Ask Our Doctors

Dear Patients,

I created this forum to welcome any questions you have on the topic of infertility, IVF, conception, testing, evaluation, or any related topics. I do my best to answer all questions in less than 24 hours. I know your question is important and, in many cases, I will answer within just a few hours. Thank you for taking the time to trust me with your concern.

– Geoffrey Sher, MD

Fill in the following information and we’ll get back to you.

Name: Flavia F

Buenas tardes consulto, tengo 39 años y antimulleriana 0,19 muy baja, he intentado 3 ciclos con clomifeno y voy uno con letrozol, leí por aquí que para mi caso no son buenos esos estimulantes??? Gracias

Answer:

Please re-post in english!

 

Geoff Sher

_____________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Gina T

Hi. I have 4 abnormally PGS tested donated embryos. The normally tested ones either didn’t implant or I miscarried. I even did the ERA scratch, and other testing to make sure my uterus was good. Anyway, can abnormal embryos be transferred? I don’t want to discard them if they can. I would donate them but from what I’ve read there’s not a high percentage they would result in a live birth. Thanks so much.

Answer:

Abnormal, non-mosaic embryos (aneuploid should not be transferred.

  • IVF FAILURE WITH “NORMAL” EMBRYOS: EXAMINING AND ADDRESSING  ANATOMICAL AND IMMUNOLOGIC CAUSES.

Implantation dysfunction is often overlooked as a significant reason for IVF failure. This is especially true when IVF failure is unexplained, or when there are recurring pregnancy losses or underlying issues with the uterus, such as endo-uterine surface lesions, thin uterine lining (endometrium), or immunological factors.

IVF success rates have been improving in the past decade. Currently, in the United States, the average live birth rate per embryo transfer for women under 40 years old using their own eggs is about 2:5 per woman undergoing embryo transfer. However, there is a wide range of success rates among different IVF programs, varying from 20% to almost 50%. Based on these statistics, most women in the United States need to undergo two or more IVF-embryo transfer attempts to have a baby. Many IVF practitioners in the United States attribute the differences in success rates to variations in expertise among embryology laboratories, but this is not entirely accurate. Other factors, such as differences in patient selection, the failure to develop personalized protocols for ovarian stimulation, and the neglect of infectious, anatomical, and immunological factors that affect embryo implantation, are equally important.

Approximately 80% of IVF failures occur due to “embryo incompetency,” mainly caused by ( irregularities in chromosome number (aneuploidy), which is often related to the advancing age of the woman, diminished ovarian reserve ( DOR) but can also be influenced by the ovarian stimulation protocol chosen, and sperm dysfunction (male infertility). However, in around 20% of cases with dysfunction, failure is caused by problems with embryo implantation.

This section will focus on embryo implantation dysfunction and IVF failure which in the vast majority of cases is caused by:

  1. 1. Anatomical irregularities of the inner uterine surface:
  2. a) Surface lesions such as polyps/fibroids/ scar tissue
  3. b)endometrial thickness
  4.  
  5. 2. Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction ( IID)lesions
  6. a)Autoimmune IID
  7. b) Alloimmune IID

  1. ANATOMICAL IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
  2. a) Surface lesions such as polyps/fibroids/ scar tissue

When there are problems with the structure of the uterus, it can lead to difficulties in getting pregnant. While uterine fibroids usually don’t cause infertility, they can affect fertility when they distort the uterine cavity or protrude through the lining. Even small fibroids located just beneath the lining and protruding into the cavity can decrease the chances of the embryo attaching. Multiple fibroids within the uterine wall that encroach upon the cavity can disrupt blood flow, impair estrogen delivery, and prevent proper thickening of the lining. These issues can be identified through ultrasound during the menstrual cycle’s proliferative phase. Any lesion on the uterine surface, such as submucous fibroids, adhesions, endometrial polyps, or placental polyps, can interfere with implantation by causing a local inflammatory response similar to the effect of an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD).

Clearly, even small uterine lesions can have a negative impact on implantation. Considering the high costs and emotional toll associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related procedures, it is reasonable to perform diagnostic tests like hysterosalpingography (HSG), fluid ultrasound examination (hysterosonogram), or hysteroscopy before starting IVF. Uterine lesions that can affect implantation often require surgical intervention. In most cases, procedures like dilatation and curettage (D&C) or hysteroscopic resection are sufficient. Rarely a laparotomy may be needed. Such interventions often lead to an improvement in the response of the uterine lining.

Hysterosonogram( HSN/saline ultrasound) is a procedure where a sterile saline solution is injected into the uterus through the cervix using a catheter. Vaginal ultrasound is then used to examine the fluid-filled cavity for any irregularities that might indicate surface lesions like polyps, fibroid tumors, scarring, or a septum. When performed by an expert, HSN is highly effective in detecting even the smallest lesions and can supplant hysteroscopy in certain cases. HSN is less expensive, less invasive/traumatic, and equally effective as hysteroscopy. The only drawback is that if a lesion is found, hysteroscopy may still be needed for treatment.

Hysteroscopy is a diagnostic procedure performed in an office setting with minimal discomfort to the patient. It involves inserting a thin, lighted instrument called a hysteroscope through the vagina and cervix into the uterus to examine the uterine cavity. Normal saline is used to distend the uterus during the procedure. Like HSN, hysteroscopy allows for direct visualization of the inside of the uterus to identify defects that could interfere with implantation. We have observed that around one in eight IVF candidates have lesions that need attention before undergoing IVF to optimize the chances of success. I strongly recommend that all patients undergo therapeutic surgery, usually hysteroscopy, to correct any identified issues before proceeding with IVF. Depending on the severity and nature of the problem, hysteroscopy may require general anesthesia and should be performed in a surgical facility equipped for laparotomy if necessary.

  1. b) Thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium)

As far back as In 1989, I and my team made an important discovery about using ultrasound to assess the thickness of the endometrium during the late proliferative phase of both “ natural” and hormone-stimulated cycles. The assessment helped predict the chances of conception. We found that an ideal thickness of over 9mm at the time of ovulation , egg retrieval or with the commencement of progesterone therapy in embryo recipient cycles ( e.g., IVF with egg donation, gestational, surrogacy and embryo adoption) was associated with optimal implantation rates, while an endometrial thickness of less than 8 mm was associated with failure to implant or early pregnancy loss in the vast majority of cases. An endometrium measuring <8mm was almost invariably associated with failure to implant or early pregnancy loss in the while an endometrium measuring 8 to 9 mm was regarded as being intermediate, and while pregnancies did occur in this range, the rates were only slightly lower than with an optimal lining of 9 mm

A “poor” uterine lining typically occurs when the innermost layer of the endometrium (basal or germinal endometrium) is unable to respond to estrogen by developing a thick enough outer “functional” layer to support successful embryo implantation and placental development. The “functional” layer, which accounts for two-thirds of the total endometrial thickness, is shed during menstruation if pregnancy does not occur.

The main causes of a poor uterine lining are:

  1. Damage to the basal endometrium due to:
    • Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis), often resulting from retained products of conception after abortion, miscarriage, or childbirth.
    • Surgical trauma caused by aggressive dilatation and curettage (D&C).
  1. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to:
    • Prolonged (back to back) use of clomiphene citrate for ovarian stimulation or…
    • Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug given to prevent miscarriage in the 1960s.
  1. Overexposure of the uterine lining to male hormones produced by the ovaries or administered during ovarian stimulation (primarily testosterone):
    • Older women, women with DOR (poor responders), and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often have increased biological activity of luteinizing hormone (LH), leading to testosterone overproduction by the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca). This effect can be further amplified when certain ovarian stimulation protocols were high doses of menotropins ( e.g., Menopur) are used.
  1. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium caused by:
    • Multiple uterine fibroids, especially if they are located beneath the endometrium (submucosal).
    • Uterine adenomyosis, which involves extensive abnormal invasion of endometrial glands into the uterine muscle.

In 1996 I introduced the Vaginal administration of Sildenafil (Viagra) to improve endometrial thickening. The selective administration of Sildenafil has shown great promise in improving uterine blood flow and increasing endometrial thickening in cases of thin endometrial linings. When administered vaginally, it is quickly absorbed and reaches high concentrations in the uterine blood system, diluting as it enters the systemic circulation. This method has been found to have minimal systemic side effects. However, it is important to note that Viagra may not be effective in all cases, as some cases of thin uterine linings may involve permanent damage to the basal endometrium, rendering it unresponsive to estrogen.

