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Money-Back Fertility Treatment Payment Plans

Money-Back Payment Plans

Money-back fertility treatment payment plans or shared risk plans are payment plans that offer unsuccessful patients a portion of their money back. They usually include two or three fresh IVF cycles followed by the transfer of resulting frozen embryos. Money – back fertility plans commonly include fertility financing programs, fertility medication program and some re-arrange or restrict benefits through employer (sponsor) or insurance plan. All together called the bundle.

Who Qualifies for Money-Back Fertility Treatment Payment Plans?

IVF programs that offer money back plans usually require certain age limits and normal to excellent ovarian reserve markers. Older women and those with low egg reserve usually do not qualify for such plans. Programs also place contingencies on ovarian reserve and transferring more embryos. Hence they exclude women interested in a single embryo transfer.

Some of the money – back fertility enterprise do not operate clinical IVF programs. They offer the financial scheme for payment and in some instances fertility drugs. They refer patients to clinics but do not conduct the treatment. The specifics of the couple may not coincide with the contingencies for money – back arrangement. The result is either you are alert to dismiss the plan or follow the plan and take your chances with the success rate. This is the most disturbing aspect of money-back fertility plans.

The delivery rates after fresh IVF in women commonly included in money back plans is close to 40% with single embryo transfer, 50% with two embryo transfer. Use of frozen embryos add approximately 30% chance for delivery after transfer of frozen embryos from the first fresh IVF cycle. In other words they are the least likely to require multiple cycles in the IVF population. Moreover, they are the most likely to get pregnant with multiple babies. The cost for money back fertility treatment plan is maybe higher than a single fresh IVF cycle and a transfer of frozen embryos. Interest is associated with monthly payment plans. Medicine and multiple treatment cycles are also sometimes bundled. In addition cost can escalate due to obstetric care for multiple pregnancy.

At New York City IVF we educate women and recommend single embryo transfer up to age 38.

One opinion about money back fertility treatment plans is New York State Department of Health Task Force Report: Executive Summary on ART

Payment plans that offer unsuccessful patients a portion of their money back create significant ethical concerns.

Physicians whose payment depends on the success of treatment have an incentive to accept only those patients with a strong chance of success (perhaps patients who do not qualify as infertile under generally accepted standards) and to turn away needy patients whose outcome may be less certain. In addition, when payment is linked to outcome, physicians may encourage patients to accept aggressive treatments that increase the chance of success without due regard for the risk those treatments may entail.

Nonetheless, while the Task Force members are deeply troubled by the risks created by money-back payment plans, they do not believe that these plans are inherently unethical in all cases. Programs that offer money-back payment plans should clearly inform patients of all essential terms of the plan. No plan should require patients to provide a blanket consent to all treatments and procedures recommended by their physician.

Patients enrolled in money-back payment plans should receive a prorated refund if they withdraw from treatment before they have completed all of the cycles covered under the plan. The most appropriate definition of “success” in the context of money-back payment plans is a live birth. The condition of the child should never be a factor in the definition of success

IVF programs can address this ethical question using different arrangement. Reducing fees for the second cycle as opposed to selling multiple cycles together would be one suggestion.

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IVF:The Way We Do It

IVF:The Way We Do It

IVF : The Way We Do It

Efficient approach

IVF:The Way We Do It. We believe you should consistently be able to get an advice / recommendation for a fertility treatment, handcrafted to your special reproductive potential and egg reserve. Your ovarian stimulation protocol will most certainly not be suited for the next woman. We think carefully and for quite sometime about the best adjuvant and stimulation medication protocol, after obtaining adequate information about you and your partner. Moreover, attention to details during stimulation avoids pitfalls and optimize the quality of oocytes through selecting the most appropriate size to trigger final egg maturation. We then present the regimen to you in a simplified and chronological presentation that is easy to follow.

We believe that you should be able to understand all the intricate details of treatment and train on medications within one to two visits (supplemented with phone calls and e mails). You and your  reproductive endocrinologist  can reach a treatment decision and even train you on execution parts of that decision in the second visit even if you did not do any fertility tests before. This is how we efficiently do it.

IVF : The Way We Do It

I. Initial visit ultrasound, labs and prior records

Basic information about you and your partner are collected through detailed history, exam and vaginal ultrasound.The main aim is to identify any specific fertility factor as well as estimate ovarian reserve. In addition we order fertility labs and preconception tests. We then discuss in details treatment options, including expected pregnancy rates, multiple pregnancy rates and potential complications.

We obtain and interpret lab results in few days and are discuss them with you especially genetic risk assessment, in person, via secure e mail or phone.

Reproductive endocrinologists should want to care for their patients to help them acheive a healthy baby, not just go through the motions and dynamics of treatment, that has minimal or no chance of working. This is an absolute guiding and ethical principal. Its related to the biological possibilities detected on initial fertility testing and its also related to their physician skills and expertise. At the end of the day infertility specialists need to be clearly convinced that a particular woman has a reasonable chance of get pregnant before initiating a proposed fertility treatment. Fertility specialists then should take that woman to her maximum potential.

