Ovarian Stimulation For Women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) and in Older Women undergoing IVF

Two main factors determine the quality of a woman’s eggs at ovulation or egg retrieval.  First is her age and second is the protocol used for ovarian stimulation. With the possible the exception of cases where there is severe sperm dysfunction, it is the chromosomal integrity of the egg rather than the sperm that will ultimately determine the chromosomal integrity of the embryo (i.e. its “competency”, or its potential to propagate a healthy babies). It therefore follows that the only way by which to influence embryo “competence” is through the selection and implementation of an optimal protocol for ovarian stimulation. Since older women (≥35 years) and those who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) are at greatest risk of yielding “incompetent” eggs, they are the ones that require special attention. This article will highlight the reasons why such women are the ones most prone to produce poor quality eggs and embryos and how best to address ovarian stimulation in an attempt to minimize this risk.

Cells that have a full chromosomal component are termed euploid while those that do not, are aneuploid. Most euploid eggs arecompetent”, that is, they are the one’s that are most likely to propagate euploid, “competent” embryos. Aneuploid, “incompetent” eggs will invariably develop into aneuploid, “incompetent” embryos. There is a progressive increase in the incidence in egg/embryo aneuploidy with advancing age. To put numbers to the equation; by time a woman reaches 35 yrs; approximately 60% of her eggs are likely to be aneuploid. By the time she reaches her mid 40’s the incidence will be greater than 85%.

For example, a woman of 43 years would be fortunate if  six (6) or eight (8), of her eggs would upon being fertilized, result in one (1) “competent” embryo. As the woman gets older, the inevitable decline in egg/embryo quality results in her having a reduced ability to conceive naturally, a declining IVF success rates, an increase in miscarriages, and a rising incidence of having her baby affected by chromosomal birth defects such as Trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome). This is why for such a woman, the anticipated IVF birth rate per egg retrieval is less than 10% (i.e. >70% lower than at age 35), the miscarriage rate increases from about 15% at 35y to >40% at age above 40y.and why her risk of having a baby with Down’s syndrome is about 0 2% at 35y as compared to 2% at 44y).

The anticipation of poor IVF outcome statistics for women in their mid-40’s makes IVF with ovum donation the most rational approach. Yet, in spite of this, many older women still elect to use their own eggs as long as there is even the slightest chance of having their own genetic offspring.

As a woman approaches and then engages her 40’s, her ability to produce “competent” eggs progressively declines. At the same time she experiences diminishing ovarian reserve that results in a progressive fall-off in the number of eggs she is likely to produce at egg retrieval. As a result, there will be a commensurate drop of in the number of “competent” embryos available for transfer to her uterus.

The following IVF stimulation protocols are the ones most commonly used for COS in older women and those with DOR:

1.GnRHa Flare (“Short”) protocol: Some IVF physicians advocate the use of gonadotropin releasing hormone-agonist (GnRHa)- flare protocols in which the administration of GnRHa (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Nafarelin, Synarel) therapy begins at the same time that ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins is started (usually with the onset of menstruation). The proposed benefit of such an approach is that the GnRHa will cause the woman’s pituitary gland to release large amounts of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which would augment the administered dosage of FSH and thereby synergizing the growth of ovarian follicles.

The problem associated with this “flare” approach is that concurrent with the GnRHa-induced FSH luteinizing hormone (LH) also surges. In older women and those who have diminished ovarian reserve, the out-pouring of LH can cause the ovarian connective tissue (stroma or theca) which produces excessive male hormones (predominantly, testosterone). While some testosterone is essential for optimal follicle growth, too much testosterone can compromise its development as well as egg/embryo quality. Since older women and women with diminished ovarian reserve often have increased LH production as well as an overgrown of ovarian stroma/theca (i.e. hyperthecosis), a further GnRHa-induced increase in LH can so elevate local ovarian testosterone levels as to severely compromise egg/ embryo “competency”.