Severe endometrial damage leading to poor responsiveness to estrogen can occur in various situations. These include post-pregnancy endometritis (inflammation after childbirth), chronic granulomatous inflammation caused by uterine tuberculosis (rare in the United States), and significant surgical injury to the basal endometrium (which can happen after aggressive D&C procedures).

 

  1. IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION (IID)

There is a growing recognition that problems with the immune function in the uterus can lead to embryo implantation dysfunction. The failure of proper immunologic interaction during implantation has been implicated as a cause of recurrent miscarriage, late pregnancy fetal loss, IVF failure, and infertility. Some immunologic factors that may contribute to these issues include antiphospholipid antibodies (APA), antithyroid antibodies (ATA) , and activated natural killer cells (NKa).

  • Activated natural Killer Cells (NKa):

During ovulation and early pregnancy, the uterine lining is frequented by NK cells and T-cells, which together make up more than 80% of the immune cells in the uterine lining. These cells travel from the bone marrow to the endometrium where they proliferate under hormonal regulation. When exposed to progesterone, they produce TH-1 and TH-2 cytokines. TH-2 cytokines help the trophoblast (embryo’s “root system”) to penetrate the uterine lining, while TH-1 cytokines induce apoptosis (cell suicide), limiting placental development to the inner part of the uterus. The balance between TH1 and TH-2 cytokines is crucial for optimal placental development. NK cells and T-cells contribute to cytokine production. Excessive TH-1 cytokine production is harmful to the trophoblast and endometrial cells, leading to programmed cell death and ultimately to implantation failure. Functional NK cells reach their highest concentration in the endometrium around 6-7days after ovulation or exposure to progesterone, which coincides with the time of embryo implantation. It’s important to note that measuring the concentration of blood NK cells doesn’t reflect NK cell activation (NKa). The activation of NK cells is what matters. In certain conditions like endometriosis, the blood concentration of NK cells may be below normal, but NK cell activation is significantly increased.

There are several laboratory methods to assess NK cell activation (cytotoxicity), including immunohistochemical assessment of uterine NK cells and measuring TH-1 cytokines in the uterus or blood. However, the K-562 target cell blood test remains the gold standard. In this test, NK cells isolated from a woman’s blood are incubated with specific “target cells,” and the percentage of killed target cells is quantified. More than 12% killing indicates a level of NK cell activation that usually requires treatment. Currently, there are only a few Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories in the USA capable of reliably performing the K-562 target cell test.

There is a common misconception that adding IL (intralipid) or Intravenous gammaglobulin (IVIg) to NK cells can immediately downregulate NK cell activity. However, neither IL and IVIg cannot significantly suppress already activated NK cells. They are believed to work by regulating NK cell progenitors, which then produce downregulated NK cells. To assess the therapeutic effect, IL/IVIg infusion should be done about 14 days before embryos are transferred to the uterus to ensure a sufficient number of normal functional NK cells are present at the implantation site during embryo transfer. Failure to recognize this reality has led to the erroneous demand from IVF doctors for Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories to report on NK cell activity before and immediately after exposure to IVIg or IL at different concentrations. However, since already activated NK cells cannot be deactivated in the laboratory, assessing NKa suppression in this way has little clinical benefit. Even if blood is drawn 10-14 days after IL/IVIg treatment, it would take another 10-14 days to receive the results, which would be too late to be practically advantageous.

  • Antiphospholipid Antibodies:

Many women who struggle with IVF failure or recurrent pregnancy loss, as well as those with a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and dermatomyositis, often test positive for antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs). Over 30 years ago, I proposed a treatment for women with positive APA tests. This involved using a low dose of heparin to improve the success of IVF implantation and increase birth rates. Research indicated that heparin could prevent APAs from affecting the embryo’s “root system” ( the trophoblast), thus enhancing implantation. We later discovered that this therapy only benefits women whose APAs target specific phospholipids (phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine). Nowadays, longer-acting low molecular weight heparinoids like Lovenox and Clexane have replaced heparin.

  • Antithyroid Antibodies ( thyroid peroxidase  -TPO and antithyroglobulin antibodies (TGa)

Between 2% and 5% of women of the childbearing age have reduced thyroid hormone activity (hypothyroidism). Women with hypothyroidism often manifest with reproductive failure i.e., infertility, unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure, or recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). The condition is 5-10 times more common in women than in men. In most cases hypothyroidism is caused by damage to the thyroid gland resulting from thyroid autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s disease) caused by damage done to the thyroid gland by antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal auto-antibodies. The increased prevalence of hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) in women is likely the result of a combination of genetic factors, estrogen-related effects, and chromosome X abnormalities. This having been said, there is significantly increased incidence of thyroid antibodies in non-pregnant women with a history of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss and thyroid antibodies can be present asymptomatically in women without them manifesting with overt clinical or endocrinologic evidence of thyroid disease. In addition, these antibodies may persist in women who have suffered from hyper- or hypothyroidism even after normalization of their thyroid function by appropriate pharmacological treatment. The manifestations of reproductive dysfunction thus seem to be linked more to the presence of thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) than to clinical existence of hypothyroidism and treatment of the latter does not routinely result in a subsequent improvement in reproductive performance. It follows that if antithyroid autoantibodies are associated with reproductive dysfunction they may serve as useful markers for predicting poor outcome in patients undergoing assisted reproductive technologies. Some years back, I reported on the fact that 47% of women who harbor thyroid autoantibodies, regardless of the absence or presence of clinical hypothyroidism, have activated uterine natural killer cells (NKa) cells and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and that such women often present with reproductive dysfunction. We demonstrated that appropriate immunotherapy with IVIG or intralipid (IL) and steroids subsequently often results in a significant improvement in reproductive performance in such cases.

 

Almost 50% of women with antithyroid antibodies do not have activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) or natural killer cells (NK cells). This suggests that the antibodies themselves may not be the direct cause of reproductive dysfunction. Instead, the activation of CTL and NK cells, which occurs in about half of the cases with thyroid autoimmunity (TAI), is likely an accompanying phenomenon that damages the early “root system” (trophoblast) of the embryo during implantation.

Treating women who have both antithyroid antibodies and activated NK cells/CTL with intralipid (IL) and steroids improves their chances of successful reproduction. However, women with antithyroid antibodies who do not have activated NK cells/CTL do not require this treatment.

  • Treatment Options for IID:
  1. Intralipid (IL) Therapy: IL is a mixture of soybean lipid droplets in water, primarily used for providing nutrition. When administered intravenously, IL supplies essential fatty acids that can activate certain receptors in NK cells, reducing their cytotoxic activity and enhancing implantation. IL, combined with corticosteroids, suppresses the overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by NK cells, improving reproductive outcomes. IL is cost-effective and has fewer side effects compared to other treatments like IVIg.
  2. Intravenous immunoglobulin-G (IVIg) Therapy:In the past, IVIg was used to down-regulate activated NK cells. However, concerns about viral infections and the high cost led to a decline in its use. IVIg can be effective, but IL has become a more favorable and affordable alternative.
  3. Corticosteroid Therapy: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and dexamethasone, are commonly used in IVF treatment. They have an immunomodulatory effect and reduce TH-1 cytokine production by CTL. When combined with IL or IVIg, corticosteroids enhance the implantation process. Treatment typically starts 10-14 days before embryo transfer and continues until the 10th week of pregnancy.
  4. Heparinoid Therapy: Low molecular weight heparin (Clexane, Lovenox)can improve IVF success rates in women with antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs) and may prevent pregnancy loss in certain thrombophilias when used during treatment. It is administered subcutaneously once daily from the start of ovarian stimulation.
  5. TH-1 Cytokine Blockers (Enbrel, Humira):TH-1 cytokine blockers have limited effectiveness in the IVF setting and, in my opinion, no compelling evidence supports their use. They may have a role in treating threatened miscarriage caused by CTL/NK cell activation, but not for IVF treatment. TH-1 cytokines are needed for cellular response, during the early phase of implantation, so completely blocking them could hinder normal implantation.
  6. Baby Aspirin and IVF:Baby aspirin doesn’t offer much value in treating implantation dysfunction (IID) and may even reduce the chance of success. This is because aspirin thins the blood and increases the risk of bleeding, which can complicate procedures like egg retrieval or embryo transfer during IVF, potentially compromising its success.
  7. Leukocyte Immunization Therapy (LIT):LIT involves injecting the male partner’s lymphocytes into the mother to improve the recognition of the embryo as “self” and prevent rejection. LIT can up-regulate Treg cells and down-regulate NK cell activation, improving the balance of TH-1 and TH-2 cells in the uterus. However, the same benefits can be achieved through IL (Intralipid) therapy combined with corticosteroids. IL is more cost-effective, and the use of LIT is prohibited by law in the USA.