II. Second Visit: Saline sonography, trial transfer, medication teach, stimulation protocol.

Checking the cavity of the uterus is essential to exclude factors that prevent implantation. Passing a catheter into the uterus helps anticipating difficulty in embryo transfer. Both are simple office procedures.

Ovarian stimulation Protocol Selection: we think deeply when assigning stimulation protocols in relation to dose and type of protocol (agonist or antagonist) and adjuvant use of medications before and during stimulation. Reviewing prior stimulation can help in improving the current protocol in terms of egg yield and quality. The physician that saw you first will conduct all day to day monitoring as well as all procedures. Attention to details during monitoring is paramount in determining the dose and length of stimulation and time for egg retrieval.

Additional procedures that we perform during an IVF cycle include sex selection, PGD, number of embryos for transfer, egg and embryo freezing  are all available to you. I explain those in details.

Medication teach: a hands on exercise on using the medicine. Now You are ready to start.

III. IVF: monitoring, retrieval, embryology lab procedures.

We always strive to deliver compassionate day to day Guidance, tailored around you comfort and convenience. We want you to waste minimal time waiting because you have the rest of your life and work to attend to.

Cycle conduct: we meticulously interpret the response to stimulation through ultrasound and blood work, with each visit and modify the dose of medications to improve response in the ovaries and minimize complications. The same physician  perform monitoring and daily instructions as well as all other procedures. He or she knows your story and you never have to repeat yourself to a new person each time.

Embryology procedures: egg retrieval and embryo transfer done by the same reproductive endocrinologist. Excellent embryologists attend to your reproductive tissue.

Embryo selection for transfer: aiming at transfer of the smallest number of embryos that do the job. Up to age 39 we champion single embryo transfer to minimize twin pregnancy. Sometimes, when appropriate,  we employ PGS / PGD to select the best embryo for transfer

IV. Pregnancy Follow up

10-12 days later you will get a blood pregnancy test, then early pregnancy ultrasounds. The aim is to confirm viability, position and health of the embryo. I then discuss nutrition in early pregnancy. I also explain different options in prenatal screening of chromosomal abnormalities in details. These include quad screen, nuchal translucency, Non Invasive Prenatal Test. Amniocentesis and CVS.

In addition, I describe options on multiple pregnancy and fetal reduction in details. We generally transfer a single blastocyst up to age 39 to the majority of women, minimizing the risk for twins.

The years of discomfort, time wasted, untoward effects and long waiting should all be behind us. You should be able to get pregnant in few weeks, safely without loosing any work time. Fertility treatment can be successful while attending to all other aspects of your life. We want to make sure that you are not dealt a false hope but if there a small hope will go fight for it together till we realize it together.

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Age Related Fertility Preservation: Should you Consider Multiple Egg Freezing Cycles?

Age Related Fertility Preservation: Should you Consider Multiple Egg Freezing Cycles?

Age Related fertility Preservation:

Should you Consider Multiple Egg Freezing Cycles?

All what we really know for sure about reproductive competence (ability of eggs and sperm to produce a baby) is thatembryos that has the correct number of chromosomes has a very high chance of implanting and produce healthy babies. In the majority of cases, the egg is the source of abnormal chromosome material: extra or missing chromosomes.

Female age is the most important fertility factor. As age advances, the number of eggs in the ovary decline and the proportion of abnormal eggs increase. This fact underline the need for modern women think about reproductive planning as early as possible, say age 25 to 30. When do you want to get pregnant for the first time?  Is it socially feasible to start now? Do you have enough support around you to have a baby now? how large of a family do you want? do you care about the sex of the baby?

In general the following are available options

Try to get pregnant on your own as early as possibly can

Consider Embryo freezing with partner for later use

Consider using donor sperm to create embryos for storage

Egg freezing is a viable option for fertility extension

Egg Freezing

The ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs. Eggs are retrieved using a simple procedure. Mature eggs are frozen using flash freezing (vitrification). The eggs are stored in a special device in liquid nitrogen, indefinitely. The main aim here is to freeze multiple mature eggs at a younger age that can be used at a later female age when eggs are fewer and less healthy.

The most critical part of counseling women here about ultimate chance of conception using egg freezing is accurate estimation of egg reserve via history, antral follicle count and AMH level.

In general women <38years that produce >8 eggs has a very good chance of conceiving and delivering at least one baby from an egg freezing cycle.

Egg-freezing-study

Women who are older or produce less eggs then would ask do I need more eggs?

Multiple Egg Freezing Cycles

Should you Consider Multiple Egg Freezing Cycles? If you do not produce enough eggs in the first round of egg freezing you can consider another egg freezing cycle. But you now have the advantage of knowing how did you respond the first round. You know a bit more about the quality and maturity of the eggs. You know if the stimulation protocol worked for you and you can discuss with your reproductive endocrinologist methods of improving response. If increasing the number of frozen mature eggs is possible with another cycle of egg freezing, then another cycle should be considered.