2. Combined Clomiphene or Letrazole) /Gonadotropin Stimulation: This approach when used in older women and women with diminished ovarian reserve is also potentially harmful to egg/embryo quality. The reason is that like GnRHa, clomiphene and Letrazole also cause LH to be released in large amounts. Since these medications are given at the start of ovarian stimulation they, as with “flare protocols” can elicit ovarian over-production of testosterone. As such this approach is in my opinion far less than ideal for older women and women who have diminished ovarian reserve.

3. Mid-follicular GnRH-antagonist protocol: With this approach, stimulation with gonadotropins is commenced with the onset of the cycle. Then, several days later, once the majority of follicles have reached about 12mm in size, GnRH antagonist (e.g. Ganirelix, Cetrotide, Cetrorelix, and Orgalutron) is added. The intent in adding the antagonist is to abruptly block pituitary LH release and so prevent a “premature LH surge” with its effect of causing increased ovarian testosterone and impaired follicle and egg development.

The problem with such a regime is that women with diminished ovarian reserve already have too much of their own LH around at the beginning of the cycle. Accordingly, blocking LH release only 6-7 days into the stimulation does nothing to prevent the early adverse effects of too much LH-induced ovarian testosterone on early egg/embryo development. It should be borne in mind that eggs are often at their most vulnerable, early on in the cycle. Thus, in my opinion such protocols are also less than optimal for older women and for those with diminished ovarian reserve.

4. GnRHa (“Long”) Pituitary down-Regulation Protocol:

  1. The “Standard” Long Protocol Approach: This protocol, which is the mainstay of ovarian stimulation for IVF, is either initiated about 1 week after natural ovulation (a “luteal phase start”) or is launched off a monophasic birth control pill (a “BCP start”). In the case of the latter, the BCP is taken for at least 8 days before, GnRHa (e.g. Lupron/Superfact/Buserelin) is added daily. Two days after starting the GnRHa, the BCP is stopped. Menstruation usually ensues within 3-5 days. GnRHa administration is continued and gonadotropin (Follistim/Gonal-F/Puregon, Bravelle, and Menopur) stimulation is initiated. Both daily Gonadotropin stimulation and GnRHa are continued until the day of the “hCG trigger”.

The initial administration of agonist serves to rapidly expunge pituitary FSH and LH causing an immediate rise in the blood levels of both hormones. Then, within a few days, having virtually exhausted/depleted pituitary gonadotropin stores, the blood levels of FSH and LH both rapidly decline, such that by the time menstruation occurs, the levels are very low. The initial premenstrual GnRHa-induced rise in FSH helps recruit ovarian antral follicles for the upcoming cycle, while the ultimate virtual depletion of LH serves to prevent excessive ovarian testosterone production and protects egg quality.

I prefer to use pure FSHr (Folistim, Puregon, Gonal F) for ovarian stimulation for IVF with the initial dosage being reduced by about 25% within a few days.  Thereupon 75U Menopur is added daily, up until the hCG trigger.

