine appears to have gone.

Thanks

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

It was probably a hemorrhagic corpus Luteum cyst…rather than an endometrioma.

Geoff Sher

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Sarah

But I had this cyst for over 5 years maybe more. Every doctor I saw said it was an endometrioma

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

OK! Then it must have ruptured during pregnancy…and absorbed. Endometriomas do not simply disapear on their own.

Geoff Sher

reply
Sarah

But I had been to many doctors and they all co firmed it was an endometrioma. It has been there for over 5 years.

reply
Kristin

Dr.Sher,

I am 37 years old and have undergone 2 ER so far. 1st round- 1 blastocyst on Day 5 ; 2nd round -6 blastocysts on Day 5. All sent together for PGS testing. 1 inconclusive, 1 mosaic, 5 abnormal. Feeling a bit discouraged. I have PCOS, but to my knowledge, not severe. All my other numbers and levels look good. Is there still hope that subsequent egg retrievals could result in normal embryos? Anything I could be doing to help prior to the next one?

Thank you.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Hi Kristin.

In my opinion, while egg quality is a factor with PCOS, it is often contributed to by the protocol used for ovarian stimulation and its implementation.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal system disorder among women affecting between 5% and 10% of women of reproductive age worldwide. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid — called follicles — located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound. The condition is characterized by abnormal ovarian function (irregular or absent periods, abnormal or absent ovulation and infertility), androgenicity (increased body hair or hirsutism, acne) and increased body weight –body mass index or BMI. The ovaries of women with PCOS characteristically contain multiple micro-cysts often arranged like a “string of pearls” immediately below the ovarian surface (capsule).interspersed by an overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue (stroma).
PCOS is one of the most common causes of menstrual irregularities, infertility, and hirsutism, Despite an enormous effort to define its cause, the etiology of PCOS remains unclear, and there is no definite cure at this time. PCOS is clearly a heterogeneous disorder which often has a familial (genetic) basis. Infertility associated with PCOS has been attributed to numerous factors, including dysfunctional gonadotropin pituitary secretion, peripheral insulin resistance, elevated adrenal and/or ovarian androgen (male hormone) levels, and dysfunction of several growth factors. Women with this condition are often obese and insulin resistant. The compensatory hyperinsulinemia further stimulates ovarian androgen production which may be detrimental to egg maturation and there is a clear link between the degree of insulin resistance and anovulation. PCOS is also a significant long-term health risk for women, thus necessitating vigilance through regular annual examinations (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer). Whereas PCOS-related infertility is usually manageable through the use of fertility drugs, lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) remain a mainstay of long-term therapy. More recently, ovulation rates, circulating androgens, pregnancy rates and perhaps even first-trimester miscarriage rates have been shown to improve when insulin sensitizers like metformin are used to correct the underlying insulin resistance.
Most patients with PCOS are young and have excellent pregnancy rates with oral clomiphene. Those that require more aggressive treatments with injectable medications probably represent a subgroup of PCOS patients with severe ovarian dysfunction. These women often have explosive response to gonadotropins which can result in serious complications like Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS…see below) and high order multiple births. In those women, the ability to perform “prolonged coasting” (see below) and selectively transfer fewer embryos during IVF offers a clear advantage over standard gonadotropin injections.
Egg quality in PCOS
The potential for a woman’s eggs to undergo orderly maturation, successful fertilization and subsequent progression to “good quality embryos” is in large part genetically determined. However, the expression of such potential is profoundly susceptible to numerous influences, especially intra-ovarian hormonal changes during the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle. Proper follicular stimulation as well as precise timing of egg maturation with LH (Luteinizing Hormone) or hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is crucial to optimal egg maturation, fertilization and ultimately embryo quality. Both pituitary gonadotropins, LH and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) play a pivotal but different role in follicular development. The action of FSH is mainly directed toward granulosa cell (cells lining the inside of the follicle) proliferation and estrogen production (E2). LH, on the other hand, acts primarily on the ovarian stroma (the connective tissue that surrounds the follicle) to produce androgens. While small amounts of ovarian androgens, such as testosterone, enhance egg and follicle development, over-exposure to them can have a deleterious effect. Furthermore, excessive ovarian androgens can also compromise estrogen-induced endometrial growth and development.
Suppressing pituitary secretion of LH with gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists such as Lupron®, is particularly useful in PCOS. In that condition, serum LH levels are elevated, leading to stromal overgrowth, follicular arrests (so-called cysts) and high levels of androgens synthesis. It is therefore not surprising that these follicles often yield poorly developed (“immature”) eggs” at the time of egg retrieval (ET) and that “poor egg/embryo quality”, inadequate endometrial development and high miscarriage rates are common features of this condition. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not due to an intrinsic deficit in “egg quality”. Stimulation protocols geared toward optimizing follicle and egg development and avoiding over exposure to androgens correct these problems ad result in pregnancy rates similar to those of non-PCOS women. Whereas the overuse of LH-containing preparations such as Menopur® and Luveris® further aggravates this effect. In conclusion, to maximize ultimate oocyte maturation, we strongly recommend against the exclusive use of such products in PCOS patients, preferring FSH-dominant products such as Folistim®, Gonal F® or Bravelle® over a period of at least 9 days following pituitary suppression with Lupron®.
PCOS women often have a family history of diabetes and demonstrable insulin resistance (evidenced by high blood insulin levels and an abnormal 2-hour glucose tolerance test).This underlying Diabetes mellitus tendency could play a role in the development of PCOS and contribute to the development of obesity, an abnormal blood lipid profile, and a predisposition to coronary vascular disease. Women with PCOS are slightly more at risk of developing uterine, ovarian and possibly also breast cancer in later life and accordingly should be evaluated for these conditions on a more frequent basis than would ordinarily be recommended to non-PCOS women.
Most women with PCOS either do not ovulate at all or they ovulate irregularly. As a consequence thereof they in addition usually experience delayed, absent or irregular menstruation. In addition, an inordinate percentage of the eggs produced by PCOS women following ovulation induction, tend to be chromosomally abnormal (aneuploid). Rather than being due to an intrinsic egg defect being inherent in PCOS women, the poor egg quality more than likely the result of over-exposure to male hormones (predominantly, testosterone) produced by the ovarian stroma. These two factors (ovulation dysfunction and poor egg quality) are the main reasons for the poor reproductive performance (infertility and an increased miscarriage rate) in PCOS women.
PCOS patients are at an inordinate risk of severely over-responding fertility drugs, both oral varieties (e.g. Clomiphene, Serophene & Femara) and especially the injectables (e.g. Follistim, Puregon, Gonal F, Menopur and Bravelle) by forming large numbers ovarian follicles. This can lead to life endangering complications associated with sever ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS). In addition PCOS women receiving fertility drugs often experience multiple ovulations putting them at severe risk (40%+) of high order multiple pregnancy (i.e. triplets or greater) with often devastating consequences.
VARIETIES OF POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME:
1) Hypothalamic-pituitary-PCOS: This is the commonest form of PCOS and is often genetically transmitted and is characteristically associated with a blood concentration of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) that is uncharacteristically much higher than the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) level (FSH is normally higher than the LH concentration) as well as high-normal or blood androgen ( male) hormone concentrations (e.g. androstenedione, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone -DHEA).Hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian PCOS is also often associated with insulin resistance and in about 40%-50% of the cases.
2) Adrenal PCOS: Here the excess of male hormones are derived from overactive adrenal glands rather than from the ovaries. Blood levels of testosterone and/or androstenedione raised but here, but here, the blood level of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) is also raised, clinching the diagnosis.
3) Severe pelvic adhesive disease secondary to severe endometriosis, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and/or extensive pelvic surgery: Women who have this type of PCOS tend to less likely to hyperstimulate in response to ovulation induction . Their. DHEAS is also is not raised.