On the other hand if the prior response is low, egg quality is low and age is 40 or more, women should consider conceiving as soon as possible.

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Fertility Apps Do not Help You Get pregnant

Fertility Apps Do not Help You Get pregnant

Fertility Apps Do not Help You Get pregnant

Beyond Regular Intercourse

Many women use fertility apps to track their menstrual  cycle and time intercourse. Tracking cylces, using apps as method of regitring when the cycle started and ended is fine. The use of apps to time intercourse is not supported by any scientific evidence. We know for a long time that conception is likely to occur when exposure to sperm takes place in the six days that end in ovulation.

Why Fertility Apps are Unlikely to be Helpful

An analysis of large number of apps and websites indicates that only a minority will yield that fertile window and thus are unlikely to help women get pregnant.

Variation in the length of menstrual cycle 21 to 35 days will also means that ovulation day is very difficult to predict with methods readily available for women. Early ovulation  (day 6 or 7 of the cycle) as well as late ovulation (day 18 to 20) will be missed. Conception will be a possibility in these cases for women having regular intercourse.

Sperm survives for at least 3 days. The WHO in a large study indicates that intercourse 3 times a day yields highest pregnancy rate among normal couples. Conceptually if you have intercourse 3 times a day, after menses,  you have exposure to sperm all the time and there id no need to time ovulation. More accurate timing of ovulation using many self administered methods has so far to demonstrate increase in pregnancy rate. More recently survey of more technology mediated methods also failed to show an increase in pregnancy rate beyond regular intercourse.

Effectiveness of Fertility Apps

Beware of many writings about fertility apps, what do they do and what do they do not do…They miss the most important piece of information. Do they enable you to get pregnant at higher odds that those not using the app? And of course they cannot accurately answer that question as they did not not do the research that prove an improvement in pregnancy rate. Many articles about fertility apps start with the narrative assumption that they are effective without offering a reference or proof.

One recent scientific survey of over 50 apps indicated that most of them even miss the fertile period. Insisting on intercourse at a specific day is not helpful also can impair performance in men.

How Long Have you Been Trying to Conceive (TTC)

Its exactly how long have you been having intercourse not protected by a birth control (pills, condom), irrespective of use of apps or any other method of timing ovulation. Not accounting for this period, artificially shorten the duration of infertility and delay seeking medical care.

Its great to use technology when it helps, it gives women a sense of empowerment. But when technology is not proven to be helpful then simple proven solutions should be used.

Possible Harm Caused by Using Apps

When you use fertility apps alone to conceive you are in effect

1. Depriving yourself of other fertility tests. You will not know if your partner sperm is normal or if your Fallopian tubes are open. Your egg reserve is also not evaluated. All these factors are important for decision making about fertility and how long you should continue to try using the app. For example, if your tubes are blocked or your husband sperm is low intercourse close to your ovulation will not be helpeful leading to more time wasted and no improvement in chance of conception.

2. Preconception testing and counseling performed at initial fertility evaluation is skipped. That means the risk of common genetic and other diseases are not tested for e.g cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, spinal muscular atrophy, Ashkenazi Jewish Profile and others. These increase the risk of transmission of genetic diseases to the baby. Other infectious diseases are not tested for too e,g hepatitis, immunity to Rubella and chicken pox.

3. Serious security and privacy flaws has been cited for some fertility apps. Fertility apps ask users for intimate details including weight, sex life, pregnancy, miscarriage.. A recent consumer report indicated that someone with no hacking skills can access all these data. Data are also shared without permission with other apps

Do not use apps and have regular intercourse 3 times a week. Fertility Apps Do not Help You Get pregnant beyond Regular Intercourse and Delay a Complete Fertility Testing.

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Thyroid Cancer and Future Fertility

Thyroid Cancer and Future Fertility

Radioactive iodine treatment and fertility

Thyroid Cancer and future fertility

Thyroid cancer is diagnosed in 45,000 individuals each year in the US.  Its treatment may affect future fertility in men and women. It is more common in women with female to male ratio of 3 to 1. It is the most rapidly rising cancer in women living in the US. Thyroid cancers are commonly diagnosed in young women in their reproductive years. Treatment of thyroid cancer generally yields excellent results, with the majority of women surviving 10 years or more after diagnosis. Some women develop thyroid cancer due to iodine deficiency in diet or prior neck radiation. Some types of thyroid cancers are related to inheriting an abnormal gene.