  1. Modified Long Protocols:
      1. Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol (A/ACP): Agonists might competitively inhibit follicle response to FSH. Therefore, in an attempt to improve follicle response to FSH we modified the “standard approach” (a- above) as follows: Rather than continuing to give GnRHa throughout the stimulation protocol, we here supplant GnRHa with low dosage GnRH antagonist starting with the initiation of menstruation, continuing throughout stimulation until the day of the “hCG trigger” at which point both the antagonist and gonadotropins are discontinued. We have had very good results using the A/ACP modification of the “standard long pituitary down-regulation protocol”. In fact it has become my preferred approach for most women with a normal ovarian reserve, who undergo ovarian stimulation for IVF.
      1. Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP) +“Estrogen Priming” (LA10-E2V): Estrogen primes follicle FSH receptors, thereby enhancing response to FSH. This forms the basis of the “estrogen priming” approach in women with diminished ovarian response. The approach involves administering estradiol by daily injection, or by skin patch starting about 10 days prior to initiating high dosage gonadotropin stimulation. As with the standard A/ACP, the estrogen priming protocol is initiated a week post-ovulation (luteal phase start) or is launched off a birth control pill regime of at least 10 days. It also starts with GnRHa administration for about 5 days whereupon menstruation ensues and the agonist is supplanted by an antagonist. But this is where things change slightly such that instead of directly initiating  FSHr (Follistim/Gonal-F/Puregon)  injections, the patient, while continuing to take the GnRH antagonist now receives twice weekly estradiol valerate injections or daily estradiol skin patches (I prefer the former) for a period of about 10 days. Thereupon, daily high dosage FSHr (750U) is administered once daily. Four to five days later, 75U Menopur daily is added. “Estrogen priming” is continued until more than 50% of the follicles are at least 12mm in size whereupon it is discontinued.
  1. Mini-IVF or Natural Cycle IVF for women with DOR? It is quite understandable that many women with DOR are easily persuaded that less (or no) ovarian stimulation offers a more “natural” and less “stressful” approach on eggs than a robust, high gonadotropin-based, long-pituitary down regulation approach. This, in my opinion is a fallacy and can compromise rather than benefit IVF outcome in such cases. Even in young women in their early or mid-30’s, the IVF success rate per fresh “natural” or “mini”  IVF cycle is much lower (<15%)  than that which can be achieved through the use of conventional long down-regulation protocols, where the anticipated success is at least double this rate (30%). Mini-IVF is usually conducted using clomiphene or Femara, alone or in combination with Menopur, all of which is associated with the production of excessive LH-induced ovarian testosterone. Furthermore, low dosage stimulation will result in fewer eggs being available, thus further reducing the odds of IVF success per egg retrieval conducted. Natural cycle IVF is in my opinion also not in the best interest of women with DOR, because with such an approach, nothing is done to control the exaggerated production of LH by the woman’s own pituitary gland.

Addendum:

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Supplementation. Recently, I began selectively adding human growth hormone (HGH) supplementation to simulation protocols in women with DOR, in cases where there is a history of the woman repeatedly producing poor quality eggs and in older women (>38Y) undergoing IVF. There is evidence that this might enhance mitochondrial activity and thus improve egg maturational division (meiosis).

20 Comments

Megan Owens

Hi Dr. Sher,

I am 41 with an amh of 1.6. I did two cycles of IVF (Menopur (75), Follistim (150 then 225 for cycle 2) and a Lupron trigger). I didn’t respond well. – 2 eggs retrieved cycle #1 and 0 eggs cycle #2. These cycles were back-to-back after having me on birth control for 3 months. Because I don’t do well on BC (causes hair loss for me), I am priming with Lupron (20 units a day) for 23 days before my next cycle. After 23 days I will start Menopur (75), Follistim (300) and low dose HCG (100 units). I got an second option today and doctor #2 said I should stop cycle #3 because I will be over suppressed by the Lupron. I know you mention you thought 10 units was better than 20. Do you think 23 days of Lupron will over-suppress me as an older woman? Should I cancel cycle #3? What would you recommend? Thanks so much for any insight. All your articles are so helpful!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I would personally use a different approach to stimulation:

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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reply
Josie

Good afternoon,

I am 30 years old and just recently completed my first ivf cycle. I was on the long protocol of synarel, then Gonal f followed by ovidrel. Three eggs were collected two fertilised one made it to blast and was transferred but implantation resulted in chemical pregnancy.

My next cycle I have been prescribed the same protocol however instead of the gonal f I will be using purégon.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you

reply
Ana

Hi Dr. Sher, my name is Ana, I am 43yrs old and I have gone through one Ivf cycle, with Gonal F (Merck), menopur, cetrotide, lutrin. I believe that would be per your article a good protocol for me, right? I got 6 eggs, 5 were fertilized, 3 made it till day 5. They were sent to PGS and we were told that none of the embryos were good. I have read that pergoveris (Merck) could be another option of meds that could help on the quality of eggs and therefore a good embryo. I told my doctor about it but he just brush it off,, I know is a recombinant of FSH and LH, like menopur I believe, but with a ratio of 2:1, what do think of Pergoveris? Do think is good? Or why not?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

The big issue here is age and its impact on the biological clock. This is not reversible. However, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation does need to be individualized.