TREATMENT OF INFERTILITY DUE TO ASSOCIATED OVULATION DYSFUNCTION:
Hypothalamic-pituitary-/ovarian PCOS: Ovulation induction with fertility drugs such as clomiphene citrate, Letrozole (Femara) or gonadotropins, with or without intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often highly successful in establishing pregnancies in PCOS women. However, IVF is fast becoming a treatment of choice (see below).

In about 40% of cases, 3-6 months of oral Metformin (Glucophage) treatment results in a significant reduction of insulin resistance, lowering of blood androgen levels, an improvement in ovulatory function, and/or some amelioration of androgenous symptoms and signs.
Surgical treatment by “ovarian drilling” of the many small ovarian cysts lying immediately below the envelopment (capsule) of the ovaries, is often used, but is less successful than alternative non-surgical treatment and is only temporarily effective. The older form of surgical treatment, using ovarian wedge resection is rarely used any longer as it can produce severe pelvic adhesion formation.
Adrenal PCOS is treated with steroids such as prednisone or dexamethasone which over a period of several weeks will suppress adrenal androgen production, allowing regular ovulation to take place spontaneously. This is often combined with clomiphene, Letrozole and/or gonadotropin therapy to initiate ovulation.
PCOS attributable to Pelvic Adhesive Disease is one variety which often is associated with compromised ovarian reserve, a raised FSH blood level and ovarian resistance to fertility drugs. In many such cases, high dosage of gonadotropins (FSH-dominant) with “estrogen priming” will often elicit an ovarian response necessary for successful ovulation induction and/or IVF. Neither steroids nor Metformin are helpful in the vast majority of such cases.
PCOS women undergoing ovulation induction usually release multiple eggs following the hCG trigger and are thus at inordinate risk of twin or higher order multiple pregnancies. They are also at risk of developing OHSS. Many now believe that IVF should be regarded as a primary and preferential treatment for PCOS. The reason is that it is only through this approach that the number of embryos reaching the uterus can be controlled and in this manner the risk of high-order multiples can be minimized and it is only in the course of IVF treatment that a novel treatment method known as “prolonged coasting” ( see below) which prevents OHSS, can be implemented
SEVERE OVARIAN HYPERSTIMULATION SYNDROME (OHSS):
As indicated above, there is an inordinate propensity for women with PCOS to hyper-respond to gonadotropin fertility drugs and in the process produce large numbers of ovarian follicles. If left unchecked this can lead to OHSS, a potentially life endangering condition. The onset of OHSS is signaled by the development of a large number of ovarian follicles (usually more than 25 in number). This is accompanied by rapidly rising plasma estradiol (E2) levels, often exceeding 3000pg/ml within 7 or 9 days of stimulation, often rapidly peaking above 6,000 pg/ml prior to hCG administration. When this happens, the risk of OHSS developing is above 80%.
Symptoms and signs of OHSS include: abdominal distention due to fluid collection (ascites), fluid in the chest cavity (hydrothorax), rapid weight gain (of a pound or more per day) due to tissue fluid retention, abdominal pain, lower back ache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, visual disturbances such as blurred vision and spots in front of the eyes (scotomata), a rapidly declining urine output, cardiovascular collapse and failure of blood to clot which sometimes results in severe bruising (echymosis) and frank bleeding. These symptoms and signs may appear before pregnancy can be diagnosed. If pregnancy occurs, the condition is likely to worsen progressively over a period of 3-5 weeks whereupon it rapidly resolves spontaneously over a few days. If no pregnancy occurs, the symptoms and signs all disappear spontaneously within 10-12 days of the hCG injection.
When increasing fluid collection in the abdominal cavity (ascites) starts to compromise breathing raising the head of the bed rose slightly by placing a 4-6 inch block at the base of each head post and using a few additional pillows, will sometimes help ameliorate the problem. In cases where this does not help or symptoms become severe, all or most of the fluid can readily and safely be drained through t transvaginal sterile needle aspiration (vaginal paracentesis-performed once or sometimes twice a week) can be performed once or twice weekly . The problem will usually self corrects within 10-12 days of the hCG shot if pregnancy does not occur or, by the 8th week of pregnancy.
Urine output should be monitored daily to see if it drops below about 500ml a day (about two cups and a half). A chest X-ray, to evaluate for fluid collection in the chest and around the heart should be done weekly along with blood tests for hematocrit, BUN, electrolytes, creatinine, platelet count and fibrin split products (FSP). If indicated on the basis of a deteriorating clinical situation, hospitalization might be needed for close observation and if necessary, to provide intensive care.
In all case of OHSS, the ovaries will invariably be considerably enlarged. This is irrelevant to the final outcome, unless ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary on its axis), an extremely rare complication occurs. The latter would usually require surgical emergency surgical intervention.

It is important to know that symptoms and signs of OHSS are severely aggravated by rising hCG levels. Thus such patients should not receive additional hCG injections.
Does PCOS cause poor egg/embryo quality? It is an undeniable fact that women with PCOS undergoing IVF are commonly found to have poorly developed (“dysmorphic”) eggs, with reduced fertilization potential and yielding “poor quality embryos”. However, in the author’s opinion (which admittedly runs contrary to popular opinion), this is unlikely to be due to an intrinsic deficit in egg quality. Rather, it more likely relates to intra-ovarian hormonal changes brought about by hyperstimulation and which compromise egg development. This effect, in the author’s opinion, can often be significantly reduced through implementation of an individualized or customized ovarian stimulation protocols that minimize exposure of the developing follicles and eggs to excessive LH-induced ovarian androgens. This can be best achieved by limiting the use of LH-containing gonadotropins such as Menopur through selective institution of “prolonged coasting” (see below).
In the past, the onset of OHSS, heralded by the presence of large numbers of developing ovarian follicles and rapidly rising plasma estradiol levels often led the treating physician to prematurely administer hCG in an attempt to abruptly arrest the process and prevent escalation of risk to the patient. However the premature administration of hCG, while abruptly arresting further proliferation of estrogen producing granulosa cells in the follicles, unfortunately also prematurely arrests egg development. Since the ability of an egg to achieve optimal maturation upon hCG triggering is largely predicated upon it having achieved prior optimal development, the untimely administration of hCG which triggers meiosis, probably increases the risk of numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy) of the egg. This in turn would lead to reduced fertilization potential, poor egg/embryo quality and low embryo implantation potential.
In women with PCOS the connective tissue that surrounding the follicles (ovarian stroma) is often characteristically overgrown (stromal hyperplasia). It is the stroma that produces androgens (mainly testosterone) in response to LH. It is this, coupled with the fact that PCOS women also often have elevated blood LH concentrations (see above) results in the excessive production of androgen hormones, which is so characteristic in PCOS. While excessive exposure of developing eggs to ovarian androgens compromises follicle and egg growth it also impairs endometrial response to estrogen, which could explain the common finding of poor endometrial thickening in many PCOS women undergoing IVF.
The obvious remedy for these adverse effects on egg and endometrial development is to employ stimulation protocols that limit ovarian over-exposure to LH and allowing the time necessary for the follicles/eggs to develop optimally, prior to administering hCG through the judicious implementation of “Prolonged coasting” (PC).

