For many women, in vitro fertilization procedures (IVF) are a saving grace, a way to promote conception when all other avenues are bleak. However, this does not mean that IVF is an easy or comfortable journey. The process of taking hormones, extracting eggs, and implanting embryos in hopes of a successful attachment can be emotional and stressful, especially with weeks spent on hormone treatments and challenging extraction procedures. With in vitro maturation, however, a better alternative may be available.
What Is IVM?
IVM, or in vitro maturation, is a new procedure available at Brown Fertility. Unlike traditional IVF, which requires two or more weeks of hormone therapy treatments every cycle, IVM take an innovative approach to egg maturation for the benefit of the patient.
The eggs within a woman’s body are stored in an immature state, meaning that a sperm cannot fertilize them until ovulation. Most medications used in IVF procedures are intended to facilitate the production of multiple mature eggs in one cycle. IVM, on the other hand, makes it possible to harvest eggs from a woman’s ovaries and mature them in a laboratory as opposed to within the body. This eliminates the need for high doses of stimulating hormones, allowing eggs to be retrieved at any time and fertilized using the normal IVF tools.
IVF vs. IVM
IVM is not a replacement for IVF, but it is a gentler approach to high tech reproduction. In fact, in eligible patients, IVM has a pregnancy rate comparable to IVF. Traditionally, physicians address medical problems with the least invasive treatments with the lowest risk of side effects first and then move on to more aggressive treatments if necessary. This is, in essence, the relationship between IVM and IVF. Patients at risk for dangerous side effects of IVF may wish to begin with IVM, a less invasive alternative.
While in vitro maturation is practiced in centers across Asia and Europe, it is only now coming into popularity in the United States. IVM is much easier on the patient, but it is harder on the physician and laboratory. Dr. Bruce Rose, an industry leader in IVM in the U.S., has performed more than 200 IVM cycles and published research numerous papers on the topic. He joined Brown Fertility to bring this new technique to Northern Florida.
Who Is a Candidate for IVM?
Numerous candidates can be a good fit for IVM, both for personal and medical reasons. Medically, the best candidates are those patients with a large number of small cysts or antral follicles in their ovaries. These patients are at the highest risk for the most severe common complication of IVF: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS.
OHSS aside, patients with a large number of resting follicles may experience bloating and abdominal cramping for weeks following IVF procedures as organs return to normal. As such, patients with PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, are the candidates most likely to benefit from IVM, but most young women will also have a large number of small follicles in their ovaries. Additionally, a select population of older women who do not have PCOS may also respond positively to IVM.
A transvaginal ultrasound can evaluate the ovaries and determine candidacy.
Pros and Cons of IVM
While IVM should still be viewed as an experimental procedure, it does come with numerous benefits. IVM procedure costs are lower than IVF in that limited medications are used; the demands of IVF medication often constitute about 40% of the overall cost to undertake IVF. Except for process of egg harvesting, IVM is minimally disruptive to patients. It even works for patients who either struggle to ovulate or fail to ovulate with medications like clomid, Femara, or gonadotropins. IVM is minimally disruptive as well; IVM can be performed within days of important events, like weddings and graduations.
If you are considering in vitro maturation, Brown Fertility is here to make a difference. We now offer an effective, more natural alternative to conventional IVF, helping women to find success in bringing new life into the world. Please contact us at (904) 260-0352 or (407) 244-5515 to learn more.