The older a woman becomes, the more likely it is that her eggs will be chromosomally/genetically “incompetent” (not have the potential upon being fertilized and transferred, to result in a viable pregnancy). That is why, the likelihood of failure to conceive, miscarrying and of giving birth to a chromosomally defective child (e.g. with Down Syndrome) increases with the woman’s advancing age. In addition, as women age beyond 35Y there is commonly a progressive diminution in the number of eggs left in the ovaries, i.e. diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). So it is that older women as well as those who (regardless of age) have DOR have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production of LH biological activity which can result in excessive LH-induced ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.

While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the age-related effect on the woman’s “biological clock, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can 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 older women and those 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 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, http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.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:
INTRODUCING SHER FRERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Hitherto I have personally performed the actual hands-on treatment of all patients who, seeking my involvement, elected to travel to Las Vegas for my care. However, with the launching of Sher-Fertility Solutions (SFS), I will as of March 31st take on a new and expanded consultation role. Rather than having hands-on involvement with IVF procedures I will, through SFS, instead provide fertility consultations (via SKYPE) to the growing number of patients (from >40 countries) with complex Reproductive Dysfunction (RD) who seek access to my input , advice and guidance. In this way I will be able to be involved in overseeing the care, of numerous patients who previously, because they were unable to travel long distances to be treated by me, were unable to gain access to my input.

Anyone wishing to schedule a Skype consultation with me, can do so by: Calling my concierge (Patti Converse) at 1-800-780-7437 for an appointment,enrolling online on my website, http://www.SherIVF.com, or 702-533-2691; or emailing Patti at concierge@SherIVF.com or . sher@sherivf.com .
I was very recently greatly honored in receiving an award by the prestigious; International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). For more information, go to the press release on my website, http://www.sherIVF.com .

PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Ana

Thank you Dr. Sher for your response. I obmitted to say in my previous post that my AMH is 1.1, which I understand is a bordeline or good ovarian reserve for my age of 43, is that right? Having said that do you still consider me a DOR per your responds? And if i am not a DOR was my first IVF procotol ideal for me? As mentioned I started with Gonal F, continued with Menopur, then Cetrotide, finally Lutrin and Pregnyl. Produced 6 eggs, 3 reached 5th day and these 3 were sent to PGS but came out abnormal. So I am concerned on the quality of the eggs and what can help, I have read of Pergoveris which supposedly increases the quality of the embryo, where it has a ratio of 2:1 of FSH and LH, as mentioned before, if I have AMH of 1.1, was my protocol ok? Would Pergoveris be something you recommend? Or your response is the same as before even with a AMH of 1.1?
Sorry for sending again the question but had to clarify this. Thank you for your time and response.
Regards

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

An AMH of 1.1 is not borderline. It is moderately severe DOR. This + your age of 4.3, compounds the effect on the biological clock + egg quality.

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

reply
Nazli

Hi doctor, My AMH is 0.94, and my FSH is 12.9. I want to visit doctor Saleh Walid in Dallas, do you think I would be successful with IVF?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

It depends on your age and other possible factors. But you are in very good hands with Dr Saleh.

Geoff Sher

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Nicole Ann Seanor

Hello Dr. Sher,
I am 41 with a very low AMH- .4. I have a regular cycle- every 24 days. I was on the pill for many years. I have been off since Nov. 1 2017. I have had an HSG- which showed to be normal. I am ovulating. My last cycle, we tried naturally. I am either pregnant or will have my period this Sunday. If not pregnant, I am planning to start my first round of IVF next week in Dallas, Texas. We are planning for two IVF cycles with one cycle in-between. My doctor is recommending a micro-flare starting with 12-14 days of BCPs. I see from your blog that you advise against this protocol and suggest the antagonist protocol with HGH. I am also having weekly acupuncture and I’m taking every vitamin possible- including COQ10 (no DHEA). Should I discuss with my doctor your recommendations? He mentioned HGH was used at other clinics, but he wouldn’t try on me (at least initially?). Is HGH uses routinely at all fertility clinics? Is there a risk on using it? Thank you, NSR

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

You might want to getba second opinion with Dr.Walid Saleh at Sher Fertility in Dallas. If so, give him my regards. He is an outstanding RE and we have been associated for many years.

Good Luck!