“PROLONGED COASTING”:
In the early 90’s we were the first to report on “prolonged coasting” (PC), a novel approach that protects egg quality while preventing the development of OHSS. PC has since, gained widespread acceptance as a method of choice for preventing OHSS and has established itself as the “standard of care”. It involves withholding gonadotropin therapy while continuing the administration of the GnRHa and waiting until the plasma estradiol concentration drops below 2,500 pg/ml. Thereupon hCG is administered. In such cases, regardless of the number of developed follicles or the number of eggs retrieved, these women rarely, if ever develop OHSS. It has been reported that while PC virtually eliminates the risk of life-endangering complications associated with OHSS, there are reports in the literature that “the price to pay with PC” is often a poorer fertilization rate and reduced embryo implantation potential, compromising the pregnancy”. It is the author’s opinion an experience in the development of PC that egg/embryo quality deficit likely has little to do with the process of PC, itself and can be explained as follows: When PC is initiated too early, follicle growth and development may cease (as evidenced by the estradiol level plateauing or falling immediately, rather than showing an initial continued increase), and when PC is started too late, the follicles will often become cystic, measuring >21mm by the time the estradiol level falls below the safe threshold of 2500pg/ml, and so harbor dysmorphic eggs. Thus precise timing of the initiation of PC is critical. It should in pact be initiated preemptively in all cases when there are more than 25 follicles and the plasma estradiol reaches or exceeds 2,500pg/ml in association, provided that at least 50% of the follicles measuring 14-16mm in mean diameter. Not a day sooner or a day later. If PC is initiated with precise timing, it will usually be followed by a further progressive rise in the estradiol concentration. After a few days, the estradiol level will plateau and then it will start to fall (often rapidly). The temptation to trigger with hCG before the estradiol level falls below 3000picogtrams per milliliter must be resisted …even if the level falls below 1,000pg/ml by the time hCG is given.
Since when using agonist ( Cetrotide/Ganirelix/Orgalutron) pituitary suppression throughout the stimulation phase with gonadotropins, the plasma estradiol level often under expressed follicle growth, this method of pituitary blockade should not be used in cases ( such as with PCOS) where PC might be required.

Please 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.
• A Fresh Look at the Indications for IVF
• 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.
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• IVF and the use of Supplementary Human Growth Hormone (HGH) : Is it Worth Trying and who needs it?
• 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
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• Embryo Transfer: The “Holy Grail in IVF.
• IVF: Approach to Selecting the Best Embryos for Transfer to the Uterus.
• Fresh versus Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET) Enhance IVF Outcome
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
• Genetically Testing Embryos for IVF
• Staggered IVF
• 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?
• Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS): An Exciting New Chapter….
• Should IVF Treatment Cycles be provided uninterrupted or be Conducted in 7-12 Pre-scheduled “Batches” per Year
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
• Avoiding High Order Multiple Pregnancies (Triplets or Greater) with IVF
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
• Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHS): Its Evolution & Reducing itsIncumbent Risks
• Taking A Fresh Look at Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), its Presentation, Prevention and Management
• Preventing Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) with “Prolonged Coasting”
• IVF Outcome in Patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Minimizing the Risk of Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and optimizing Egg/Embryo Quality.
• Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and the Need to Customize Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• IVF & Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Reducing the Risk of Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), Improving Egg Quality and Optimizing Outcome.

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ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

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Eva Balogh

Dear Doctor Sher,
I had fresh embryo transfer on 12 August. Two, day 5 embryos were transferred. 19 days post transfer my hcg level was 18165. I had a control test 3 days later 22 days post transfer and hcg level was 26510, definitely not doubling. I had no other symptoms. 24 days post transfer I had brown spotting (it stopped now). I understand this is not a medical urgency since I have no other symptoms. Should I worry? Can it be due to one embryo stop developing? Thank you very much for your answer in advance.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

When the hCG level rises above 5,000, it no longer doubles every 2 days!

Geoff Sher

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Michelle

I’m doing my first IVF cycle and several weeks away from my first frozen transfer. We are diagnosed as “unexplained infertility.” We produced 8 good quality blastocysts (non PGT tested). I am having anxiety because my thyroid antibodies have been around 70 for several years. I am not clinically hypothyroid and my TSH is normal at 1.9. Hashimotos runs in my family however. I asked my clinic about uterine testing for NK cell activation as I am nervous about implantation but they do not offer this test and recommended to still transfer because my thyroid function is normal. Should I go ahead and proceed with my first transfer and see what happens? Or is there harm in asking for intralipid therapy just in case? Thank you for your time.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Between 2% and 5% of women of the childbearing age have reduced thyroid hormone activity (hypothyroidism). Women with hypothyroidism often manifest with reproductive failure i.e. infertility, unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure, or recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). The condition is 5-10 times more common in women than in men. In most cases hypothyroidism is caused by damage to the thyroid gland resulting from of thyroid autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s disease) caused by damage done to the thyroid gland by antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal auto-antibodies.
The increased prevalence of hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) in women is likely the result of a combination of genetic factors, estrogen-related effects and chromosome X abnormalities. This having been said, there is significantly increased incidence of thyroid antibodies in non-pregnant women with a history of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss and thyroid antibodies can be present asymptomatically in women without them manifesting with overt clinical or endocrinologic evidence of thyroid disease. In addition, these antibodies may persist in women who have suffered from hyper- or hypothyroidism even after normalization of their thyroid function by appropriate pharmacological treatment. The manifestations of reproductive dysfunction thus seem to be linked more to the presence of thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) than to clinical existence of hypothyroidism and treatment of the latter does not routinely result in a subsequent improvement in reproductive performance.
It follows, that if antithyroid autoantibodies are associated with reproductive dysfunction they may serve as useful markers for predicting poor outcome in patients undergoing assisted reproductive technologies.
Some years back, I reported on the fact that 47% of women who harbor thyroid autoantibodies, regardless of the absence or presence of clinical hypothyroidism, have activated uterine natural killer cells (NKa) cells and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and that such women often present with reproductive dysfunction. We demonstrated that appropriate immunotherapy with IVIG or intralipid (IL) and steroids, subsequently often results in a significant improvement in reproductive performance in such cases.
The fact that almost 50% of women who harbor antithyroid antibodies do not have activated CTL/NK cells suggests that it is NOT the antithyroid antibodies themselves that cause reproductive dysfunction. The activation of CTL and NK cells that occurs in half of the cases with TAI is probably an epiphenomenon with the associated reproductive dysfunction being due to CTL/NK cell activation that damages the early “root system” (trophoblast) of the implanting embryo. We have shown that treatment of those women who have thyroid antibodies + NKa/CTL using IL/steroids, improves subsequent reproductive performance while women with thyroid antibodies who do not harbor NKa/CTL do not require or benefit from such treatment.
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.
• 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) Why did my IVF Fail
• Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL): Why do I keep losing my Pregnancies
• Genetically Testing Embryos for IVF
• Staggered IVF
• Staggered IVF with PGS- Selection of “Competent” Embryos Greatly Enhances the Utility & Efficiency of IVF.
• 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?
• 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!
• 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

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Sam Gregory

19dpo hcg 1322
21dpo hcg 2416
Taken exactly 48 hours apart

Doubling time 55 hours not 48 hours. Is this another pending loss or blighten ovum? I’ve had 4 total. I’m so upset today.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You need to do an ultrasound in about 1 week next to see if there is a viable pregnancy.

Geoff Sher

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Sam Gregory

I understand. My doctor however will not until 8 weeks. (9/23). Is it possible to have a healthy pregnancy with a doubling time of 55 hours? Is it true they can slow down after 1200? I know you can not tell me if this is a viable pregnancy. I just want to know the science behind the numbers and if it’s even a possibility.

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Jen Heffler

Dr. Sher
My doctor cautioned about the suppressive effect of Lupron in the down regulating protocol. Is this accurate? And if so why is it a preferred method by so many. Can it be compensated for by higher fsh doses?

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Prolonged Lupron prior to stimulation can have a suppressive effect. This is why I personally do not permit my patients to be n a GnRH agonist (such as Lupron)for more than 10-14 days. It does so by competitively binding with follicle granulosa cell estrogen receptors.

Geoff Sher

To schedule an online consultation call Patti at 702-533-2691

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Jennifer h

Does that 10-14 day time period include stimulation phase. Is this why you switch to antagonist

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Jen Heffler

Dr. Sher
38 yo with decent reserve. Would you recommend a natural cycle Or BCP prior to the long down regulating protocol?

My dr planned a natural cycle suspecting BCP had suppressive effect on last cycle, but many protocols I read use BCP as it has advantages.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

BCP prior to the long down regulating protoco.