Types of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and NK Cell Activation:

  1. Autoimmune Implantation Dysfunction: Women with a personal or family history of autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus Erythematosus, thyroid autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s disease and thyrotoxicosis), and endometriosis (in about one-third of cases) may experience autoimmune IID. However, autoimmune IID can also occur without any personal or family history of autoimmune diseases. Treatment for NK cell activation in IVF cases complicated by autoimmune IID involves a combination of daily oral dexamethasone from the start of ovarian stimulation until the 10th week of pregnancy, along with 20% intralipid (IL) infusion 10 days to 2 weeks before embryo transfer. With this treatment, the chance of a viable pregnancy occurring within two completed embryo transfer  attempts is approximately 70% for women <40 years old who have  normal ovarian reserve.

  2. Alloimmune Implantation Dysfunction:NK cell activation occurs when the uterus is exposed to an embryo that shares certain genotypic (HLA/DQ alpha) similarities with the embryo recipient. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: one set from the sperm and one set from the egg that created us. Our sixth pair of chromosomes each contain DQ alpha genes. Again, one of these genes is from the sperm and one is from the egg that created us.

Like the genes for eye color, DQ alpha/HLA gene combinations differ between people. Thus, the male (whose  sperm created an embryo is likely to have different DQ alpha/HLA gene combinations than the potential mother . However, there are rare situations in which the male and the female partners have  DQ-alpha/HLA gene combinations are the same.

 

The endometrial immune system is programmed to accept embryos with different DQ alpha/HLA gene combinations than its own. This is known as “alloimmune recognition.” So, if the man shares a similar DQ alpha/HLA gene combination with the woman, and his sperm creates an embryo that tries  to implant , her endometrial immune system will see the embryo’s DQ alpha/HLA gene as “too similar” to its own and assume it is a foreign body.

 

Usually, this will lead to NK/T cell activation, the overproduction of TH-1 cytokines, and reproductive failure (i.e., infertility, and pregnancy loss). The severity with which this occurs is an important determinant of whether total implantation failure will occur or whether there would remain enough residual trophoblastic activity that would allow the pregnancy to limp along until the nutritional supply can no longer meet the demands of the pregnancy, at which point pregnancy loss occurs.

 

In cases of paternal-maternal DQ alpha/HLA matching, it will often take several pregnancies for NK cell activation to build to the point that women with alloimmune implantation dysfunction will present with clinical evidence of implantation dysfunction. Sometimes it starts off with one or two live births, whereupon NK/T cell activity starts to build, leading to one or more early miscarriages. Eventually the NK/T cell activation is so high that subsequent pregnancies can be lost before the woman is even aware that she was pregnant at all. At this point, she is often diagnosed with secondary, “unexplained” infertility and/or “unexplained” IVF failure.

 

Alloimmune Implantation Dysfunction is diagnosed by testing the blood of both the male and female partners for matching DQ alpha genes and NK/T cell activation.

 

There are two types of DQ alpha/HLA genetic matching: 

  • Partial DQ alpha/HLA genetic matching: Couples who share only one DQ alpha/HLA gene are considered to have a “partial match.” If NK cell activation is also present, this partial match puts the couple at a disadvantage for IVF success. However, it’s important to note that DQ alpha/HLA matching, whether partial or total, does not cause IID without associated NK cell activation. Treatment for partial DQ alpha/HLA match with NK cell activation involves IL infusion and oral prednisone as adjunct therapy. IL infusion is repeated every 2-4 weeks after pregnancy is confirmed and continued until the 24th week of gestation. In these cases, only one embryo is transferred at a time to minimize the risk of NK cell activation.
  • Total (Complete) Alloimmune Genetic Matching:A total alloimmune match occurs when the husband’s DQ alpha genotype matches both that of the partner. Although rare, this total match along with NK cell activation significantly reduces the chance of a viable pregnancy resulting in a live birth at term. In some cases, the use of a gestational surrogate may be necessary.

It should be emphasized that poor embryo quality is not always the main cause of reproductive dysfunction and that the complex interaction between embryonic cells and the lining of the uterus  plays a critical role in successful implantation. Women with personal or family histories of autoimmune disease or endometriosis and those with unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure or recurrent pregnancy loss, often have immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID as the underlying cause . For such women, it is important to understand how IID leads to reproductive failure and how selective treatment options such as intralipid (IL), corticosteroid and heparinoid therapy, can dramatically  improve reproductive outcomes. Finally, there is real hope that proper identification and management of IID can  significantly improve the chance of successful reproduction and ultimately contribute to better quality of life after birth.

 _____________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Allison B

Hi Dr. Sher,

I heard you on an episode of the Egg Whisperer. I have high testosterone from PCOS and have had one implantation failure and two chemical pregnancies. Could the high testosterone be the cause? My embryos were not genetically tested at that time. Should I be on a steroid prior to my next frozen embryo transfer, and if so, for how long?

Thank you,
Allison

Answer:

  • Navigating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Understanding, Hope, and Treatment

 

 

Understanding the intricate interplay of hormones and the impact on egg development empowers us to create personalized protocols, offering hope for improved egg quality and ultimately optimizing the chances of successful IVF for women with PCOS.

 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a widespread hormonal disorder affecting 5% to 10% of reproductive-age women globally. Women with PCOS often have enlarged ovaries containing multiple small fluid-filled collections (micro-cysts) arranged in a “string of pearls” pattern below the ovarian surface, intertwined with an overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue.

 

PCOS is marked by abnormal ovarian function causing absent, irregular or dysfunctional ovulation and menstruation,  infertility, increased body hair (hirsutism), acne, and higher body weight as indicated by an above normal body mass index (BMI). 

 

Despite substantial research efforts to identify its cause, the origins of PCOS remain elusive, and a definite cure is yet to be found. This disorder is notably diverse and often has a genetic basis within families. 

 

Infertility related to PCOS is attributed to various factors, including irregular gonadotropin (FSH and LH) pituitary secretion, peripheral insulin resistance, elevated levels of adrenal and/or ovarian androgens (male hormones), and dysfunction in growth factors. Individuals with PCOS often battle obesity and insulin resistance. The compensatory surge in insulin levels further stimulates ovarian androgen production, potentially hampering egg maturation. Notably, the degree of insulin resistance is closely linked to anovulation. 

 

PCOS also poses long-term health risks, underscoring the need for vigilant annual health check-ups to monitor potential conditions like non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease, and endometrial cancer.

 

Though PCOS-related infertility is typically manageable with fertility drugs, lifestyle modifications involving diet and exercise are fundamental for long-term management. Recent advancements have shown improvements in ovulation rates, androgen levels, pregnancy rates, and even a reduction in first-trimester miscarriage rates through the use of insulin sensitizers like Metformin to address underlying insulin resistance.

 

Most PCOS patients are young and often experience successful pregnancies with oral clomiphene or Letrozole/Femara. However, a subset of PCOS patients with severe ovarian ovulatory dysfunction and those requiring IVF treatment, will usually require injectable gonadotropin medications such as Follistim, Gonal-F, Menopur, etc. These treatments can trigger an exaggerated  response to gonadotropins, potentially leading to complications such as Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and high-order multiple births ( triplets or greater). For these cases, employing strategies like “prolonged coasting” (see below) and/or delaying embryo transfer for a month or two  in order to allow the ovaries to recover from ovarian stimulation,  and selectively transferring fewer embryos present clear advantages..

PCOS and Egg/Embryo Quality:

 

PCOS and Egg/Embryo “Competency”.


A woman’s potential for successful egg maturation and embryo development is largely determined by genetics. However, this potential can also be significantly influenced by hormonal changes within the ovaries during the pre-ovulatory phase of her menstrual cycle. Achieving the right stimulation of the follicles and precise timing for egg maturation with the LH (Luteinizing Hormone) “surge” or through hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) administration is crucial for optimal egg quality, fertilization, and subsequent embryo development.

 

Two key hormones, LH and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), play vital but distinct roles in the development of eggs and follicles. FSH mainly stimulates granulosa cells (lining the follicles) and estrogen production (E2). On the other hand, LH primarily acts on the ovarian stroma (connective tissue around the follicle) to produce androgens ( predominantly testosterone and androstenedione). While a small amount of androgen supports egg and follicle development, excessive exposure can be harmful. Too much androgen can also hinder estrogen-induced growth of the uterine lining.