Several types of thyroid cancer are recognized 1. Papillary cancer 2. Follicular cancer 3. Medullary cancer 4. Anaplastic cancer 5. Thyroid lymphoma. Papillary and follicular cancers are less invasive tumors and are encountered in the majority of women diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They also respond to estrogen as they carry estrogen receptors. Estrogen may promote growth of thyroid cancer cells. Thyroid cancers are usually suspected on neck examination followed by ultrasound or Iodine scan then biopsy. In general, treatment of thyroid cancer require total thyroidectomy-surgical removal of the thyroid gland followed by radioactive iodine to ablate any thyroid remnants. This is followed by long term thyroid hormone replacement. Long term follow up is required after treatment.

Effect of thyroid cancer treatment on the ovary

Thyroidectomy followed by thyroid hormone replacement is not known to affect future fertility in men and women. Radioactive iodine can affect the number and quality of eggs remaining in the ovary. The effect is dependent on the dose of radioactive iodine and the age at treatment. Twenty to 30% of women experience transient amenorrhea or irregular menses starting about 3 months after treatment. Normal menses resume about 6 months later. Permanent ovarian failure is rare but may occur in women at age 40 or older at the time of treatment. Increased incidence of miscarriage is reported in the first year after treatment. With the exception of miscarriages, there is no evidence that exposure to radioiodine affects the outcome of subsequent pregnancies and health of borne children.

Effects of radioactive iodine treatment on the testes

Effect of radioactive iodine treatment may be more severe in men. and is related to the total dose of radioactive iodine received. Transient reduction in testosterone and sperm count may occur but sometimes permanent reduction in sperm count and testosterone levels. Men who received large total dose sometimes sustain permanent damage to the testes with absence of ejaculated sperm-azospermia. There is no evidence of effects of radioactive iodine on their newborn children, although its advised that men avoid fathering children for 6 months after treatment.

Options for fertility preservation

Men interested in future fertility should consider sperm freezing prior to radioiodine treatment. Women should also consider fertility preservation if they will be treated with radioactive iodine and are older than 35 years. Radioiodine treatment will reduce their ovarian reserve. In addition they will be required to avoid pregnancy for a year or so. Options available for preservation of fertility in women include ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval followed by egg or embryo freezing. Ovarian stimulation can be modified to avoid estrogen exposure during stimulation.  Moreover, in familial thyroid cancers, embryos can be genetically tested to avoid transmission of the abnormal gene to children. Men and women diagnosed with thyroid cancer can benefit from consultation with a fertility preservation specialist prior to treatment to discuss effects on gonads and methods to preserve future fertility. Read more at http://nycivf.org

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Hepatitis B: what do you need to know if trying to conceive

Hepatitis B: what do you need to know if trying to conceive

Hepatitis B: what do you need to know if trying to conceive

Hepatitis B is relatively common in the US and worldwide. There are approximately one million individuals living in the US with chronic hepatitis B. According to the CDC, the highest rate of infection occurs among those 20 to 49 years old. Approximately 5% to 10% of adults and children older than age 5 with hepatitis B infection go on to develop chronic infection. Globally, 350 million individuals live with chronic hepatitis B infection, according to WHO and other sources. One third of those infected reside in China (乙型肝炎). It is more common in Asia, Saharan Africa and some areas in South America. Migration and medical tourism may increase the magnitude of hepatitis B problem in the US. In Asian countries the prevalence is slightly higher in men and is about 10% of adult population. Universal vaccination of all infants at birth and vaccination of at risk individuals e.g type I and II diabetes, sex partners of hepatitis B infected individuals, men who have sex with men, travelers to high risk areas, can prevent transmission of hepatitis B.

Reproductive endocrinologists and fertility specialists are responsible for detection of hepatitis B in partners and prevent the transmission of hepatitis to non infected partner and newborn. Women and men are tested for hepatitis B at the time of initial fertility consultation. Abnormal results are interpreted and measures are taken to avoid transmission to others, during natural conception and with the use of assisted reproduction (IVF).

Hepatitis B Discordant Couples Discovered Prior to Fertility Treatment

One of the major means of transmission of hepatitis B is sexual intercourse. At initial consultation if one partner is hepatitis B Surface antigen positive (HBsAg) indicating chronic infection, vaccination of the other partner will most likely prevent the transmission of hepatitis B during attempts of natural conception and fertility treatment. The vaccine is administered three times at 0, one month and 6 months. High levels of Hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) indicates immunity.

During fertility treatment, when the male partner is infected and female partner is not, modification of sperm washing techniques minimize the risk of hepatitis B transmission. These include separation of sperm from seminal fluid and then testing of the sperm for hepatitis B before use IUI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The use of ICSI may reduce but not eliminate the transmission of hepatitis B virus (controversial).

Prevention of Hepatitis B transmission from Egg Donors

Egg donors are initially screened through careful history to exclude those exposed to risk factors, then a complete physical examination. They are also initially screened for viral infections including hepatitis B. Within one month of egg retrieval, donors are retested using conventional labs as well as DNA based testing for hepatitis B (and hepatitis C and HIV) to further minimize the risk of transmission.