The importance of the IVF stimulation protocol on egg/embryo quality cannot be overstated. This factor seems often to be overlooked or discounted by t 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. 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.
Gonadotropins (LH and FSH), whether produced by the pituitary gland or administered by way of fertility drugs, have different “targeted” sites of action in the ovary. FSH targets cells that line the inner wall of the follicle (granulosa cells) and also form the cumulus cells that bind the egg to the inner surface of the follicle. Granulosa cells are responsible for estrogen production.
LH, on the other hand, targets the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca) that surrounds ovarian follicles resulting in the production of male hormones such as testosterone (predominantly), androstenedione and DHEA. These androgens are then transported to the granulosa cells of the adjacent follicles in a “bucket brigade fashion”. There FSH converts testosterone to estradiol, causing granulosa cells to multiply (proliferate) and produce estradiol, follicles to grows and eggs to develop (ovogenesis) It follows that ovarian androgens (mainly testosterone) is absolutely indispensable to follicle/ egg growth and development.
However, the emphasis is on a “normal” amount of testosterone. Over-exposure of the follicle to testosterone can in my opinion, compromise egg development and lead to an increased likelihood of chromosomal irregularities (aneuploid) following LH/hCG-induced egg maturational division (meiosis) and compromise embryo “competency/quality.
Ovarian androgens can also reach the uterine lining where they sometimes will compromise estrogen receptor -induced endometrial growth and development.
A significant percentage of older women and those who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have increased LH activity is increased. Such women either over-produce LH and/or the LH produced is far more biologically active. Chronically increased LH activity leads to overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca). This condition, which is often referred to as Stromal Hyperplasia or hyperthecosis can result in excessive ovarian androgen/testosterone production and poorer egg-embryo quality/competency, Similarly, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also characteristically have Stromal hyperplasia/hyperthecosis due to chronically increased LH activity. Thus they too often manifest with increased ovarian androgen production. It is therefore not surprising that “poor egg/embryo quality” is often also a feature of PCOS.
In my opinion, the over-administration of LH-containing menotropins such as Menopur, [which is comprised of roughly equal amount of FSH and hCG ,which acts similar to LH)], to older women, women with DOR and those who have PCOS can also lead to reduced egg/embryo competency . Similarly, drugs such as clomiphene or Letrozole that cause the pituitary gland to release excessive amounts of LH, are also potentially harmful to egg development and in my opinion, are best omitted from IVF COS protocols. This is especially the case when it comes to older women and those with DOR, who in my opinion should preferably be stimulated using FSH-dominant products such as Follistim, Puregon, Fostimon and Gonal-F.
Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa): GnRHa such as Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact, Gonopeptyl etc. are often used to launch ovarian stimulation cycles. They act by causing an initial outpouring followed by a depletion of pituitary gonadotropins. This results in LH levels falling to low concentrations, within 4-7 days, thereby establishing a relatively “LH-free environment”. When GnRHa are administered for about 7 days prior to initiating gonadotropin stimulation (“long” pituitary down-regulation”), the LH depletion that will exist when COS is initiated, will usually be protective of subsequent egg development. In contrast, when the GnRHa administration commences along with the initiation of gonadotropin therapy, there will be a resultant immediate surge in the release of pituitary LH with the potential to increase ovarian testosterone to egg-compromising levels , from the outset of COS. This, in my opinion could be particularly harmful when undertaken in older women and those who have DOR.
GnRH-antagonists such as Ganirelix, Cetrotide and Orgalutron, on the other hand, act very rapidly (within hours) to block pituitary LH release. The purpose in using GnRH antagonists is to prevent the release of LH during COS. In contrast, the LH-lowering effect of GnRH agonists develops over a number of days.
GnRH antagonists are traditionally given, starting after 5th -7th day of gonadotropin stimulation. However, when this is done in older women and those (regardless of age) who have DOR, LH-suppression might be reached too late to prevent the deleterious effect of excessive ovarian androgen production on egg development in the early stage of ovarian stimulation. This is why, it is my preference to administer GnRH-antagonists, starting at the initiation of gonadotropin administration.
My preferred Protocols for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS):
1. “Long” GnRHa (Lupron/Buserelin/Superfact/Gonopeptyl) Pituitary Down-regulation Protocol: The most commonly prescribed protocol for GnRHa/gonadotropin administration is the so-called “long protocol”. Here, GnRHa is given, starting a week or so prior to menstruation. This results in an initial rise in FSH and LH , which is rapidly followed by a precipitous fall to near zero. It is followed by a withdrawal bleed (menstruation), whereupon gonadotropin treatment should commence, while daily Lupron injections continue, to ensure a “low LH” environment. A modification to the “long protocol” which I prefer prescribing for older women and in cases of DOR, is the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP) where, upon the onset of a GnRHa-induced bleed, the agonist is supplanted by an antagonist (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) and this is continued until the hCG trigger. In many such cases I often supplement with human growth hormone (HGH) in such cases in an attempt to enhance egg mitochondrial activity and so enhance egg development. This approach is often augmented with preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
2.
3. Short (“Flare”) GnRHa Protocol: Another GnRHa usage for COS is the so called “(micro) flare protocol”. This involves initiating gonadotropin therapy commensurate with initiation of gonadotropin administration. The supposed objective 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” constitutes “a double-edged sword”. 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/thecal androgen production which could potentially compromise egg quality, especially when it comes to older women and women with DOR. 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 when it comes to COS in older women, and in women with diminished ovarian reserve. Accordingly, I do not prescribe such protocols to my IVF patients.
4. Estrogen Priming – This is the approach I sometimes prescribe for my patients who have virtually depleted ovarian reserve , as determined by very low blood anti-Mullerian hormone AMH levels (<0.2ng/ml or 2 pmol/L) and are thus likely to be very “poor responders”. It involves a modified A/ACP. We start with estrogen skin patches applied every 2nd day (or with the BCP) for 10 days or longer, overlap it for 3 days with a GnRHa whereupon the estrogen priming is stopped. Th GnRHa is continued until the onset of menstruation (usually 5-7 days later) to cause pituitary LH, down-regulation. Upon menstruation and confirmation by ultrasound and measurement of blood estradiol levels that adequate ovarian suppression has been achieved, The patient is given twice-weekly injections of estradiol valerate (Delestrogen) for a period of 7-8 days whereupon COS is initiated using a relatively high dosage FSH-(Follistim, Fostimon, Puregon or Gonal F), which is continued along with daily administration of GnRH antagonist until the “hCG “trigger.” This approach is often augmented with HGH administration throughout the process of COS and by preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
Estrogen Priming has succeeded in significantly enhancing ovarian response to gonadotropins in many of otherwise very poor responders.
Triggering egg Maturation prior to egg Retrieval: hCG versus GnRHa
With ovulation induction using fertility drugs, the administration of 10,000U hCGu (Pregnyl; Profasi, Novarel) or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel) “trigger”) sends the eggs (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 they had prior to the “trigger”. Such a chromosomally numerically normal (euploid), mature (MII) eggs, upon being fertilized will (hopefully) propagate euploid embryos that have 46 chromosomes and will be “: competent” to propagate viable pregnancies. In my opinion, the key is to always “trigger” with no less than 10,000U of hCGu or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel). Any lesser dosage often will reduce the efficiency of meiosis and increase the risk of the eggs being aneuploid. I personally do not use the agonist (Lupron) “trigger”, unless it is combined with (low dosage) hCG. The supposed reason for using the agonist, (Lupron) “trigger” is that by inducing meiosis through compelling a surge in the release of LH by the pituitary gland, the risk it reduces the risk of OHSS. This may be true, but it 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 likelihood of aneuploid and immature (MI) eggs. And there are other better approaches to preventing OHSS (e.g. “prolonged coasting”), in my opinion.
Use of the Birth Control Pill (BCP) to launch IVF-COS.
In natural (unstimulated) as well as in cycles stimulated with fertility drugs, the ability of follicles to properly respond to FSH stimulation is dependent on their having developed FSH-responsive receptors. Pre-antral follicles (PAF) do not have such primed FSH receptors and thus cannot respond properly to FSH stimulation with gonadotropins. The acquisition of FSH receptor responsivity requires that the pre-antral follicles be exposed to FSH, for a number of days (5-7) during which time they attain “FSH-responsivity” and are now known as antral follicles (AF). These AF’s are now able to respond properly to stimulation with administered FSH-gonadotropins. In regular menstrual cycles, the rising FSH output from the pituitary gland insures that PAFs convert tor AF’s. The BCP (as well as prolonged administration of estrogen/progesterone) suppresses FSH. This suppression needs to be countered by artificially causing blood FSH levels to rise in order to cause PAF to AF conversion prior to COS commencing, otherwise pre-antral-to –antral follicle conversion will not take place in an orderly fashion, the duration of ovarian stimulation will be prolonged and both follicle and egg development may be compromised. GnRH agonists cause an immediate surge in release of FSH by the pituitary gland thus causing conversion from PAF to SAF. This is why women who take a BCP to launch a cycle of COS need to have an overlap of the BCP with an agonist. By overlapping the BCP with an agonist for a few days prior to menstruation the early recruited follicles are able to complete their developmental drive to the AF stage and as such, be ready to respond appropriately to optimal ovarian stimulation. Using this approach, the timing of the initiation of the IVF treatment cycle can readily and safely be regulated and controlled by varying the length of time that the woman is on the BCP.
Since optimizing follicular response to COS requires that prior to stimulation with gonadotropins, FSH-induced conversion from PAF to AF’s first be completed and the BCP suppresses FSH, it follows when it comes to women launching COS coming off a BCP something needs to be done to cause a rise in FSH for 5-7 days prior to menstruation heralding the cycle of CO S. This is where overlapping the BCP with a GnRHa comes in. The agonist causes FSH to be released by the pituitary gland and if overlapped with the BCP for several days and this will (within 2-5 days) facilitate PAF to AF conversion…. in time to start COS with the onset of menstruation. Initiating ovarian stimulation in women taking a BCP, without doing this is suboptimal.
I strongly recommend that you visit www.SherIVF.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
• 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?
• 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 outcome: How Does Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Affect Egg/Embryo “Competency” and How Should the Problem be addressed.