 

PCOS is commonly associated with elevated LH levels, leading to excess stromal growth, follicle overgrowth (referred to as cysts), and heightened androgen production. Accordingly, suppressing LH secretion using gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists like Lupron/ Buserelin/Superfact and decapeptyl proves beneficial. However, it is important to understand that  some LH is essential for optimal egg and follicle development. Excessive  LH on the other hand results in over-production of LH-induced ovarian androgens, which upon reaching the follicular fluid often  compromises both follicle and egg development.  Consequently, PCOS women who commonly over-produce LH and ovarian androgens  frequently propagate poorly developed follicles and  “dysmature/immature” eggs leading to  poor fertilization and embryo quality as well as an androgen-induced insufficient uterine lining that might prejudice embryo implantation, It is in my opinion, that the compromised egg quality is not necessarily due to an inherent “egg defect “ but  rather due to an adverse ovarian hormonal milieu which can often be avoided by  tailoring stimulation protocols so as to avoid excessive LH-induced androgens, Avoiding .

 

Varieties of PCOS:

 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) comes in various forms, each requiring tailored treatment. Here, I wish to shed light on the main types and how infertility linked to ovulation dysfunction can be managed.

  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-PCOS:
    • Most common form with genetic roots.
    • Characterized by high levels of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and androgen hormones.
    • Often associated with insulin resistance.
  • Adrenal PCOS:
    • Excess male hormones come from overactive adrenal glands.
    • Elevated testosterone and/or androstenedione levels, along with increased dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) levels, confirm diagnosis.
  • Pelvic Adhesive Disease-Related PCOS:
    • Linked to severe endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or extensive pelvic surgery.
    • Lower response to ovulation induction.
    • Notably, DHEAS levels remain unaffected.

 

Treating Infertility Due to Ovulation Dysfunction:

  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-/Ovarian PCOS:
    • Successful treatment with fertility drugs like clomiphene citrate, Letrozole, or gonadotropins.
    • In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) is increasingly favored.
    • Oral Metformin can help reduce insulin resistance and androgen levels.
  • Adrenal PCOS:
    • Treated with steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone to suppress adrenal androgen production.
    • Combined with fertility drugs for induced ovulation.
  • PCOS due to Pelvic Adhesive Disease:
    • Often linked to compromised ovarian reserve and higher FSH levels.
    • Requires high doses of gonadotropins and “estrogen priming” for effective ovulation induction or IVF.

 

 

The Risks of Treatment

 

  • High-order multiple pregnancies (triplets, or greater):

PCOS patients undergoing ovulation induction are at greater risk of multiple pregnancies which are especially treacherous both mother and offspring occur with the occurrence of high-order multiple pregnancies. This risk is not preventable when ovulation induction alone is used (with or without IUI) since there is no ability to regulate the number of eggs that are ovulated. Conversely, IVF  allows for the  number of embryos transferred to the uterus to be deliberately regulated. 

 

  • Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation (OHSS)
    1. OHSS is a significant concern for women with PCOS undergoing fertility treatments , especially where gonadotropins are administered for ovarian stimulation.
    2. Understanding OHSS:
      • Women with PCOS tend to hyper-respond to fertility drugs, often producing excessive ovarian follicles.;
      • his can escalate into OHSS, posing life-threatening risks.

 

Indicators of OHSS:

  • OHSS begins with an abundance of ovarian follicles (often more than 25).
  • Rapid rise in estradiol (E2) levels, sometimes exceeding 3000pg/ml within 7-9 days of stimulation.
  • The risk of OHSS exceeds 80% when the peak blood estradiol level exceeds 6000pg/ml.

 

Symptoms and Signs of OHSS:

 

  • Abdominal swelling due to fluid accumulation (ascites).
  • Sometimes fluid in the chest cavity (hydrothorax) and even around the heart ( pericardial effusion)
  • Rapid weight gain (more than a pound per day) due to fluid retention.
  • Abdominal pain and lower backache.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Visual disturbances like blurred vision and spots in front of the eyes.
  • Reduced urine output.
  • Cardiovascular complications and bleeding tendencies.

 

Managing OHSS:

 

  • If fluid accumulation compromises breathing, elevating the head of the bed often helps.
  • Drainage of excess fluid through transvaginal sterile needle aspiration (vaginal paracentesis) may be necessary.
  • Symptoms typically subside within 10-12 days of hCG shot if pregnancy doesn’t occur or by the 8th week of pregnancy.
  • Monitor urine output and perform chest X-rays and blood tests regularly to assess the condition.
  • In severe cases, hospitalization and intensive care might be necessary.

 

Avoiding OHSS while protecting egg quality though  “Prolonged Coasting”

 

In the early 1990s, I introduced  a game-changing approach to the prevention of OHSS, called “Prolonged Coasting” (PC) . The method avoids the life-endangering risks associated with this complication while to largely protecting  egg quality . PC  has now become a standard treatment for OHSS prevention. However, the effective success of PC is very largely dependent on meticulous implementation and proper timing.

 

What is “Prolonged Coasting” (PC)?

  • PC involves a strategic pause in administering gonadotropin therapy, while continuing GnRHa (Lupron/Buserelin/Superfact/decapeptyl)
  • This method significantly reduces the risk of OHSS, a life-threatening condition associated with excessive follicle growth.
  • Balancing Act for Egg Quality:
  • While PC is highly effective in averting OHSS, concerns were raised about potential impacts on fertilization rates and embryo implantation.
  • Experience suggests that the perceived egg/embryo quality deficit isn’t directly caused by PC but is more about precise timing.
  • Timing is Crucial: It is initiated when a woman with >25 follicles (total) with an estradiol measurement of >2500pg/ml has at least 50% of her follicles at 14mm diameter. It ends when the rising E2 plateaus and then drops. The key is to wait until the plasma estradiol concentration drops below 2,500 pg/ml before administering hCG. Initiating PC too early or too late can either halt follicle growth abruptly or lead to cystic follicles, both affecting egg quality. The timing allows for a progressive rise in estradiol levels followed by a plateau before a controlled decline, optimizing egg maturation. Even if the estradiol level falls below 1,000 pg/ml by hCG trigger time, resisting the urge to trigger prematurely with hCG is vital. This ensures eggs have adequate time for optimal development, increasing the chances of successful fertilization and embryo quality.

:

Words of caution:

 

  • Pituitary suppression with GnRH antagonists (Ganirelix, Cetrotide, Orgalutron) can falsely suppress E2 levels and in my opinion, is not be suitable, especially in cases like PCOS a decision on timing for PC in large part hinges on the accurate determination of serial blood estradiol levels…Accordingly, I caution against their use in patients with PCOS where “prolonged coasting is contemplated being used.
  • The standard practice of administering hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in an attempt to prematurely arrest further follicle growth and so prevent Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) can, by abruptly halting egg development, impact their maturation, prejudice their “competency” and in turn compromise embryo competency”, as well. Mastering the art of “Prolonged Coasting” is a critical step forward in fertility treatments. Precise timing and a patient-centered approach can make a world of difference, providing hope and improved outcomes for women on their journey towards motherhood.

 In summary, when it comes to managing infertility in PCOS women, it is  crucial to tailor stimulation protocols during IVF to minimize exposure to excessive LH-induced ovarian androgens. By limiting the use clomiphene and Letrozole/Femara  as well as LH-containing gonadotropins like Menopur and incorporating “prolonged coasting,” we can provide the necessary time for optimal follicle and egg development before administering hCG. This approach can potentially enhance egg quality and improve outcomes in IVF for women with PCOS.

___________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Sheetal p

My beta hcg on 9 jan is 867 on 16 jan it is 2860 nd on 18 jan it is 3916 is it ok

Answer:

It is probably OK but do an ultrasound to confirm a viable pregnancy!

Geoff Sher

Name: продажа тугоплавких металлов продажа тугоплавких металлов

Приглашаем Ваше предприятие к взаимовыгодному сотрудничеству в направлении производства и поставки никелевого сплава Фольга 1.3911 и изделий из него.

– Поставка карбидов и оксидов
– Поставка изделий производственно-технического назначения (поддоны).
– Любые типоразмеры, изготовление по чертежам и спецификациям заказчика.

