Women struggling with infertility now have an easier and less painful alternative to IVF. It is called in-vitro maturation (IVM)--and it does not involve taking daily hormone injections which most women dread.
Although in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is still considered the gold standard for infertility, IVM has the potential to improve the chances for women to have babies without a long course of hormones.
What is IVM?
IVM is an experimental fertility treatment that collects and matures a woman’s eggs in a lab. Although the treatment is used in conjunction with IVF, the initial process isn’t the same.
With IVF, a woman must undergo between 8 to 11 nights of ovary-stimulating hormone injections before her eggs can be retrieved. With IVM, women undergo a shorter course— between 3 and 6 days— of hormones known as a “priming phase.”
Once the eggs are retrieved, they’re matured in a laboratory for approximately three days, fertilized and then implanted. They can also be frozen as eggs or embryos to be implanted later.
Clinics that specialize in IVM require a doctor who has expertise in retrieving small eggs and a lab with embryologists who have the skills to look for them, said Dr. Janelle Luk, medical director of Neway Fertility in New York City.
Who is IVM helpful for?
Women who are undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or plan to have surgery may be good candidates.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or who are at increased risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
IVM may also help women who have a contraindication to the increased levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, which elevates as the follicles develop and mature. These would include women with an estrogen-sensitive cancer or a history of blood clots.
IVM can also help women who are adverse to injections or who have failed IVF.
What are the limitations of IVM?
A study in the journal Facts, Views and Vision found that IVM achieved up to a 35 percent clinical pregnancy rate in young women, which is comparable to IVF.
Yet most studies have found that IVF is superior to IVM.
While IVM is cheaper initially because there are fewer hormones to take, it may be more costly if several rounds are required.
The first babies using in vitro maturation were born in 2007 and although IVM may eventually become more common, IVF still remains the standard of care and the most effective way for women to get pregnant.