Prevention of Hepatitis B transmission from Sperm Donors

Sperm donors undergo a careful questionnaire related to risk factor, followed by examination and laboratory screening. Sperm is obtained and frozen and quarantined. Donors are then retested using FDA approved laboratories to further minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases including hepatitis B.

Prevention of Hepatitis B transmission to Gestational Carriers

Male and female partners (intended parents) are tested in a manner similar to sperm and egg donors. If testing was not possible, the carrier is carefully counseled that FDA mandated testing is not followed. In case of a hepatitis B carrier partner, the carrier is vaccinated prior to transfer of embryos.

Low Temperature Storage of Cells & Tissue from a Hepatitis B infected individual

There were few reported cases of transmission of hapatitis B from frozen tissue. Those cases did not involve sperm, eggs or embryos. As a precaution, reproductive cells from infected individuals are frozen in separate tanks than those not infected. More recently, the use of closed systems that do not allow cells to touch liquid nitrogen in the tank, the use of nitrogen vapor instead of liquid and the sterilization of nitrogen using ultraviolet rays can further minimize the risk of transmission.

Hepatitis B Discovered During Pregnancy

A hepatitis B infected mother have a small risk of transmission of the virus to the fetus during pregnancy. The risk of transmission, however, is significant at the time of delivery.Sometimes medical treatment of mothers is indicated with anti-viral medications to minimize this risk after consultation with a maternal and fetal medicine specialist.

All newborn to a hepatitis B infected mother should receive at birth

i. Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) to neutralize a virus acquired from the mother and ii. Hepatitis B Vaccine to produce long term immunity.

Careful screening of intimate partners, egg and sperm donors can markedly reduce the chance of hepatitis B transmission during natural conception and IVF.

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Fertility Treatment for Busy Professionals

Fertility Treatment for Busy Professionals

From TTC to a Viable Pregnancy

If you and your partner has been trying to conceive (TTC) and your busy with work commitments, here are few tips that help you save time and shorten the time to conceive. Understanding few basic fertility concepts are helpful. What is fertility? It is the ability to conceive with regular unprotected intercourse. If you are having adequate frequency of intercourse, then you have been trying, irrespective of timing of intercourse. If this goes on for one year, if less than 35 or 6 months if 35 or more, then you are having difficulty getting pregnant.Female age is the most important fertility factor

Percent of currently married, childless women 15-44 years of age who have impaired fecundity by current age (from CDC: The National Survey for Family Growth):

 

2002 2006-2010
   Total 15-44 years    25.3%   21.2%
   15-29 years    17.3%   11.0%
   30-34 years    24.5%   14.2%
   35-39 years    33.9%   39.3%
   40-44 years    42.8%   47.1%

The longer you try, without conceiving, the stronger the indication that you have a significant problem with fertility.

The factors that need to be tested at initial workup include:

i. Ovulation and ovarian reserve

ii. Fallopian tubes: open or not

iii. Male factor: sperm analysis and

iv. General factors related to safety: infectious diseases and genetic carrier screening.

But how do you get all that done, understand the results, decide with your reproductive endocrinologist on a fertility treatment plan and execute the plan promptly, while you hassle your daily work and life engagements? A coordinated effort between you, your fertility specialist and other personnel enables you to promptly understand your fertility potential. A flexible reproductive endocrinologist can grant you an appointment at a time that does not disturb your work schedule. At your initial visit, ultrasound is performed for evaluation of ovarian reserve and any abnormalities in the uterus. In the same day, blood is drawn from you and your partner and can be sent for testing. Also a sperm sample can be submitted in the same day or few days later for sperm analysis. Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) can be performed by your physician or a radiologist within 1-2 weeks. Then, Can you communicate electronically with your physicians? This enable efficient discussion of lab results and subsequent steps.

How Fast Can You Decide on a Fertility Treatment Plan? It depends on many factors related to the complexity of fertility issues uncovered during the workup, need for surgery e.g to remove fibroids, polyps or dilated fallopian tubes, proposed fertility treatment, need for genetic testing of embryos (PGD) and need for third party reproduction (donor eggs, donor sperm, gestational carrier). If complex treatment is required usually a second visit is helpful for evaluation of the uterine cavity, trial transfer, training on fertility medication self administration. Handling of insurance and dispensing fertility pharmacies also help reduce the burden on women busy with work engagements.

Many women are advised to continue to try to conceive naturally (3 to 6 months). For those requiring fertility treatment usually a fertility treatment plan can be executed in 10 to 20 days and within 5 to 8 visits. Again the flexibility of the practice in scheduling and communication allow you to execute  around your daily work and family commitment.

The flexibility of the fertility clinic, efficient planning of visits and use of secure electronic communication methods enables women to go through fertility treatment with minimal inconvenience and work interruption.

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Embryo Selection after IVF

Embryo Selection after IVF

Embryo Selection after IVF

Many of human embryos produced after in vitro fertilization carry abnormal chromosomes. Placing a chromosomally normal embryo (s) into a normal uterus has a very high chance of achieving a pregnancy. Your eggs have been retrieved and the mature eggs were fertilized. Now You and your reproductive endocrinologist are faced with the critical task of how many and which embryo to transfer to the uterus or which ones to freeze.