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Answer:

___Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

_______________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Kristin B

Hello. I hope you are well, Dr. Sher. In the rate event that you are reading this, I wanted to see if I might be able to receive your insight. I have just completed my first attempt at egg retrieval today, which did not turn out well. I am wondering if I am a candidate to even pursue another cycle. I am 42 years old, FSH averaging 5/6 (tested multiple times) and normal progesterone. My last AMH test showed an extremely low .003, but just 11 months before it was 0.5, and the year before that 1.25, so it did make me wonder if there was a mistake on the last one. Regardless, I am probably perimenopause but have periods every month (26-28 days). Before my retrieval, I had 8 follicles, two of which were dominant (between 19-22) and two that were only slowing growing, climbing to ten. Sorry for all the details. I was on Gonal f, Menopur and Ganirelex. Trigger of Pregynl 10,000. I was shocked that because the two dominant follicles grew at a nice leg during stims, that no eggs were found. Do you have any insight on if it’s worth it to attempt another cycle with a different protocol?

Answer:

Understanding the impact of age and ovarian reserve on the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is crucial when it comes to reproductive health. This article aims to simplify and clarify these concepts, emphasizing their significance in the selection of ovarian stimulation protocols for IVF. By providing you with this information, we hope to shed light on the importance of considering these factors and making informed decisions regarding fertility treatments.

  1. The Role of Eggs in Chromosomal Integrity: In the process of creating a healthy embryo, it is primarily the egg that determines the chromosomal integrity, which is crucial for the embryo’s competency. A competent egg possesses a normal karyotype, increasing the chances of developing into a healthy baby. It’s important to note that not all eggs are competent, and the incidence of irregular chromosome numbers (aneuploidy) increases with age.
  2. Meiosis and Fertilization: Following the initiation of the LH surge or the hCG trigger shot, the egg undergoes a process called meiosis, halving its chromosomes to 23. During this process, a structure called the polar body is expelled from the egg, while the remaining chromosomes are retained. The mature sperm, also undergoing meiosis, contributes 23 chromosomes. Fertilization occurs when these chromosomes combine, resulting in a euploid embryo with 46 chromosomes. Only euploid embryos are competent and capable of developing into healthy babies.
  3. The Significance of Embryo Ploidy: Embryo ploidy, referring to the numerical chromosomal integrity, is a critical factor in determining embryo competency. Aneuploid embryos, which have an irregular number of chromosomes, are often incompetent and unable to propagate healthy pregnancies. Failed nidation, miscarriages, and chromosomal birth defects can be linked to embryo ploidy issues. Both egg and sperm aneuploidy can contribute, but egg aneuploidy is usually the primary cause.
  4. Embryo Development and Competency: Embryos that develop too slowly or too quickly, have abnormal cell counts, contain debris or fragments, or fail to reach the blastocyst stage are often aneuploid and incompetent. Monitoring these developmental aspects can provide valuable insights into embryo competency.
  5. Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): As women advance in their reproductive age, the number of remaining eggs in the ovaries decreases. Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) occurs when the egg count falls below a certain threshold, making it more challenging to respond to fertility drugs effectively. This condition is often indicated by specific hormone levels, such as elevated FSH and decreased AMH. DOR can affect women over 40, but it can also occur in younger

 

Why IVF should be regarded as treatment of choice for older women an those who have diminished ovarian reserve ( DOR):

Understanding the following factors will go a long way in helping you to make an informed decision and thereby improve the chances of a successful IVF outcome.

  1. Age and Ovarian Reserve: Chronological age plays a vital role in determining the quality of eggs and embryos. As women age, there is an increased risk of aneuploidy (abnormal chromosome numbers) in eggs and embryos, leading to reduced competency. Additionally, women with declining ovarian reserve (DOR), regardless of their age, are more likely to have aneuploid eggs/embryos. Therefore, it is crucial to address age-related factors and ovarian reserve to enhance IVF success.
  2. Excessive Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Testosterone Effects: In women with DOR, their ovaries and developing eggs are susceptible to the adverse effects of excessive LH, which stimulates the overproduction of male hormones like testosterone. While some testosterone promotes healthy follicle growth and egg development, an excess of testosterone has a negative impact. Therefore, in older women or those with DOR, ovarian stimulation protocols that down-regulate LH activity before starting gonadotropins are necessary to improve egg/embryo quality and IVF outcomes.
  3. Individualized Ovarian Stimulation Protocols: Although age is a significant factor in aneuploidy, it is possible to prevent further decline in egg/embryo competency by tailoring ovarian stimulation protocols. Here are my preferred protocols for women with relatively normal ovarian reserve:
  1. Conventional Long Pituitary Down Regulation Protocol:
  • Begin birth control pills (BCP) early in the cycle for at least 10 days.
  • Three days before stopping BCP, overlap with an agonist like Lupron for three days.
  • Continue daily Lupron until menstruation begins.
  • Conduct ultrasound and blood estradiol measurements to assess ovarian status.
  • Administer FSH-dominant gonadotropin along with Menopur for stimulation.
  • Monitor follicle development through ultrasound and blood estradiol measurements.
  • Trigger egg maturation using hCG injection, followed by egg retrieval.
  1. Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP):
  • Similar to the conventional long down regulation protocol but replace the agonist with a GnRH antagonist from the onset of post-BCP menstruation until the trigger day.
  • Consider adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH) for women with DOR.
  • Consider using “priming” with estrogen prior to gonadotropin administration
  1. Protocols to Avoid for Older Women or Those with DOR: Certain ovarian stimulation protocols may not be suitable for older women or those with declining ovarian reserve:
  • Microdose agonist “flare” protocols
  • High dosages of LH-containing fertility drugs such as Menopur
  • Testosterone-based supplementation
  • DHEA supplementation
  • Clomiphene citrate or Letrozole
  • Low-dosage hCG triggering or agonist triggering for women with DOR

 

 

Preimplantation Genetic Screening/Testing(PGS/T): PGS/T is a valuable tool for identifying chromosomal abnormalities in eggs and embryos. By selecting the most competent (euploid) embryos, PGS/T significantly improves the success of IVF, especially in older women or those with DOR.

Understanding the impact of advancing age and declining ovarian reserve on IVF outcomes is essential when making decisions about fertility treatments. Age-related factors can affect egg quality and increase the likelihood of aneuploid embryos with resultant IVF failure. Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) further complicates the process. By considering these factors, you can make informed choices and work closely with fertility specialists to optimize your chances of success. Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of these aspects empowers you to take control of your reproductive journey.

_____________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

 

 

Name: продажа тугоплавких металлов продажа тугоплавких металлов

Приглашаем Ваше предприятие к взаимовыгодному сотрудничеству в сфере производства и поставки никелевого сплава Электрод вольфрамовый Р’Рђ и изделий из него.

– Поставка порошков, и оксидов
– Поставка изделий производственно-технического назначения (втулка).
– Любые типоразмеры, изготовление по чертежам и спецификациям заказчика.

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Answer:

Please Re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

______________________________________________________________

 

Name: продажа тугоплавких металлов продажа тугоплавких металлов

Приглашаем Ваше предприятие к взаимовыгодному сотрудничеству в сфере производства и поставки никелевого сплава [url=https://redmetsplav.ru/store/nikel1/rossiyskie_materialy/nikelevye_splavy/43n/ ] 43Рќ [/url] и изделий из него.

– Поставка катализаторов, и оксидов
– Поставка изделий производственно-технического назначения (детали).
– Любые типоразмеры, изготовление по чертежам и спецификациям заказчика.

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Answer:

I apologize but you will need to re-post in English!

Geoff Sher

_____________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

 

Name: Javier S

Buenas tardes. Nuestro es el siguiente. Mi mujer presenta hidrosalpx bilateral distal con salida de contraste a la zona pélvica en al menos uno de ellos. ¿Sería efeciva la técnica de la Escleroterapia en este caso para la búsqueda de un embarazo natural?
Muchas gracias por adelantado

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Rebecca A

Hola!
Estuve el mes pasado con puregon 75mm pero por una variación de prolactina hemos tenido que dejar el proceso de inseminación.
Desde hace tres semanas he tenido un incremento de flujo vaginal y no puedo estar sin salvaslip. No sé si es normal.

Gracias

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Fiv

Name: RJ C

Hola. Tengo 40 años y 0,73 Amh. Me sometí q un ciclo fiv con fostipur 300 y meriofert 150, luego cetrotide, me quedé embarazada pero lo perdí. Me han realizado otro ciclo pero me incluyeron femara y progynova y quitaron centrotide y tenía 14 folículos pero crecían lentos y hubo que cancelar. Os he leído en el foro la importancia de controlar la medicación para no “estropear” la calidad de los óvulos. Cual sería la dosis indicada con mi edad? Y que medicación la adecuada? Gracias. Un saludo

Answer:

Please post in English!