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ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Erin

Hi Dr. Sher,
I have irregular cycles and my last period
started on 7/20/20. I had a positive ovulation test reading on 8/8 and I am sure that my husband and I conceived on 8/9. I got a positive
home pregnancy test on 8/21 and had an appt to confirm pregnancy with my doctor on 8/31 , which should have been 6w based on my LMP. At this appt, nothing was seen on the ultrasound except for thickened endometrium and my doctor suspected I ovulated late and was actually only in the 4th week of pregnancy. I had beta HCG numbers checked and it was 2706. Two days later, on 9/2, HCG measured 4883 so the doctor surmised that I was just much earlier in the pregnancy than we thought. I have another appt for a repeat sonogram on 9/16 when I should be 6w. Do you agree with this?

Today I’ve had some red spotting when I wipe after going to the bathroom. I have no pain and very very mild cramping. Is this something to be concerned about? My last pregnancy was an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in emergency surgery and removal of my right fallopian tube, so perhaps I’m worried for no reason. I did call my doctor and was told if there’s no pain, there’s nothing to be worried about.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

It is very possible that you have another ectopic.

Approximately 1 out of every 100 embryos will implant and grow outside of the uterine cavity (almost always) in a fallopian tube. This is defined as an ectopic pregnancy. Infrequently, an ectopic pregnancy attaches to an ovary or to one or more other pelvic organs. On very rare occasions (1;1,000), one twin attaches and grows in the uterine cavity with the other growing outside the uterus (i.e. a heterotopic pregnancy).
There is an ever present risk that a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy might rupture causing potentially catastrophic internal hemorrhage. Accordingly any symptoms suggesting that such bleeding has started, requires immediate confirmation of the diagnosis followed by emergency treatment.
While on rare occasions, an extrauterine (ectopic) can proceed well into pregnancy, it almost always happens prior to the 8th week. There is an increase in the incidence of ectopic pregnancy after IVF conceptions where it reportedly occurs in about 3% of cases and a woman who has had one ectopic pregnancy has almost four times as great a risk of an ectopic in a future pregnancy. In fact with every subsequent ectopic this risk of a recurrence increases dramatically.

The fertilization of the human egg normally takes place in the fallopian tube. The embryo then travels into the uterus, where it implants into the endometrial lining 5-6 days after ovulation. Anything that delays the passage of the embryo down the fallopian tube can result in the embryo hatching and sending its “root system” into the wall of the fallopian tube and initiating growth within the tube. One of the most common predisposing factors is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in which microorganisms, such as Chlamydia, and Gonococcus damage the inner lining (endosalpinx) and eventually also the muscular walls of the tube(s) by the formation of scar tissue. The endosalpinx has a very complex and delicate internal architecture, with small hairs and secretions that help to propel the embryo toward the uterine cavity. Once damaged, this lining can never regenerate. This is one of the reasons why women who manage to conceive following surgery to unblock fallopian tubes damaged by PID, have about a 1:4 chance of a subsequent pregnancy developing within the fallopian tube (ectopic).

Congenital malformations of the fallopian tube, associated with shortening of, or small pockets and side channels within, the tube are capable of interrupting the smooth passage of the embryo down the fallopian tube, is another cause of an ectopic pregnancy.

Since the lining of the fallopian tube does not represent an optimal site for healthy implantation, a large percentage of pregnancies that gain early attachment to its inner lining will usually be absorbed before the woman even knows that she is pregnant. This is often referred to as a tubal abortion.

The advent of advanced sonographic and hormonal monitoring technology now makes it possible to detect an ectopic pregnancy much earlier than previously, …usually well in advance of it rupturing. A decade or two ago, the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, ruptured or not, was an indication for immediate laparotomy to avoid the risk of catastrophic hemorrhagic shock. This often resulted in the affected fallopian tube having to be completely removed, sometimes along with the adjacent ovary. In the late 1980’s, early conservative surgical intervention by laparoscopy began replacing laparotomy (a wide incision made in the abdominal wall) for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, often allowing the affected fallopian tube to be preserved and shortening the period of post-surgical convalescence. In the 90’s, early detection combined with the advent of medical management with methotrexate (MTX) has all but eliminated the need for surgical intervention in the majority of patients. If administered early enough, MTX will allow spontaneous resorbtion of the pregnancy and a dramatic reduction in the incidence of catastrophic bleeding. This was especially true in ectopic pregnancies arising from In Vitro Fertilization, where the early progress of pregnancy is usually carefully monitored with hormone levels and ultrasound.

Classically women with an ectopic pregnancy present with the following symptoms:

• Missed menstrual period: Although some patients will have spotting or other abnormal bleeding. The pregnancy test will be positive in such cases.

• Vaginal bleeding. When a pregnancy inadvertently implants in the fallopian tube the lining of the uterus undergoes profound hormonal changes associated with pregnancy (primarily associated with the hormone progesterone). When the embryo dies, the lining of the uterus separates. Initially, vaginal bleeding is dark and usually is quite scanty, even less than with a normal menstrual period. In some cases, of ectopic pregnancy will bleeding is more severe, similar to that experienced in association with a miscarriage. This sometimes leads to an ectopic pregnancy initially being misdiagnosed as a miscarriage and is the reason to examine the material that is passed vaginally, for evidence of products of conception.