Why do we Need Embryo Selection?

Selection of the most appropriate embryo(s) for transfer aim at i. Maximizing the chance for pregnancy and ii. Minimizing the risk of twins and other multiple pregnancies. Casual inspection of the embryo does not yield accurate information about its chromosome makeup. One can follow an indiscriminate approach where all embryos are transferred. The problem is this approach yields high unacceptable multiple pregnancy rates. On the other hand one can transfer one embryo at a time. This is a much safer approach in terms of markedly minimizing twin rates but may lower the chance for getting pregnant. In addition it also require a robust freezing program so that frozen embryos can survive thawing. Right now in The US the survival of frozen embryos exceed 95% and the chance for pregnancy with a thawed embryo is approximately equal to a fresh embryo.

Measure of Success: time to conceive or cumulative chance for pregnancy?

One major issue related to fertility treatment especially IVF is how to measure success? specifically consider this question: if you have three embryos and decided to transfer them one at a time and got pregnant after the third transfer with a singleton, how does that compare to transferring all embryos in the fresh cycle and getting pregnant in twins? before answering it is important to know that twin gestation is associated with higher risk for pre-term delivery, ICU admissions and long term consequences for the babies.

In other words should you consider success as pregnancy taking place after one retrieval (cumulative chance from fresh and frozen embryos) or pregnancy taking place in the fresh cycle only (fresh embryos)? In other words would you like to shorten the time to conceive at the expense of higher risk for multiple pregnancy? Within reason, this is a question for you and your reproductive endocrinologist to answer based on your preferences and his practice

You have a Voice: How should you use your embryos after IVF?

You need to have a voice in the number of embryos transferred to your uterus. Although your fertility specialist can discuss numbers and chances and other technical details as well as long term risks for multiple pregnancy, there are questions that cannot be answered by anyone but you.

  • How do you feel about twins? triplets and quads?
  • Would you accept fetal reduction (removal of one or more sacs from the uterus and leaving only one or two)?
  • Do you have the social support system to take care of twins?

For these and many other reasons your input in the number of embryos to transfer is paramount.

Methods of Embryo Selection after IVF

Embryo Morphology and Female Age

Age is, by far, the strongest predictor of the health of the embryos. Younger women produce more chromosomally normal embryos than older women. An embryo from a woman at age 30 commonly implants 40% of the time as opposed to 5% or less in a woman age 40. For any given cohort, embryos are graded based on specific morphological criteria from the best looking to the worst. These criteria are technical and followed by all embryologists. Embryos are prioritized for transfer based on their shape. Morphology, however is may be 50 to 60% predictive of pregnancy, far from ideal. The combined use of morphology of embryos, stage of development (day 3 or blastocyst) and age is the standard selection method for which embryo is transferred first and how many. This method has the advantage of being sheep, quick and non-invasive. All other methods must prove superior to morphology + age before adoption.

Extended Culture to Blastocyst Stage (Day 5 Embryo)

Keeping day 3 embryos in culture may give these embryos may time to develop to blastocysts. Presumably, the better embryos progress to blastocysts or do so faster than less healthy embryos, thus they are preferentially selected for transfer.

Time Lapse Imaging of Embryos

time lapse embryo imaging-normal embryo division

time lapse embryo imaging-normal embryo division

Embryos are placed in a specific incubator in a specific plate and is observed at predetermined time

time lapse embryo imaging-abnormal embryo division

time lapse embryo imaging-abnormal embryo division

points using time lapse microscopy / photography. Photos are analyzed manually or through a computer and embryos are graded based on timely division of blastmeres (component cells). There is no evidence so far that pregnancy rate is improved above using morphology. There is extra cost associated with the use of the special plate and is also limited by the number of special incubators available.

PGS (Embryo Chromosome testing)

New forms of PGS (performing biopsy at the blastocyst stage) and more accurate platforms for analyzing the biopsied cells are available. However, the concept that better selection will lead to improved IVF results is far from certain.

It success of an IVF cycle is measured after transfer of fresh then frozen embryos till pregnancy ensues (cumulative success) ad patients are will to be patient for 1-2 more months, then any form of embryo selection, PGS or otherwise, will not improve the live birth rates. Moreover, PGS can be harmeful as it may misdiagnose the health of the embryos (see this article on PGS for details). PGS increases the expense of treatment $4000 to 6000

Embryo selection is maybe be able to improve the time to pregnancy, if embryos with the highest implantation potential are transferred first.

