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A new form of cheaper, more natural IVF that could beat infertility & make you a mum

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | 0 comments

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IVF mums Marina (L) and Siobhan After years of using more and more drugs to boost fertility, doctors have found a new way to help women have babies... by going back to basics

Every year, thousands of women suffer terrible physical side-effects and heartbreak as they go through gruelling IVF in their desperation to become mums.

But now, a revolutionary new form of IVF could make their dreams come true without the suffering and at a fraction of the cost.

The technique - Soft IVF - uses fewer drugs, significantly reducing the side-effects which the hormone injections in conventional treatment often cause.

It is also around half the price of the standard approach - about £2,000 compared to at least £4,000.

This month, at a fertility conference in London, doctors agreed Soft IVF was the future in fertility medicine.

They said the treatment - also known as Mild IVF - has good success rates and is safer for women because it interferes less with their body's natural chemistry.

Professor Bart Fauser, head of Reproductive Medicine in Utrecht, The Netherlands, has been recommending it over conventional IVF for the past three years.

"The evidence is that a mild approach significantly reduces the risks and side-effects," he says.

Dr Geeta Nargund, Head of Reproductive Medicine at St George's Hospital, London, and Medical Director of Create Health Clinic, is one of a handful of UK doctors offering. the new treatment.

She says: "It's safer for women to use no drugs or fewer drugs to achieve a pregnancy. It is safer for her own health, her eggs and any embryos that are created."
Any woman recommended for IVF can use it - from those with blocked fallopian tubes, to couples with unexplained infertility or those whose partners who have low-quality sperm.

Older women particularly benefit because their ovaries do not respond well to high drug stimulation.

So why is it different?

Conventional IVF relies on a woman injecting hormones for around four weeks, first to shut down her monthly cycle and next, to stimulate her ovaries to produce several eggs rather than the usual one.

These are later removed and mixed with sperm, in the hope that they will be fertilised. Once fertilised, the embryo is inserted into her womb, where it will hopefully attach to the lining and develop into a baby.

Soft IVF completely skips the first stage. Women begin by taking tiny quantities of hormones for up to a week to gently support egg production before following the rest of the steps in the same way.

How successful is it?

With one in six British couples suffering infertility, and a growing number opting for IVF each year, the new approach could mean good news for tens of thousands of couples.

Latest figures point to an average success rate of 27 per cent for IVF in the UK.

In a follow-up study published last year, scientists in The Netherlands found a 43 per cent success rate for women using Soft IVF.

It is also possible to opt for drug-free or natural IVF, a technique which is particularly good for older women and even cheaper (around £1,000).

However, success rates are around 10 per cent per cycle, so several attempts are often necessary.

The side-effects
Women who undergo soft and natural IVF report few or no side-effects.

Dr Nargund says: "The single most serious complication of IVF cycles is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be avoided by natural cycle and mild IVF."
Doctors have also discovered that using fewer drugs is safer for any developing babies. Scientists in Spain recently reported that stimulatory drugs affect the quality of the lining of the womb and even increases the chance of miscarriage.

Dr Nargund says: "If you can have a healthy baby and reduce the risk to your own health by using fewer drugs and spending less money then why would you want to spend more money to take more drugs?"


Standard IVF

A woman begins by injecting a course of artificial hormones, which can bring on menopause-like symptoms. Next, she begins daily hormone injections for between three and four weeks to stimulate egg production.

Ten-12 days later, when her eggs are mature, as many as 20-30 are removed in a surgical procedure and mixed with the sperm. If successfully fertilised, two embryos are returned to her womb in the hope that at least one will develop into a baby.

'Soft' and 'natural' IVF techniques
The soft option misses out the first stage and, on days 3-7 of her period, she takes very small quantities of hormones to support her own natural egg production. Typically, around two to seven eggs are produced. She then follows the same process as before. Natural IVF misses the first two stages and no stimulatory drugs are used.

New breakthrough

A new technique could bring hope to women facing infertility.

Scottish scientists have found a way of taking pieces of ovary containing immature eggs and maturing them in a lab.

Immature eggs survive the freezing process much better but more research needs to be done to confirm it they're completely normal and suitable for IVF. If successful, it would benefit women who want to wait until they're older to have children or those who have had cancer treatment.


"I didn't want to blast my body with drugs"

Dr Marina Murphy, 40, and her husband Rory had Radha, now nine months old, after using natural IVF.

Rory and I had been trying to start a family for three years with no luck. When I hit 38, I started to panic and went to see my GP. Tests confirmed I had premature ovarian failure. I was told that my ovaries may no longer be producing eggs.

It meant I didn't have time to waste. I went on the NHS waiting list but I knew I couldn't rely on that (That was two-and-a-half years ago and I'm still waiting for an appointment!).

I chose a private clinic called Create Health. The more I heard about natural and Soft IVF, the more I liked the sound of them.

As a chemist, I understand the need for drugs but I also believe it's better if you can avoid taking them. I didn't want to blast my body with huge doses of drugs. I like a more gentle approach.

I also liked being able to go on to do another cycle if the previous one failed, which you can't with conventional IVF.

It is more physically demanding so, if it doesn't work, you need a break. I preferred the idea of moving on to the next treatment as soon as possible.

Natural IVF turned out to be very straightforward. I had no side-effects and wasn't stressed by the process. We never assumed that IVF would work but it was amazing when it did - on our third attempt.

Now we have Radha, a beautiful boy who has transformed our lives.

"I immediately knew Soft IVF was for me"
Siobhan McLernon, 40, and her 43-year-old fiance Shaun opted for Soft IVF and were rewarded with daughter Cara-Mae.

Being told I had blocked fallopian tubes was a shock. It meant my eggs couldn't reach my womb, so it was impossible for me to get pregnant naturally. I was told we'd need IVF.

It took months to get a referral to an NHS fertility specialist and when I did, I was told it would be around two years before I could start treatment.

It was time we didn't have, so Shaun and I decided we had no choice but to pay.

The minute I heard about Soft IVF, I knew it was right for me. I did not want to pump myself full of hormones and we also couldn't afford the £8,000 some clinics charge - so Soft IVF felt like a lifeline.

The process was simple. After some blood tests to check my hormone levels, I began a seven-day course of injections and didn't experience any side-effects.

The hardest part was waiting two weeks to find out whether it had worked. In that time, I went through 100 emotions.

By the second week, I was convinced it hadn't worked. So when the pregnancy test said positive, I couldn't believe it! I was just the happiest person.

Every day, Cara-Mae brings us so much joy - I just can't imagine our life without her. She is such an amazing gift.

I would definitely recommend Soft IVF. If we had chosen a more expensive option we would have been under more pressure and it would have been more stressful.


Image: Murphy Lives Here, by Dr. Merryl J. Polak. Publisher: Merryl Polak (July 23, 2012)Murphy Lives Here
by Dr. Merryl J. Polak

-- Initially apprehensive about becoming a mother, Emma mapped out her life plans steered by fulfillment of a happy marriage and career.

She thought she might one day feel ready and willing to add the role of mother to her life's responsibilities, but she had not quite figured out when that would occur.

When Emma's biological clock smacked her upside the head and she suddenly craved motherhood over every other aspect of life, she was stunned to discover that she could not get pregnant.

After a year of ovulation test kits and timed baby making under her belt, it was inevitable that other avenues needed exploration.

After pursuing every option, including adoption, Emma learned that becoming a parent was not as simple a process as she had always envisioned.

Image: Buy Now on Amazon.comPaperback: 226 pages
Click to order/for more info: Murphy Lives Here

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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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