• Pain. In the early stages this is typically cramp-like in nature, located on one or another side of the lower abdomen. It is caused by spasm of the muscular wall of the fallopian tube(s). When a tubal pregnancy ruptures the woman will usually experience an abrupt onset of severe abdominal followed by light headedness, coldness and clamminess and will often collapse due to shock. Her pulse will become rapid and thready and her blood pressure will drop. Miscarriage. Sometimes the woman will experience pain in the right shoulder. The reason for this is that that blood which tracts along the side of the abdominal cavity finds its way to the area immediately below the diaphragm, above the liver (on the patient’s right side), irritates the endings of the phrenic nerve, which supplies that part of the diaphragm. This results in the referral of the pain to the neck and the right shoulder. The clinical picture is often so typical that making the diagnosis usually presents no difficulty at all. However, with less typical presentations the most important conditions to differentiate from an ectopic pregnancy are: a ruptured ovarian cyst, appendicitis, acute pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or an inevitable

• Vaginal bleeding. When a pregnancy inadvertently implants in the fallopian tube the lining of the uterus undergoes profound hormonal changes associated with pregnancy (primarily associated with the hormone progesterone). When the embryo dies, the lining of the uterus separates. Initially, vaginal bleeding is dark and usually is quite scanty, even less than with a normal menstrual period. In some cases, of ectopic pregnancy will bleeding is more severe, similar to that experienced in association with a miscarriage. This sometimes leads to ectopic pregnancy initially being misdiagnosis as a miscarriage and is the reason that we often want to examine the material that is passed vaginally, for evidence of products of conception.

The easiest and most common method of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy is by tracking the rate of rise in the blood levels of hCG. With a normal intrauterine pregnancy, these usually double every two days throughout the first few weeks. While a slow rate of increase in blood hCG usually suggests an impending miscarriage, it might also point to an ectopic pregnancy. Thus the hCG blood levels should be followed serially until a clear pattern emerges.

A vaginal ultrasound examination usually will clinch the diagnosis by showing the ectopic pregnancy within a fallopian tube and if the tube has already ruptured or internal bleeding has occurred, ultrasound examination will inevitably detect the presence of free fluid into the abdominal cavity.

If there has been a significant amount of intra-abdominal bleeding, irritation of the peritoneal membrane will cause the abdominal wall to become hard tense and, depending on the amount of internal bleeding abdominal distention will be evident. Palpation of the abdominal wall will evoke significant pain and when a vaginal examination is done, movement of the cervix will produce excruciating pain, especially on the side of the affected fallopian tube.

Surgical Treatment: In questionable situations laparoscopy is usually performed for diagnostic purposes. If an ectopic pregnancy is in fact detected, a small longitudinal incision over the tubal pregnancy will allow its removal, without necessitating removal of the tube. (linear salpingectomy). Bleeding points on the fallopian tube can usually be accessed directly and appropriately ligated (tied) via the laparoscope. Sometimes the damage to the fallopian tube has been so extensive that the entire tube will require removal.

On occasions where very severe intra-abdominal bleeding heralds a potential catastrophe, a laparotomy (an incision made to open the abdominal cavity) is performed to stop the bleeding post haste. In such cases a blood transfusion is usually required and may be life saving.

Medical Treatment: The introduction of Methotrexate (MTX) therapy for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy has profoundly reduced the need for surgery in most patients. MTX is a chemotherapeutic that kills rapidly dividing cells, such as those present in the “root system” of the conceptus. Extremely low doses of MTX are used to treat ectopic pregnancy. Accordingly the side effects that are often associated with such chemotherapy used for the treatment of other conditions are seldom seen. It is important to confirm that the ectopic pregnancy has not yet ruptured prior to administering MTX.

MTX is given by intramuscular injection. Prior to its administration, blood is drawn to get a baseline blood hCG level. After the injection of MTX the patient is allowed to return home with strict instructions that she should always have someone with her and never be alone in the ensuing week. The concern is that were the patient to be on her own and an intraabdominal bleed were to occur, she might not readily be able to access someone who could get her to the hospital immediately. Instructions are also given to look for early signs that might point towards severe intra-abdominal bleeding such as the sudden onset of severe pain, light-headedness or fainting.

The patient returns to the doctor’s office four days later to check the blood hCG level. Three days later (7 days after MTX), the level is checked again. By this time the hCG level should have dropped at least 15% from the value on day 4. If not, a second MTX injection is given and the blood levels are tested twice weekly until hCG level is undetectable. Once this occurs, vaginal bleeding will usually ensue within a week or two.

It is important to note, especially in cases where more than one embryo or blastocyst has been transferred to the uterine cavity or fallopian tube (as with Tubal embryo transfer –TET/ZIFT), that implantation may occur in two sites simultaneously (i.e. in the fallopian tube as well as inside the uterine cavity). This is referred to as a heterotopic pregnancy. It is therefore important that before administering MTX, which will cause the death and absorption of any early pregnancy, that the physician makes certain that he/she is not dealing with a heterotopic pregnancy. In such cases, surgery is required to treat the tubal ectopic, while every precaution is taken to protect the pregnancy growing within the uterine cavity.

When an ectopic pregnancy occurs following infertility treatment, there is the added advantage that the physician will be on the lookout for the earliest possible signs of trouble. The performance of a vaginal ultrasound within two weeks of a positive blood pregnancy (HCG) test following IVF allows for early detection of the unruptured pregnancy and timely intervention with MTX and/or laparoscopy.

Geoff Sher

reply
Jennifer M.

Hi Dr. Sher,

I’m 36 with FSH 8 & AMH 0.67 (dropped from 1.22 to 0.67 in 1 year) and have undergone multiple stimulation cycles.

First Attempt: Natural cycle start with Follistim 375 and eventually added Ganirelix. Trigger was 5,000 HCG and Lupron. 4 mature eggs and all arrested after Day 3.

Dr. recommended starting DHEA and CoQ10.

Second Attempt: Started BCP (on Day 3 of cycle); Microdose Lupron Flare Protocol. Active follicle found at baseline (after being on BCP for roughly 18 days). Since I “broke through” the pill, cycle was converted to Estrogen Priming Protocol. I was only on estrogen patches for 4 days before menses began. Antral follicle count at baseline was 22. Began stims with Follistim 375 and Menopur 150, only 3 follicles grew. Triggered with 10,000 HCG and cycle converted to IUI with no success.

Third Attempt: Started BCP again (on Day 1 of cycle); I didn’t break through this time, but cycle was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Fourth Attempt: Started BCP again (on Day 1 of cycle), ultrasound halfway through to ensure no “break through” and unfortunately, I had an active follicle…again. Dr. recommended no longer using BCP.

Fifth Attempt: Co-Flare Protocol where Lupron was started on Day 2 of natural cycle start, followed by Follistim 450 and Menpur 150 and Lupron dosage eventually dropped.
Antral follicle count at baseline was 16. Cycle only yielded 2-3 large follicles. Triggered with 10,000 HCG. Decided to just “try naturally” with no success.

Sixth Attempt: Estrogen Priming Protocol with Ganirelix; Began patches 7 days after ovulation and Ganirelix 8 days after ovulation. I was only on Estrogen and Ganirelix for 4 & 3 days respectively before menses came. I was instructed to take one more last Ganirelix shot on Day 2 of cycle. Antral follicle count at baseline (Day 3) was 18 and estrogen was 19. Began Gonal-F 375 and 150 Menopur. Cycle yielded 4 follicles: 16mm, 2 19mm, and 1 20mm and a couple more around 14-15mm. Triggered with 10,000 HCG.
At retrieval, a total of 4 eggs collected and only 1 was mature. Embryo arrested at Day 3 (Grade 2, 12 cell)

My biggest questions are as follows:
1. Why is my response to stimulation so poor when my antral follicle count is considered normal?
2. Why do I start my menses shortly after being on estrogen patch? It seems like it’s never long enough to properly “prime” the follicles, which I was told should be 8-10 days.
3. Why do I “break through” the pill?
4. Do you believe Menopur is helping or making things worse, considering my first cycle didn’t contain Menopur and that was the only cycle which yielded the most mature eggs?

Thoughts?
Thank you so much!!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

1. Why is my response to stimulation so poor when my antral follicle count is considered normal?

A: Very respectfully, I nthink it has to do with the protocols used for ovarian stimulation and their implementation as well as the trigger dosage + timing of hCG.

