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IVF Without the Fertility Drugs

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Sunday, June 03, 2007 | 0 comments

When most people think of infertility treatment, especially in vitro fertilization, they often think of fertility medications and all that those can mean: injections, hormonal mood swings, increased chances of multiples, and greater expense.

It's true that IVF presents the best possible option toward successful pregnancy for many patients. Not all patients' bodies respond the same to fertility medication, however. For some, there's an alternative to IVF with medically- stimulated ovulation. It's called "seminatural" IVF.

Seminatural IVF cycles are nothing new, but recently published research from France shed more light on groups of women who may benefit from this form of fertility assistance. We spoke to Dr. Kristen Cain of Reproductive Specialists of New York about an option that may be news for a lot of wondering fertility patients.

What is a Seminatural IVF Cycle?

A seminatural IVF cycle (sometimes also called 'natural' cycles) is one in which the woman either uses no medication or only oral medication to prompt ovulation, then goes through egg retrieval, in vitro fertilization, and embryo transfer. This is different from a "traditional" IVF cycle in which the woman uses injectable hormones for the purpose of hyperstimulating her ovaries into ovulating more than usual, called controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH.)

In short, seminatural cycles have been used to meet the needs of women whose bodies do not respond well to certain fertility medications.

"The basic thought behind a seminatural cycle," explains Dr. Cain, "is that if a patient's body, even with the highest dosages of injectable medications, still only ovulates one egg, then why put her through all of the trouble? Why not try IVF without the medication?"

Cain and her colleagues have long used both unmedicated (natural) and less aggressive IVF cycles with oral fertility drugs such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole plus hCG injections to trigger release of the egg. Oral fertility medications, because they work differently from the injectable type, have the advantage of creating fewer egg follicles which in turn reduces a number of possible side effects from treatment. They are also considerably less expensive than injectable fertility drugs. The recent French study introduced the idea of a new semi-medicated protocol by including the use of a GnRH antagonist (to prevent the egg from ovulating too early) and hMG (to enhance the egg's continuing development.)

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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