Name: Crystal M

Hi Dr. Sher, I had a hscore of 3.4 on Receptiva dx but had a lap done afterwards that showed 0 endometriosis. Why should I lower estrogen with Lupron if there is no endometriosis?

Answer:

Respectfully, I do not see a reason!

Geoff Sher

Name: Lindsey A

Greetings!
I am a 39yo f, pmhx prolactinoma (dx 1/2023, medically managed now), ulcerative proctitis (on stelara, almost in remission) with 1 natural conception and loss at 8 weeks due to trisomy, now 3 failed IVF stim attempts. My AMH flux is between 1.4-1.8 and FSH around 11. Antral follicle count always 11-15, I’ve done 3 protocols, 1st GnRHa protocol (Gonal-F 300 but i responded so quickly came down to 225u after few days), Meno (150), Ganirelix, HCG) no priming – for 11 eggs, 8 mature, 4 fertilized with ICSI, 2 blast – 1 low mosaic and 1 aneuploid. Had mild OHSS after this.
Second round, Estrogen priming, GnRHa (Gonalf 225u, meno225u) added clomid 5 days, lupron trigger to avoid OHSS, which helped, used ICSI. Got 15 follicles, 12 mature, 11 fertilized only 1 blast aneuploid.
Switched physicians, as prior RE said you just have poor quality eggs not much to do for that, Third wound we did mild dose GnRHa (150u Gonal F, 150u Meno) with priming and letrozole instead of clomid and dual trigger lupron 70u/HCG 1500, 11 follices on last US only 7 collected, 3 mature, we used natural conception, 2 fertilized – 1 blast, again aneuploid.
DNA frag on my husband was moderately positive at my prior RE clinic, but new doc questions validity and doesnt think its the issue. We will see urology just in case.
There is a question if I have undiagnosed endo as I do have some correlating symptoms, positional pain with intercourse, chronic constipation and persistent LLQ aching – which i always attributed to my IBD but now as im close to remission and it persists, i’m rethinking. I also get this excruciating pelvic cramping, around ovulation associated with high intensity excercise, pref saw pelvic pain specialist 3 years ago who did MRI said no endo, no point to lap.
As I am about to be 40, my RE doesn’t feel compelled for me to explore laparoscopy as the healing time would prolong continue IVF and my age is concerning. He is also against growth hormone use, surprising to me.
His next suggestion is lupron down regulation, however I’ve listened to your talk on the egg whisperer on approach for those with challenging egg quality, keeping menopur low to try to avoid excess testosterone affecting quality, utilizing Growth Hormone as well. I tried to bring this up, but its a challenging conversation to have when you’re bring other physicians protocols into the mix.
My questions are, do you think it is worth trying another round without consulting with an endometriosis specialist for lap? If so, do you think lupron down regulation would be beneficial to try in my scenario, or should I be looking for a physician who utilizes GH for poor blast and quality issues? TY for your time, an apologies for the lengthy message. IM a physician assistant, so it’s hard for me to leave details out.

Answer:

In my opinion, we need to have a detailed online consultation to discuss the following issues in detail:

1. Egg/embryo quality issues:  and the influence of the protocol used for ovarian stimulation as well as diminishing ovarian reserve and advancing age..

2. Implantation dysfunction as it might relate to and immunologic implantation dysfunction (possibly linked to underlying endometriosis and/or a personal or family history of autoimmunity).

_________________________________________________________________________

  • UNEXPLAINED” INFERTILITY: A RATIONAL APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT

Infertility affects y 10%-15% of couples who are unable to conceive. In some cases, the cause of infertility cannot be determined using conventional diagnostic methods, leading to a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” However, it is important to note that in most cases labeled as “unexplained infertility,” a more thorough evaluation could have revealed an underlying cause. There are two main groups of individuals diagnosed with unexplained infertility: those without any biological problems hindering pregnancy, and those with unidentified reasons due to limited medical information or technology. Fortunately, advancements in testing techniques have made it easier to diagnose and treat infertility in the latter group.

To make a presumptive diagnosis of unexplained infertility, healthcare providers need affirmative answers to several questions. These include whether the woman is ovulating normally, whether the couple engages in regular intercourse during the periovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, whether the fallopian tubes are normal and open, whether endometriosis can be ruled out, whether the male partner has normal semen parameters (especially sperm count and motility), and whether the presence of high concentrations of antisperm antibodies in the man or woman’s blood is associated with sperm incapacitation.

The diagnosis of unexplained infertility depends on the thoroughness of the healthcare provider in attempting to rule out all potential causes. The fewer tests conducted, the more likely it is that  a presumptive diagnosis of “unexplained” infertility will be made. Below are a few causes of infertility that are often missed leading to the cause of infertility being mischaracterized as being “unexplained: :

  • Subtle abnormalities involving the fallopian tubes without causing them to be “blocked”, often go unnoticed. Examples include subtle peritubal adhesions and/ or developmental or acquired defects involving the tubal fimbria (i.e., the finger-like “petals” at their outer ends), can prevent the collection and transportation of eggs to meet sperm. Detecting these conditions requires direct visualization of lesions through laparoscopy or laparotomy
  • Chromosomal abnormalities in eggs or embryos can also contribute to infertility. Both eggs and embryos must contain the correct number of chromosomes (euploid) for successful fertilization and implantation. Until recently, there was no reliable method to determine their chromosomal status. However, the introduction of preimplantation genetic screening/testing (PGS/T), using genetic tests like next generation gene sequencing (NGS) has enabled the identification of embryo, numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy) which when present will prejudice fertility. PGS/T has become an essential tool in diagnosing infertility.
  • Luteinized Unruptured Follicle (LUF) Syndrome is another condition that can contribute to unexplained infertility. In this condition, eggs become trapped in the follicle and are not released, despite routine tests indicating normal ovulation. Hormonal dysfunction related to ovulation can also negatively impact the preparation of the uterine lining, hindering normal implantation.
  • Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) can occur when the woman’s or man’s immune system attacks sperm cells, rendering them immobile or causing their destruction. Additionally, immunologic dysfunction involving the uterine lining can lead to early rejection of the implanting embryo, often before the woman realizes she has conceived.
  • Cervical infection, specifically Ureaplasma Urealyticum infection of the cervical glands, can prevent sperm from reaching the eggs in the fallopian tubes. This type of infection is usually undetectable through routine examination or cervical culturing methods.
  • Mild or moderate endometriosis is a condition associated with the production of “pelvic toxins” that reduce the fertilization potential of eggs. Approximately one-third of women with endometriosis also experience IID. Detecting mild or moderately severe endometriosis requires direct visualization of lesions through laparoscopy or laparotomy, and identifying IID requires sophisticated tests performed by specialized Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories. In some cases of early endometriosis the lesions are “nonpigmented” and  cannot even be detected through direct vision, yet they can significantly impact fertility through establishing a “toxic” intrapelvic environment that compromises competency of the egg as it traverses the pelvic environment during passage from the ovary to the tube.
  • Psychological factors can also influence fertility. Stress and negativity can interfere with hormonal balance and decrease the ability to conceive.
  • Mild Male Factor infertility that are not readily detected through routine semen analysis.
  • Antisperm antibodies (ASA) in the man or in the woman. This can only be diagnosed using high specialized blood and sperm test.

Management:

When it comes to managing “Unexplained Infertility,” a personalized approach is crucial for success. The first step is to identify any underlying causes whenever possible. For those experiencing ovulation dysfunction due to hormonal imbalances, ovulation induction with oral or injectable fertility drugs is often recommended. In cases where an IID is detected, selective immunotherapy will be required and in cases cervical mucus hostility is caused by a ureaplasma infection, specific and simultaneous antibiotic therapy becomes necessary.

For younger women (under 39 years) facing issues with sperm migration through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes, intrauterine insemination (IUI) with or without controlled ovulation stimulation (COS) is often the recommended course of action. However, if these treatments prove ineffective, or if the woman is over 39 years old, has IID, harbors significant concentrations of antisperm antibodies, or has structural tubal abnormalities, IVF becomes the preferred option. In cases of male infertility that are intractable, moderate, or severe, where natural fertilization seems unlikely, injecting sperm directly into the egg through a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)/IVF  is necessary to achieve fertilization.

It is an undeniable truth that the majority of infertility cases can be diagnosed, which makes it disheartening when the label of “unexplained infertility” is used as an excuse for not conducting a thorough evaluation of the problem. Couples should not simply accept a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” at face value. Instead, they should actively seek to have their treating physician identify the specific cause of their infertility, as treatment is most likely to be successful when the root cause is fully understood. By taking charge of their reproductive health and exploring all possible avenues, couples can increase their chances of achieving their dream of starting a family.