Based on the available evidence, judicious selection of embryos based on patient age, morphology and the use of extended culture to blastocysts are the standard of care in embryo selection after IVF. Two additional factors to consider is how robust is the freezing program of that specific lab (generally excellent all over the US) and the acceptability of fetal reduction by the couple. Liberal use of single embryo transfer when appropriate should be strongly considered. ‘New’ ideas should be subjected to rigorous scientific evaluations ‘fertility clinical trials’ before they are ready for routine use. Thus far, based on published evidence, embryo time lapse imaging and PGS should remain investigational.

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Should you Consider Fertility Assessment when you do not Intend to Get Pregnant Soon?

Should you Consider Fertility Assessment when you do not Intend to Get Pregnant Soon?

If you do not intend to become pregnant in the near future, do you need to assess your fertility? It is very possible that many women and men will be screened for relatively a small number of individuals that will show abnormalities. From the individual point of view, however, there are two distinct potential benefits:

Detection of abnormalities related to fertility and reproduction:

consider fertility screening if you intend to delay pregnancy or knon fertility issue

Screening for fertility problems

Ovary: Diminished ovarian reserve and anovulation

Fallopian Tubes: tubal block

Male factor: abnormal sperm analysis

Other factors: abnormalities of the uterus or cervix

Detection of abnormalities related to the safety of getting pregnant:

Screening for genetic abnormalities: carrier screening

Screening for other medical disorders and infectious diseases

The decision to consult with a reproductive endocrinologist to assess your fertility is individual. One would be more interested in fertility consultation in the presence of

1.  Known Fertility Issue: PCOS, absence of menses, endometriosis, fibroids, PID, abdominal surgery, prior chemotherapy for cancer or lupus

2. Risk factor for low fertility: 35 years or older and intend to delay pregnancy

3. Genetic or medical risk factor: genetic screening especially in certain ethnic groups e.g Ashkenazi Jewish individuals

Informed about your fertility potential you may elect to either do nothing or respond to the abnormal results. If diagnosed with lower ovarian reserve you may elect to attempt pregnancy sooner or freeze your eggs. If a genetic abnormality is found in both partners you may consider testing of embryos to avoid transmission to the babies. If an abnormal sperm parameters were found, a referral to a urologist and / or sperm freezing could be considered.

There are no clear cut recommendation for fertility screening in men and women not intending pregnancy in the near future. Women intending to delay getting pregnant or with a known fertility issue and certain ethnic groups should consider screening for fertility and genetic problems.

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Fertility Treatments You Should Avoid

Fertility Treatments You Should Avoid

Which Fertility Treatments You Should Avoid?

Infertility is defined as inability to conceive after one year (6 months in women >35 years) of regular unprotected intercourse (no contraception) and in the absence of any known cause for infertility. Earlier referral is recommended in

  1. older women 35 years or more,
  2. unable to have intercourse (e.g erectile dysfunction..),
  3. genetic (e.g cystic fibrosis carrier), medical or pregnancy related risk factor (e.g systemic lupus, hepatitis C, HIV, hepatitis B… ),
  4. if a fertility factor is suspected (no ovulation,PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, male factor, endometriosis, tubal disease..) or
  5. if fertility preservation is desired following cancer diagnosis.

Evidence is accumulating of the most effective fertility treatments after fertility assessment. Many fertility treatments are offered indiscriminately, they have little chance of succeeding or are risky (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, multiple pregnancy). In general simple logic does not determine if a treatment is effective or not. It is only through well conducted studies we can prove the efficacy of such a treatment. Moreover, considering the final outcome- a live healthy newborn- should be the one to look for in such a study.

The following is not a medical advice, but a review of recent evidence related to fertility treatment options. You should discuss treatment with your fertility specialist. It is possible that sometimes these treatments are indicated for fertility treatment in special circumstances. Fertility treatments you should avoid may include:

You should not time your ovulation

If you have access to intercourse with a male partner every other day, timing ovulation using any method, does not increase your chance for natural conception. If you have intercourse twice or more a week you have excellent chance of conceiving within one year. Studies evaluating timed intercourse using basal body temperature charts, urine LH kits, cervical mucus, failed to show improvement in pregnancy rate beyond intercourse every other day. No evidence that fertility apps improve the chance for conception.

Age category (years) Pregnant after 1 year (12 cycles) (%) Pregnant after 2 years (24 cycles) (%)
19–26 92 98
27–29 87 95
30–34 86 94
35–39 82 90

Use letrozole instead of clomid for ovulation induction in PCOS

There is high quality evidence that letrozole (aromatase inhibitor) is superior to clomid for induction of ovulation in women with PCOS and yeilds higher pregnancy rates. 750 infertile women with a diagnosis of PCOS, aged of 18-39 years, were enrolled: 376 patients were assigned to receive clomiphene 50 mg/day and 374 were assigned to receive letrozole 2.5 mg/day in doses escalating to 7.5 mg/day for a total of 5 days per cycle for up to five cycles. The drugs were provided in identical capsules over the same schedule. Ovulation rates with letrozole were significantly superior to clomiphene. Monthly chance for pregnancy and for a live birth was 30% higher in the letrozole group.

