8th August 2015
For many women struggling with infertility, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can be the answer to their problem. However, the IVF treatment that most people know about involves taking a number of oral medications and injections to stimulate the ovaries into releasing eggs; this can be a gruelling process, but for some women it is not the only option.
In cases where it is known that the ovaries have slowed down, what happens? What is the point of stimulating those ovaries?
The truth is, there is no added advantage or guarantee that traditional IVF, with all its medications, will be effective in such cases. If a woman continues to have regular periods and is producing eggs, natural cycle IVF may be the way to go.
Natural cycle IVF relies on a woman’s natural menstrual cycle, all without fertility medications, from which to harvest a single egg for fertilisation. In contrast with traditional IVF, the ovary-stimulating medications typically cause ovaries to release several eggs; however, once the egg or eggs are retrieved, the rest of the process is the same – the egg is taken to the laboratory for fertilisation and subsequent embryo transfer.
Women who do not respond well to traditional IVF medications or cannot tolerate those medications are good candidates for natural cycle IVF. It’s a good option for women that want to take a more natural approach to the IVF process. It is also less costly and requires fewer uncomfortable procedures. However, women with irregular periods or have erratic hormone levels may not be good candidates for natural cycle IVF.
Natural cycle IVF is typically used in women with limited egg reserves. It allows the retrieval of the one egg without unnecessary exposure to medication and attempted stimulation of the ovaries, which won’t typically respond in such cases. However, because it also relies on natural selection, with the body choosing the particular egg, the egg quality is typically much better than in traditional IVF.
It is important to remember that because natural cycle IVF relies solely on the body for egg retrieval, the cycle cancellation rate is quite high – around 25-30%. This means during some months, an egg may not be released or retrieved and therefore will not reach the embryo transfer stage. However, for the 70-75% that do not experience a cycle cancellation, the embryo quality with natural cycle IVF is typically excellent, which increases the success of the embryo transfer stage and lowers the risk of miscarriage.