______________________________________________________________________________

  • EGG/ EMBRYO QUALITY IN IVF & HOW SELECTION OF THE IDEAL PROTOCOL FOR OVARIAN STIMULATION INFLUENCES EGG/EMBRYO QUALITY AND 

The journey of in vitro fertilization can be a rollercoaster of emotions for many patients. Often times they have to face the harsh reality that the number and quality of eggs retrieved has fallen short of their expectations. Then, should fertilization of these eggs not propagate  chromosomally normal (euploid), “competent” embryos suitable for transfer to the uterus, many such patients find themselves in a state of emotional distress. They grapple with the inevitable questions of why this happened and how to prevent it from occurring again in the future. This article aims to delve into these queries, providing insights, rational explanations, and therapeutic options. It is an invitation to explore the light at the end of the tunnel. Readers are urged to carefully absorb the entirety of the article in the hope of finding valuable information and renewed hope.

  • The Importance of Chromosomal Integrity: While sperm quality is an important factor, egg quality is by far the most important when it comes to the generation of embryos that are capable of propagating healthy babies (“competent”). In this regard, chromosomal integrity of the egg and embryo, although it is not the only factor , is certainly the main determinant of such competency.
  • The woman’s age: About two thirds of a woman’s eggs in her twenties or early thirties have the correct number of chromosomes, which is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. As a woman gets older, the percentage of eggs with the right number of chromosomes decreases. By age 40, only about one in every 5-6 eggs is likely to be normal, and by the mid-forties, less than one in ten eggs will be normal.
  • Ovarian Reserve (number of available in the ovaries): A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. She starts using these eggs when she begins ovulating during puberty. At first, the eggs are used up quickly, but as she gets older, the number of eggs starts to run out. Her brain and pituitary gland try to stimulate the production of more eggs by increasing the output of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), but unfortunately, this often doesn’t work. When the number of remaining eggs in her ovaries falls below a certain level (which can be different for each woman), her FSH level rises, and production of the ovarian hormone, AMH decreases. This is the start of diminishing ovarian reserve (DOR). Most women experience the onset of DOR in their late 30s or early 40s, but it can happen earlier for some. The lower the ovarian reserve, the lower the AMH level will be, and the fewer eggs will be available for harvesting during IVF-egg retrieval. In such cases, a higher dosage of fertility drugs might be needed to promote better egg production in future attempts. . On the other hand, higher AMH levels mean more eggs are available, and lower doses of fertility drugs are usually needed. DOR is commonly associated with increased bioactivity of pituitary gland-produced LH. This LH activates production of ovarian male hormones (androgens)…predominantly testosterone by ovarian connective tissue (stroma) . While a small amount of  ovarian testosterone is absolutely necessary for optimal follicle and egg development, excessive ovarian testosterone will often access the follicle , and compromise both egg quality and follicle growth and development. In some cases, rapidly increasing  LH-release (“premature LH-surge”) with excessive induced ovarian testosterone can lead to “premature luteinization”  of the follicles with cessation in growth and even to“ premature ovulation”.
  • Importance of Individualized Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) Protocol: It’s not surprising that DOR is more common in older women, but regardless of age, having DOR makes a woman’s eggs more likely to be compromised during controlled ovarian stimulation (COS). The choice of the COS protocol is crucial to preventing unintentional harm to egg and embryo quality. The wrong protocol can disrupt normal egg development and increase the risk of abnormal embryos. That’s why it’s important to tailor the COS protocol to each individual’s needs. This helps optimize follicle growth and the quality of eggs and embryos. The timing of certain treatments is also important for successful outcomes.
  • Embryo Competency and Blastocyst Development: Embryos that don’t develop into blastocysts by day 6 after fertilization are usually chromosomally abnormal or aneuploid (”incompetent”) and not suitable for transfer. However, not all blastocysts are guaranteed to be normal and capable of developing into a healthy baby. As a woman gets older, the chances of a her embryos being chromosomally normal blastocyst decreases. For example, a blastocyst from a 30-year-old woman is more likely to be normal compared to one from a 40-year-old woman.

The IVF stimulation protocol has a big impact on the quality of eggs and embryos especially in women with DOR. Unfortunately, many IVF doctors use the same COS “recipe approach” for everyone without considering individual differences. Using personalized protocols can greatly improve the success of IVF. While we can’t change genetics or reverse a woman’s age, a skilled IVF specialist can customize the COS protocol to meet each patient’s specific needs.

GONADOTROPIN RELEASING HORMONE AGONISTS (GNRHA) AND GNRH-ANTAGONISTS:

  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa). Examples are Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact, and Decapeptyl . These are commonly used to launch  ovarian stimulation cycles. They work by initially causing a release of pituitary gonadotropins, followed by a decrease in LH and FSH levels within 4-7 days. This creates a relatively low LH environment when COS begins, which is generally beneficial for egg development. However, if GnRHa are administered starting concomitant with gonadotropin stimulation (see GnRHa –“flare protocol” -below) it can cause an immediate surge in LH release, potentially leading to high levels of ovarian testosterone that can harm egg quality, especially in older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone antagonists (GnRH-antagonists) : Examples are Ganirelix, Cetrotide, and Orgalutron. GnRH antagonists (take days work quickly (within hours) to block pituitary LH release. Their purpose is to prevent excessive LH release during COS. In contrast, the LH-lowering effect of GnRH agonists takes several days to develop. Traditionally, GnRH antagonists are given starting on the 5th-7th day of gonadotropin stimulation. However, in older women and those with DOR, suppressing LH might happen too late to prevent excessive ovarian androgen production that can negatively impact egg development in the early stages of stimulation. That’s why I prefer to administer GnRH-antagonists right from the beginning of gonadotropin administration.USING BIRTH CONTROL PILLS TO START OVARIAN STIMULATION:

Patients are often told that using birth control pills (BCP) to begin ovarian stimulation will suppress the response of the ovaries. This is true, but only if the BCP is not used correctly. Here’s the explanation:

In natural menstrual cycles and cycles stimulated with fertility drugs, the follicles in the ovaries need to develop receptors that respond to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in order to properly respond to FSH stimulation. Pre-antral follicles (PAFs) do not have these receptors and cannot respond to FSH stimulation. The development of FSH responsivity requires exposure of the pre-antral follicles to FSH for several days, during which they become antral follicles (AFs) and gain the ability to respond to FSH-gonadotropin stimulation. In regular menstrual cycles, the rising FSH levels naturally convert PAFs to AFs. However, the combined BCP suppresses FSH. To counter this suppression, we need to promote increased  FSH production several days before starting COS. This allows the orderly conversion from PAFs to AFs, ensuring proper follicle and egg development.

GnRHa causes an immediate surge in FSH release by the pituitary gland, promoting the conversion from PAF to AF. Therefore, when women take the BCP control pill to launch a cycle of COS, they need to overlap the BCP with a GnRHa for a few days before menstruation. This allows the early recruited PAFs to complete their development and reach the AF stage, so they can respond appropriately to ovarian stimulation. By adjusting the length of time, the woman is on the birth control pill, we can regulate and control the timing of the IVF treatment cycle. Without this step, initiating ovarian stimulation in women coming off birth control pills would be suboptimal.