Avoid undergoing clomid or letrozole cycles without ultrasound monitoring

Although twins and higher order multiple pregnancies are not as common as in gonadotropin (injection medications) use [8% versus 30%] clomid is probably responsible for more twins than any other treatment because of its widespread use. Do not undergo ovulation induction without ultrasound monitoring to evaluate response and the number of follicles developing. Consider cycle cancellation if many follicles appear in the ovary.

Metformin alone is inferior to clomid in induction of ovulation and improving fertility

There is strong evidence that clomid is superior to metformin in ovulation induction in women diagnosed with PCOS. Letrozole or clomid are the medications of choice for induction of ovulation, not metformin. There is also no strong evidence that metformin reduces the chance for miscarriage.

Do not use oral medications for unexplained infertility

Unexplained (idiopathic) infertility is diagnosed in women who failed to conceive with regular ovulation, patent fallopian tubes and near normal patent sperm analysis. Women with unexplained infertility, mild male factor or minimal endometriosis do not conceive mostly because of chromosomal abnormalities of the egg. Ovarian stimulation using oral medications usually yields one or two eggs (close to natural cycles) while using injection medications can produce more eggs thus increasing the chance that one of them is healthy. There is no evidence that oral medications increase the odds of pregnancy in women with UEI.

Avoid gonadotropins-IUI and proceed directly to IVF

In women receiving oral medications (clomid)-IUI proceeding directly to IVF or proceeding immediately to IVF as first line treatment and avoiding injection medication-IUI is more successful in achieving pregnancy, is faster and minimizes the risk of multiple pregnancy.

The FASTT trial randomized 247 couples to receive three cycles of clomiphene citrate (CC)/IUI then three cycles of FSH/IUI and then up to six cycles of IVF versus 256 couples to an accelerated treatment, that omitted the three cycles of FSH/IUI. An increased rate of pregnancy was observed in the accelerated arm and pregnancy was achieved 3 months faster. Per cycle pregnancy rates for CC/IUI, FSH/IUI, and IVF were 7.6%, 9.8%, and 30.7%, respectively. The observed incremental difference was a savings of $2,624 per couple for accelerated treatment. The study demonstrated that FSH/IUI treatment was of no added value.

The FORT-T  trial randomized couples with ≥6 months of unexplained infertility with female partner aged 38-42 years to treatment with two cycles of clomiphene citrate (CC) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)/IUI, or immediate IVF, followed by IVF if not pregnant. The cumulative clinical pregnancy rates per couple after the first two cycles of CC-IUI, FSH-IUI, or immediate IVF were 21.6%, 17.3%, and 49.0%, respectively. The majority (84%) of live-born infants resulting from treatment were achieved via IVF. Immediate IVF demonstrated superior pregnancy rates with fewer treatment cycles in the immediate IVF group.

Avoid using DHEA, GH or aspirin as adjuvants to IVF

There is no conclusive evidence that pretreatment, prior to IVF, with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), growth hormone (GH) or other medications improves the pregnancy rate r live birth rates.

Avoid transferring two or more embryos when feasible

Multiple pregnancy carries an higher risk to the mother and to the health and neurological functions of the newborn. Outcomes in twins are definitely inferior to singleton babies. Women <38 years with a good quality embryo in there first or second IVF cycles should consider single embryo transfer. In the third cycle consider double embryo transfer.

Avoid routine use of pre-implantation genetic screening to improve the pregnancy rate after IVF

Chromosome analysis of embryos is available. There is no conclusive evidence that PGD will increase the chance for a live newborn. PGD will definitely not make the embryos healthy. If accurate, it will just enable finding the healthy embryo faster but the total number of healthy embryos, if any, will remain the same per completed IVF cycle. The accuracy of the test is no 100%, it is costly and require taking one or few cells from each embryo. Young women with good ovarian reserve have excellent pregnancy rate even with single embryo transfer. Moreover embryo freeze-thaw cycles yield comparable outcomes to fresh IVF cycles. Older women and women with low egg reserve produce a small number of embryos, which means that testing is not an efficient approach. PGD may have some role in older women e.g.>40 years producing a large number of embryos e.g >6 embryos. These women are the outliers.

Avoid using a physician with no experience in managing fertility problems

This will likely cause delay, reduce success and may increase complications. If you seek a specialist care, avoid any treatment that you do not understand its rationale. The choices are usually expectant treatment (regular intercourse), ovarian stimulation-IUI or IVF. Know the expected success rate and multiple pregnancy rate for each option offered to you by a reproductive endocrinologist.

Fertility Treatment Men Should Avoid

  1. Avoid treating abnormal sperm parameters with oral or injection medications or supplements. No such treatment was demonstrated to improve the chance for a live born in female partner.
  2. Avoid surgery for varicocele even if sperm parameters are abnormal. Surgery for varicocele is a treatment that was not proven to increase the odds of live born in female partner.

 

To lean more about fertility treatments please visit nycivf.org

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