Geoff Sher

reply
Suzanne moore

Dear Geoffrey
Please would you advise in your opinion the best protocol for me:
I have 2 healthy sons with IVF both using the puregon then orgalutran protocol. I had 14 then 10 follicles with these cycles. Husbandssperm count is excellent
This was 3-6 years ago. Now I am 38. My amh is 12, my fsh is 8 and AFC around 10.
This year I have had 2 failed IVF cycles first was agonist cycle(I think it’s called that?) Lupron then menopur: 5 follicles. 2 low quality replaced. No pregnancy.
This cycle was estrogen primed micro dose flare with pergoveris 300mcg daily: so far this shows poor response with only 4 follicles of 14mm on day 10… cycle will likely be canceled.
My question is which protocol would you recommend? Why could I not try puregon protocol again? I realize I’m getting older but the drop in follicle development seems so substantial that I think Im on the wrong protocol….please help I’m confused
Thank you very much
Suzanne

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Here is the protocol I advise for women, <40Y who have adequate ovarian reserve.
My advice is to use a long pituitary down regulation protocol starting on a BCP, and overlapping it with Lupron 10U daily for three (3) days and then stopping the BCP but continuing on Lupron 10u daily (in my opinion 20U daily is too much) and await a period (which should ensue within 5-7 days of stopping the BCP). At that point an US examination is done along with a baseline measurement of blood estradiol to exclude a functional ovarian cyst and simultaneously, the Lupron dosage is reduced to 5U daily to be continued until the hCG (10,000u) trigger. An FSH-dominant gonadotropin such as Follistim, Puregon or Gonal-f daily is started with the period for 2 days and then the gonadotropin dosage is reduced and a small amount of menotropin (Menopur---no more than 75U daily) is added. This is continued until US and blood estradiol levels indicate that the hCG trigger be given, whereupon an ER is done 36h later. I personally would advise against using Lupron in “flare protocol” arrangement (where the Lupron commences with the onset of gonadotropin administration.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
• The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas
• Should IVF Treatment Cycles be provided uninterrupted or be Conducted in 7-12 Pre-scheduled “Batches” per Year
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• “Triggering” Egg Maturation in IVF: Comparing urine-derived hCG, Recombinant DNA-hCG and GnRH-agonist:
If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com .

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

Geoffrey Sher MD

reply
Maria

Hi Dr. Sher,
I read your book and wish I would have 3 years ago. My husband had a successful vasectomy reversal but two years later, no pregnancy and RE found his sperm has 90% antibodies. My first urologist recommended we go for TESA and IVF (instead of vasectomy reversal) and we should have listened! I am 36, AMH of 0.85, FSH of 5, Day 5 antral follicle count of 4. So it seems we have less eggs to work with but I’m hoping the quality will be ok. I’m going in for my first IVF and RE has recommended short antagonist for me. So Puregon of 225 starting day two and Orgalutran starting day 7. What do you think of this first attempt protocol for me?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

It sounds as if you have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). Women who (regardless of age) have DOR have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production of LH biological activity which can result in excessive LH-induced ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production which 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, http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.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
I invite you to arrange to have a Skype or an in-person consultation with me to discuss your case in detail. If you are interested, please contact Julie Dahan, at:

Email: Julied@sherivf.com

OR

Phone: 702-533-2691
800-780-7437

reply
Iveta Scott

Hello, Dr Sher. Can, in your opinion, administration of the Cabergoline counteract harmful to the egg quality hyper production of LH in mini IVF cycles?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Hi Nicola,

That is a loaded question which I can only answer once I have access to a great deal more information. If you read the articles below, you will see what I mean and gain much more insight into what would be needed to answer your question authoritatively.

S…please access my new pnew blog. When you get to the “home page” of the Blog on this website, find the “search bar” and type in any of the articles below by title, “click” and you will immediately be taken to these.

• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF: Comparing “conventional” use of GnRH antagonists to the
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Measuring and Interpreting Blood hCG to Assess Pregnancy Viability Following ART Treatments.
• Preventing Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) with “Prolonged Coasting”
• Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and the Need to Customize Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
I invite you to call 702-699-7437 or 800-780-7437 and set up a one hour Skype consultation with me to discuss your case in detail.

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

Happy New Year!

Geoff Sher

reply

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