2. Why do I start my menses shortly after being on estrogen patch? It seems like it’s never long enough to properly “prime” the follicles, which I was told should be 8-10 days.

A: Hard to say. It could be dosage and the type of medication. Personally, I do not think you need estrogen “priming”.

3. Why do I “break through” the pill?

A: You probably need a stronger BCP

4. Do you believe Menopur is helping or making things worse, considering my first cycle didn’t contain Menopur and that was the only cycle which yielded the most mature eggs?

A: Menopur contains equal amounts of LH and FSH. In my opinion, too much LH can lead to over-production of ovarian testosterone which can compromise egg development, especially in women who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).

Women who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production, and/or biological activity, of LH. This can result in excessive ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production. This in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.
While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited.
I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy
Please visit my new Blog on this very site, www. SherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and 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 Approach
• 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)
• 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?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care 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: 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
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country–
• 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
• Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
• IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

___________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Naita

Dear Dr. Sher,

My name is Naita and i live in Australia (Perth).

I first got pregnant when i was 27 years old (one month after i got married) and i heard a heartbeath tick at 5weeks and 4 days. Just one week after i started spotting which switched to blood and i misscaried in the toilet (July 2017).

I then got pregnant again 2 months later and again we found a heartbeath around 6w +2, but i misscaried just 3 days later in the toilet (November 2017).

I got pregnant the third time in February 2018 and found a heartbeath at 6w +4 days, but found out on a ultrasound a few weeks after (should have been 11w) that it stoped at 6w 6+. I then hade my first D&C surgery to remove it for genetic testing (April 2018). The repport came back showing that chromosome 16 was a thriomsy and not a pair. Which the Dr. told me is the most Common reason to misscary and i will have a baby next time. I was threathed for uterus infection after the surgery. During this pregnancy i was taking baby asprin and 200mg 3times a Day progesterone passaries.

In November 2018 i had a biochemical pregnancy which My period was only late for 6 days but i had positiv + on the hometest only!

By this time we started to do ALL test that they could offer, only to found out that everything was showing normal and My AMH results was 16 Which they told me is a Good Number. We even did the karyotype blood and its all fine. We even did a sperm DNA analasys for My husband and that came back fine too.

Then i got pregnant again February 2019 and started to take baby asprin and same amount of progesterone when i got My +. On the ultrasound it showed i had TWIN SAC but No embryo. We decided to do another ultrasound a week later to see IF something would come Up. I started to feel bit sick in mornings and was hoping everything was fine. We came back for the ultrasound and it had No embryos Still, One sac was 5w + and the other One was 7w+. My gynecologist suggested i do another d&c since My Body was not rejecting it off by itself again. On the chomosonal testing it came back with No info since there where No embryos detected.

My previous pregnancy was ended in miscarrige again September 2019, again stoped at 6w + . And we had a d&c done, but the hospital Called and apologized that there was not enough tissue sent of to be able to test for chromosonal abnormalities and this left me heartbroken as i didnt want to do my 3dr d&c but decided to go ahead only to found out what went wrong again. Please NOTE, I had My 3 d&c and Also 3rd time of uterus infection after surgery!

By this time i Saw a 5th gp and my second fertility specialist here in WA (i Saw the top 2 specialist in WA). The 5th gp, found that i had Ureaplasma infection and Said she thinks this might be the issue since she had cases of women having recurrent miscarrige because of it. But the WA fertility percialist Said it has nothing to do with pregnancies and that My case is “bad luck” and a case of My uterus not rejecting bad eggs and that i should do IVF with PGS.

By this time i got threathed for Ureaplasma (November 2019) and had myself tested for NK leva in My blood at a immunologist specialist. The levels where normal (February 2020). I also did a siline infusion to se if i had svara from the d&c and everything looked normal.

I also got my case look at from specialist doctors at Kind Edward hopsital here in Perth, Which is a hospital only for woman with pregnancy complications or high risk. And they recommended to do IVF with PGS. But i asked since i can concive so easy myself why is this nessesery and Will i Keep it if i do this expensive genetic testing and it shows 46 chromosoms. They Said nothing is 100% and it left me angry think after everything, why would i put myself true something that Will give me almost same chance as natrualy conciving.

I am seeing an immunologist at a hospital next week 17 sept due to, When i was pregnant the last Time in sept i had a allergic rection to asprin (but was fine the other two beforehand).

On of the specialist in ivf clinic.said to take Metformin (Helps ovulating he said) but i had diarriea and stoped after only 3 days as i could not understand why i got it in the first place since i ovulate every month. He Also told me to take thyroxine as My thyroid was 2.5 (he wants it to be 2.0 before i get pregnant) and i started to have an ongoing rash on my arms for almost 4 weeks after i stoped taking thyroxin (i was not pregnant, November 2019) .

I have not got pregnant since My last miscarrige as all the reaction from medications after My d&c freaked me out since i was fine with Them all previosuly pregnancies.

Please, i cant find anyone in Perth to help me figure if i have an issue that is making me misscary or IF it can be the Ureaplasma that acctually was the bad Guy in it all.

I know there are some ivf clinics in Sydney that test for immunology presective but during this Times with Corona viruset we can not fly over since the boarder is Closed.

Please, can you give me your professional opinion on my case and maybe some advice for the future pregancies and maybe even if somehow i can take some other blood work i have not done here in Perth (since i am seeing an immunologist specialist) somehow?

Thank You!
Kind Regards
Naita

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

My heart goes out to you.You have been through hell and back. Hopefully I can be of help, but we will need to talk.

I wish to point out that the fact that your blood NK cell concentration was normal…really does not mean much. There is to my knowledge nowhere in Australia that the proper testing can be done for NK cell activation and it is “activation” not concentration that matters.

When it comes to reproduction, humans are the poorest performers of all mammals. In fact we are so inefficient that up to 75% of fertilized eggs do not produce live births, and up to 30% of pregnancies end up being lost within 10 weeks of conception (in the first trimester). RPL is defined as two (2) or more failed pregnancies. Less than 5% of women will experience two (2) consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.
Pregnancy loss can be classified by the stage of pregnancy when the loss occurs:
• Early pregnancy loss (first trimester)
• Late pregnancy loss (after the first trimester)
• Occult “hidden” and not clinically recognized, (chemical) pregnancy loss (occurs prior to ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy)
• Early pregnancy losses usually occur sporadically (are not repetitive).

In more than 70% of cases the loss is due to embryo aneuploidy (where there are more or less than the normal quota of 46 chromosomes). Conversely, repeated losses (RPL), with isolated exceptions where the cause is structural (e.g., unbalanced translocations), are seldom attributable to numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy). In fact, the vast majority of cases of RPL are attributable to non-chromosomal causes such as anatomical uterine abnormalities or Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID).
Since most sporadic early pregnancy losses are induced by chromosomal factors and thus are non-repetitive, having had a single miscarriage the likelihood of a second one occurring is no greater than average. However, once having had two losses the chance of a third one occurring is double (35-40%) and after having had three losses the chance of a fourth miscarriage increases to about 60%. The reason for this is that the more miscarriages a woman has, the greater is the likelihood of this being due to a non-chromosomal (repetitive) cause such as IID. It follows that if numerical chromosomal analysis (karyotyping) of embryonic/fetal products derived from a miscarriage tests karyotypically normal, then by a process of elimination, there would be a strong likelihood of a miscarriage repeating in subsequent pregnancies and one would not have to wait for the disaster to recur before taking action. This is precisely why we strongly advocate that all miscarriage specimens be karyotyped.
There is however one caveat to be taken into consideration. That is that the laboratory performing the karyotyping might unwittingly be testing the mother’s cells rather than that of the conceptus. That is why it is not possible to confidently exclude aneuploidy in cases where karyotyping of products suggests a “chromosomally normal” (euploid) female.
Late pregnancy losses (occurring after completion of the 1st trimester/12th week) occur far less frequently (1%) than early pregnancy losses. They are most commonly due to anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and/or cervix. Weakness of the neck of the cervix rendering it able to act as an effective valve that retains the pregnancy (i.e., cervical incompetence) is in fact one of the commonest causes of late pregnancy loss. So also are developmental (congenital) abnormalities of the uterus (e.g., a uterine septum) and uterine fibroid tumors. In some cases intrauterine growth retardation, premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption), premature rupture of the membranes and premature labor can also causes of late pregnancy loss.
Much progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms involved in RPL. There are two broad categories:
1. Problems involving the uterine environment in which a normal embryo is prohibited from properly implanting and developing. Possible causes include:
• Inadequate thickening of the uterine lining
• Irregularity in the contour of the uterine cavity (polyps, fibroid tumors in the uterine wall, intra-uterine scarring and adenomyosis)
• Hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects). This most commonly results in occult RPL.
• Deficient blood flow to the uterine lining (thin uterine lining).
• Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID). A major cause of RPL. Plays a role in 75% of cases where chromosomally normal preimplantation embryos fail to implant.
• Interference of blood supply to the developing conceptus can occur due to a hereditary clotting disorder known as Thrombophilia.

