The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?

One often hears the expressed opinion that the BCP suppresses response to ovarian stimulation. This is not the case, provided that the BCP is overlapped with administration of an agonist (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact) for several days leading up to the start of menstruation and the initiation of ovarian stimulation cycle with gonadotropin drugs. If the latter precaution is not taken, and the cycle of stimulation is initiated coming directly off the BCP the response will often be blunted and subsequent egg quality could be adversely affected. The explanation for this is that 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 (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact) , 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 an agonist (e.g. Lupron/Superfact/Buserelin) 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 believe it to be essential regardless of the protocol of COS protocol being contemplated, for women who launching ovarian stimulation coming off a BCP to overlap with an agonist for several days in advance of initiating ovarian stimulation with the onset of menstruation,

2 Comments

Laura S

I’m 35 with good AMH and good responder: My RE says he “hates using the bcp,” so I’m supposed to start another IVF cycle in 2 weeks. I don’t understand his philosophy on no bcp. At least I’m thinking that I need several days of something like Lupron to reset things prior to stimming. The plan for this cycle is Follistim 225 + Menoput 75, then Cetrotide until trigger with HCG. My last IVF cycle was a total bust because I became overstimulated on Follistim 300 + Menopur 150 and then was triggered with Lupron (my estrogen got up to 7500) which didn’t work. I then needed to be retriggered with Lupron + HCG x 2. They did get 15 eggs but the 5 blasts were small and abnormal. I did get a bad case of OHSS anyway. This last month was skipped due to 4 small follicular cysts that I’m presuming were from the OHSS. Do you think I need some sort of reset to LH and does the rest of this plan sound logical? This process is so costly and we are having to pay out of pocket. I don’t want another month of nothing.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I understand and I empathize with you! Please process the following information.

Severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a life-endangering complication that occurs in some women undergoing controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). OHSS is often accompanied by a profound reduction in egg “competency” and on fertilization often yield an inordinately high percentage of “incompetent” embryos which have a reduced potential to propagate viable pregnancies.
Concern that a patient will develop of OHSS often leads the treating RE to take measures aimed at reducing the risk of this life-endangering condition. One such measures is to “trigger” egg maturation prematurely in the hope of arresting further follicular growth and the other, is to initiate the “trigger” with a reduced dosage of hCG (i.ed. 5,000U rather than the usual 10,000U of of Pregnyl/Profasi/Novarel, to use or 250mcg rather than 500mcg of Ovidrel or to supplant the hCG “trigger” with a Lupron “trigger” which causes a prompt LH surge from the woman’s pituitary gland to take place. While such measures do indeed reduce the risk of OHSS to the mother, this often comes at the expense of egg quantity and “competency”. Fewer than the anticipated number of eggs are harvested and those that are retrieved are far more likely to be “immature” and chromosomally abnormal (aneuploid”), or “immature” , thereby significantly compromising IVF outcome.
Against this background, It is my considered opinion that when it comes to performing IVF in women at risk of developing OHSS, the most important consideration must be the selection and proper implementation of an individualized or customized ovarian stimulation protocol. Thereupon, rather than prematurely initiating the “trigger” to arrest further follicle growth, administering a reduced dosage of hCG or “triggering with a GnRH agonist (e.g. Lupron/Buserelin) that can compromise egg “competency”….. use of one of the following techniques will often markedly reduce the risk of OHSS while at the same time protecting egg quality:
1. PROLONGED COASTING (PC): OHSS can be a life-endangering complication of ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins. The risk of OHSS begins with the hCG “trigger”. The complication occurs in very high responders to gonadotropin stimulation. Women with PC0S, irregular cycles and AMH levels that are X3 the normal are at the greatest risk of developing OHSS. In such patients, ovarian stimulation commences with the same approach as above (using a BCP launch and an agonist (e.g Lupron/buserelin/Superfact/aminopeptidyl) overlap. Only in such patients a very low dosage regime of FSHr /menotropin isused . Then, starting on day 7 of ovarian stimulation, serial daily blood estradiol (E2) and ultrasound follicle assessments are done to track follicle development and [E2]. If there are > 25 follicles, gonadotropin stimulating continues, regardless of the [E2]. As soon as 50% of all follicles reach 14mm and the [E2] exceeds 2,500pg/ml gonadotropin stimulation id abruptly stopped, while daily agonist injections continue. Daily blood [E2 ] is tracked, (without necessarily continuing serial ultrasound follicle measurements). The [E2] will almost invariably continue to rise for a few days whereupon it will begin to, drop. As soon as the [E2] drops below 2,500pg/ml, a “trigger” shot of 10,000U hCGu or hCGr is administered and an egg retrieval is performed 36 hours later. At this point, All mature (MII) eggs are either cryobanked (vitrified) or (as is far more commonly the case), are fertilized by intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) and are then cultured for 5-6 days to the blastocyst stage whereupon they are either biopsied for preimplantation genetic screening and then cryopreserved (vitrified) for future use vitrified without prior biopsy for PGS or e transferred fresh, to the uterus during the same cycle of treatment. The outcome of PC depends on the precise timing of the initiation and conclusion of “prolonged coasting”. If you start PC too early, follicle growth will arrest, and the cycle will be lost. Conversely, if you start too late, you will encounter too many post-mature/cystic follicles (>22mm) that usually harbor abnormally developed eggs. Use of “Coasting” avoids severe OHSS, and minimizes the risk of poor egg/embryo quality in a group of women who otherwise would be at severe risk of life-endangering complications and prone to producing a high percentage of “incompetent” eggs/embryos.
2. EMBRYO FREEZING AND DEFERMENT OF EMBRYO TRANSFEDR (ET): OHSS is always a self-limiting condition. In the absence of continued exposure to hCG, symptoms and signs as well as the risk of severe complications will ultimately abate. Thus, in the absence of pregnancy, all symptoms, signs and risks associated with OHSS will disappear within about 10-14 days of the hCG trigger. Conversely, since early pregnancy is always accompanied by a rapid and progressive rise in hCG , the severity of OHSS will increase until about the 9th or tenth gestational week whereupon a transition from ovarian to placental hormonal dominance occurs, the severity of OHSS rapidly diminishes and the patient will be out of risk. Accordingly, in cases where in spite of best effort to prevent OHSS, the woman develops symptoms and signs of progressive overstimulation prior to planned ET, all the blastocysts should be vitrified and cryostored for FET in a subsequent hormone replacement cycle. In this way women with OHSS can be spared the risk of the condition spiraling out of control.
I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com . Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
· The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
· Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
· IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
· The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
· Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
· Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
· Egg Maturation in IVF: How Egg “Immaturity”, “Post-maturity” and “Dysmaturity” Influence IVF Outcome:
· Commonly Asked Question in IVF: “Why Did so Few of my Eggs Fertilize and, so Many Fail to Reach Blastocyst?”
· Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
· The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
· Taking A Fresh Look at Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), its Presentation, Prevention and Management
· Preventing Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) with “Prolonged Coasting”
· Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and the Need to Customize Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
· “Triggering” Egg Maturation in IVF: Comparing urine-derived hCG, Recombinant DNA-hCG and GnRH-agonist:
· The “Lupron Trigger” to Prevent Severe OHSS: What are the Pro’s and Con’s?
• .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.
• Implications of “Empty Follicle Syndrome and “Premature Luteinization”
• Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
• Preventing Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) with “Prolonged Coasting”

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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.

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

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