2. Genetic and/or structural chromosomal abnormality of the embryo.Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL. Structural chromosomal abnormalities are slightly more common but are also occur infrequently (1%). These are referred to as unbalanced translocation and they result from part of one chromosome detaching and then fusing with another chromosome. Additionally, a number of studies suggest the existence of paternal (sperm derived) effect on human embryo quality and pregnancy outcome that are not reflected as a chromosomal abnormality. Damaged sperm DNA can have a negative impact on fetal development and present clinically as occult or early clinical miscarriage. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which measures the same endpoints are newer and possibly improved methods for evaluating.

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA).
But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States.
Alloimmune IID, i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species, is believed to be a relatively common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss.
Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage.
Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction.
However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated NK cells and CTL in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL
In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients.
Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include:

Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents
• Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens
• Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.)
• Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test)
• Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity
• Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.)
• Immunologic testing to include:
a) Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel
b) Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel
c) Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies)
d) Reproductive immunophenotype
e) Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test)
f) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

TREATMENT OF RPL
Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated.
Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin.
Sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures.
Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.
Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: Modalities such as IL/IVIg, heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction.
The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL
In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option:
1. When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed.
2. In cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.
The reason for IVF being a preferred approach in such cases is that in order to be effective, the immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative
Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), with tests such as CGH, can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGD requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing.
There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha matching where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy.
The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.SherIVF.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
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• 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

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Jesika Benedict

Hi Dr. Sher,
I had my Day 5 embryo transfer (frozen) on August 24, 2020. I had my first blood test on September 3rd (10 days later) and my hcg level was 173. I’m not sure how to interpret this… my doctor said I’m pregnant and my levels are higher than average! Does this mean mutiples?? I’m just so happy to be pregnant but can’t stop obsessing over if there’s more than 1!!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Your level is good but it is not possible to extrapolate to singleton versus multiple. In addition, the most important issue pertaining to the level, is the rate of the increase. You should repeat the test in 2 days. It should double. Ultimately, it will take an US at the 6th to 7th week to determine whether you have a viable pregnancy.

Geoff Sher

reply
Kate

Dear Doctor Sher
I would be very grateful for your advice. I have tested positive for Ureaplasma Urealyticum (both urine test & urethra swab). I was prescribed Erythromycin by my general practitioner (3 times a day for 7 days). I have no symptoms at the moment (infact I didn’t even know I had it, or what it was until yesterday). I read about estimates that 70% of the female population is assumed to have it. I have an FET transfer scheduled late September. As yet, I have not started taking the antibiotics because I’m worried that they may mess with the bacterial “homeostasis” In my body and hence negatively impact the FET chances of success. It usually takes my body weeks to recover from antibiotics :(. Additionally, I read that there is a high antiobiotic-resistance in Ureaplasma Urealyticum, which coukd potentially render the antibiotic treatment as having been a waste. Is a positive Ureaplasma Urealyticum test despite no symptoms detrimental to FET chances? If so, what are the chances that antibiotics will help without causing any negative impact themselves? I’m a bit at a loss what to do, and hence have done nothing in the interim.
Sincerest thanks for all you do and for helping all of us! You are wonderful!!

Kindest regards,
Kate

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterium that belongs to the mycoplasma family. It can be detected in the reproductive tract of as many as 40% of individuals (male and female). Ureaplasma probably does not prevent normal conception in the majority of cases, because by and large, the uterine cavity remains free of such pathogenic bacteria even in women whose cervical mucous cultures positive for the organism. However, when present in the woman’s cervical secretions, the organism can be unintentionally dragged into the uterine cavity through introduction of a catheter into the uterus at the time of embryo transfer (ET) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). Molecular biologists have shown that contamination of rapidly growing cell cultures, by this organism and its close “relative”, mycoplasma hominis rapidly destroys such cells. The implanting embryo is indeed an example of an organism that comprises rapidly growing cells in a biological culture medium (the uterine lining), and as such, the cells of the trophoblast that form the “root system” of the embryo are vulnerable to intrauterine infection with Ureaplasma. However, even if the uterine cavity were to become infected, the infection willl be purged with the shedding of the infected lining at the time of the next menstruation.
While , aside from a non-specific vaginal discharge, infection with Ureaplasma rarely produces symptoms in the woman, it sometimes causes symptomatic prostatitis or epydidimitis in men. Although ureaplasma can be transmitted from one partner to the other by sexual intercourse, it may also be acquired by other means, since a large percentage of couples in monogamous relationships will culture positive for the organism. It is very difficult for the organism to grow in the laboratory. Accordingly, the reproductive secretions of both partners should be evaluated (sperm and cervical mucus) individually. Successful culturing of ureaplasma requires a specialized media in which the specimens can be transported safely from the physician’s office to the microbiology laboratory.
If both partners culture negative, we can assume that there is no infection present. However, if one partner cultures positive and the other negative, we would err on the side of caution, by assuming that the negative result was caused by the difficulty in culturing the organism. When ureaplasma is detected in the reproductive secretions of either partner, both should be treated concurrently with the appropriate antibiotic (doxycycline, zithromax, erythromycin, ciprofloxin, or metronidazole; cleomycin).
Unfortunately, in approximately 30-40% of couples infected ureaplasma urealyticum, the bacteria will have built resistance to mainstay traditional antibiotics such as tetracyclines (e.g. doxycycline) and erythromycin (e.g. Zythromax) derivatives. In such cases, ciprofloxin or metronidazole (Flagyl) therapy might be needed. This is the reason that we prefer to document cure by reculturing each partner prior to beginning ovarian stimulation for an IVF cycle.
Several authors have shown a difference in pregnancy rates among patients with ureaplasma infection who were treated with antibiotics and those who were not. Other reports have not been able to identify an effect on outcome from ureaplasma infection. Thus, until the final verdict is in regarding the roll of ureaplasma with regard to its effect on IVF implantation, we prefer to err on the side of caution and ensure that this organism is absent in cervical secretions and semen before transferring embryos. To this end, my patients all receive prophylactic antibiotic therapy around the time of embryo transfer. This is administered as oral ciprofloxin. A day or two prior to embryo transfer, vaginal cleomycin suppositories are added.

Geoff Sher

reply
Kate

Thank you Doctor Sher. The tests that showed Ureaplasma Urealyticum were i) a ureathral swab, and ii) a urine test.
Just for my understanding purposes, should I go ahead and test again via cervical swab before taking the antibiotics to check if the cervix is colonized too? Or if the urethra/urine has the bacterial infection, do I assume that I have it in my cervix as well and just take the antibiotics? If it is only in the urethra, does it still pose a risk to the FET?
Many thanks and kindest regards

reply

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