PROTOCOLS FOR CONTROLLED OVARIAN STIMULATION (COS):

  • GnRH Agonist Ovarian Stimulation Protocols:
    • The long GnRHa protocol: Here, a GnRHa (usually Lupron or Superfact) is given either in a natural cycle, starting 5-7 days before menstruation, overlapping with the BCP for three days. Thereupon, the pill is stopped, while daily  GnRHa injections continue until menstruation occurs (usually 5-7 days later). The GnRHa causes a rapid rise in FSH and LH levels. This is followed about 3-4 days later , by a progressive decline in FSH and LH to near zero levels,  with a concomitant drop in ovarian estradiol and progesterone. This, in turn triggers uterine withdrawal bleeding (menstruation) within 5-7 days of starting the GnRHa administration. Gonadotropin treatment is then initiated while daily GnRHa injections continue to maintain a relatively low LH environment. Gonadotropin administration continues until the hCG “trigger” (see below).
    • Short GnRH-Agonist (“Flare”) Protocol: This protocol involves starting hormone therapy and using GnRH agonist at the same time. The goal is to boost FSH so that with concomitant stimulation with FSH-gonadotropins + the GnRHa-induced surge in pituitary gland FSH release, will augment follicle development. However, this surge also leads to a rise in LH levels, which can cause an excessive production of ovarian male hormones (e.g., testosterone). This could potentially adversely affect the quality of eggs, especially in women over 39 years old, those with low ovarian reserve, and women with PCOS or DOR who already have increased LH sensitivity. In this way, these “flare protocols” can potentially decrease the success rates of IVF. While they are generally safe for younger women with normal ovarian reserve, I personally avoid using this approach on the off chance that even patients with normal ovarian reserve, might experience poor egg quality.
  • GnRH Antagonist-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols:
    • Conventional GnRH Antagonist Protocol: In this approach, daily GnRH antagonist injections are given from the 5th to the 8th day of COS with gonadotropins to the day of the “trigger” (see below). Accordingly, although rapidly acting to lower LH , this effect of GnRH- antagonist only starts suppressing LH from well into the COS cycle which means the ovarian follicles are left exposed and unshielded from pituitary gland -produced, (endogenous) LH during the first several days of stimulation. This can be harmful, especially in the early stage of COS when eggs and follicles are most vulnerable to the effects of over-produced LH-induced excessive ovarian testosterone. Therefore, I believe the Conventional GnRH Antagonist Protocol is not ideal for older women, those with low ovarian reserve, and women with PCOS who already have elevated LH activity. However, this protocol is acceptable for younger women with normal ovarian reserve, although I personally avoid using this approach on the off chance that even patients with normal ovarian reserve, might experience poor egg quality.

It’s important to note that the main reason for using GnRH antagonists is to prevent a premature LH surge, which is associated with poor egg and embryo quality due to follicular exhaustion. However, calling it a “premature LH surge” is misleading because it actually represents the culmination of a progressive increase in LH-induced ovarian testosterone. A better term would be “premature luteinization”. In some such cases, the rise in LH can precipitate “premature ovulation”.

  • Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP): I recommend this protocol for many of my patients, especially for older women and those with DOR or PCOS. The woman starts by taking a BCP for 7-10 days. This overlapped with a GnRHa for 3 days and continued until menstruation ensues about 5-7 days later. At this point  she “converts” from the GnRH-agonist to a GnRH-antagonist (Ganirelix, Orgalutron, or Cetrotide). A few days after this conversion from agonist to antagonist, COS with  gonadotropin stimulation starts. Both the antagonist and the gonadotropins are continued together until the hCG trigger. The purpose is to suppress endogenous LH release throughout the COS process and so  avoid over-exposure of follicles and eggs to LH-induced  excessive ovarian testosterone which as previously stated, can compromise egg and follicle growth and development.   Excessive ovarian testosterone can also adversely affect estrogen-induced growth of the uterine lining (endometrium). Unlike GnRH-agonists, antagonists do not suppress ovarian response to the gonadotropin stimulation. This is why the A/ACP is well-suited for older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve.
  • A/ACP with estrogen priming: This is a modified version of the A/ACP protocol used for women with very low ovarian reserve (AMH=<0.2ng/ml). Estrogen priming is believed to enhance the response of follicles to gonadotropins. Patients start their treatment cycle by taking a combined birth control pill (BCP) for 7-10 days. After that, they overlap daily administration of a GnRH agonist with the BCP for 3 days. The BCP is then stopped, and the daily agonist continues until menstruation ensues (usually 5-7 days later). At this point, the GnRH agonist is supplanted by daily injections of  GnRH antagonist and  Estradiol (E2) “priming” begins using E2 skin patches or intramuscular estradiol valerate injections twice weekly, while continuing the GnRH antagonist. Seven days after starting the estrogen priming COS begins using recombinant FSHr such as Follistim, Gonal-F or Puregon) +menotropin (e.g., Menopur) . The estrogen “priming” continues to the day of the “trigger” (see below).  Egg retrieval is performed 36 hours after the trigger.


Younger women (under 30 years) and women with absent, irregular, or dysfunctional ovulation, as well as those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), are at risk of developing a severe condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which can be life-threatening. To predict this condition, accurate daily blood E2 level monitoring is required.

 

TRIGGERING “EGG MATURATION PRIOR TO EGG RETRIEVAL”

  • The hCG “trigger”: When it comes to helping eggs mature before retrieval, one of the important decisions the doctor needs to make is choosing the “trigger shot” to facilitate the process. Traditionally, hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is derived from the urine of pregnant women (hCGu) while a newer recombinant hCG (hCGr), Ovidrel was recently The ideal dosage of hCGu is 10,000U and for Ovidrel, the recommended dosage is 500mcg. Both have the same efficacy. The “trigger” is usually administered by intramuscular injection, 34-36 hours prior to egg retrieval.

Some doctors may choose to lower the dosage of hCG if there is a risk of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). However, I believe that a low dose of hCG (e.g., 5000 units of hCGu or 250 mcg of hCGr ( Ovidrel) might not be enough to optimize egg maturation, especially when there are many follicles. Instead, I suggest using a method called “prolonged coasting” to reduce the risk of OHSS.

  • Using GnRH antagonist alone or combined with hCG as the trigger: Some doctors may prefer to use a GnRH- agonist trigger instead of hCG to reduce the risk of OHSS. The GnRHa “trigger” acts by inducing a “surge of pituitary gland-LH. However, it is difficult to predict the amount of LH that is released in response to a standard agonist trigger. In my opinion, using hCG is a better choice, even in cases of ovarian hyperstimulation, with the condition that “prolonged coasting” is implemented beforehand.
  • Combined use of hCG + GnRH agonist: This approach is better than using a GnRH agonist alone but still not as effective as using the appropriate dosage of hCG.
  • Timing of the trigger: The trigger shot should be given when the majority of ovarian follicles have reached a size of more than 15 mm, with several follicles measuring 18-22 mm. Follicles larger than 22 mm often contain overdeveloped eggs, while follicles smaller than 15 mm usually have underdeveloped and potentially abnormal eggs.

SEVERE OVARIAN HYPERSTIMULATION SYNDROME (OHSS) & “PROLONGED COASTING”

OHSS is a life-threatening condition that can occur during controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) when the blood E2 (estradiol) level rises too high. It is more common in young women with high ovarian reserve, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and young women who do not ovulate spontaneously. To prevent OHSS, some doctors may trigger egg maturation earlier, use a lower dosage of hCG, or “trigger” using a GnRHa. However, these approaches can compromise egg and embryo quality and reduce the chances of success.

To protect against the risk of OHSS while optimizing egg quality, Physicians can use one of two options. The first is “prolonged coasting,” a procedure I introduced more than three decades ago. It involves stopping gonadotropin therapy while continuing to administer the GnRHa until the risk of OHSS has decreased. The precise timing of “prolonged coasting” is critical. It should be initiated when follicles have reached a specific size accompanied and the  blood estradiol has reached a certain peak.  The second option is to avoid fresh embryo transfer and freeze all “competent” embryos for later frozen embryo transfers (FETs) at a time when the risk of OHSS has subsided. By implementing these strategies, both egg/embryo quality and maternal well-being can be maximized.

In the journey of fertility, a woman is blessed with a limited number of eggs, like precious treasures awaiting their time. As she blossoms into womanhood, these eggs are gradually used, and the reserves start to fade. Yet, the power of hope and science intertwines, as we strive to support the development of these eggs through personalized treatment. We recognize that each woman is unique, and tailoring the protocol to her individual needs can unlock the path to success. We embrace the delicate timing, understanding that not all embryos are destined for greatness. With age, the odds may shift, but our dedication remains steadfast, along with our ultimate objective, which is  to do everything possible to propagate  of a normal pregnancy while optimizing the  quality of that life after birth and all times, minimizing risk to the prospective parents.

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  • ADDRESSING ADVANCING AGE AND DIMINISHING OVARIAN RESERVE (DOR) IN IVF

Understanding the impact of age and ovarian reserve on the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is crucial when it comes to reproductive health. This article aims to simplify and clarify these concepts, emphasizing their significance in the selection of ovarian stimulation protocols for IVF. By providing you with this information, we hope to shed light on the importance of considering these factors and making informed decisions regarding fertility treatments.

  1. The Role of Eggs in Chromosomal Integrity: In the process of creating a healthy embryo, it is primarily the egg that determines the chromosomal integrity, which is crucial for the embryo’s competency. A competent egg possesses a normal karyotype, increasing the chances of developing into a healthy baby. It’s important to note that not all eggs are competent, and the incidence of irregular chromosome numbers (aneuploidy) increases with age.
  2. Meiosis and Fertilization: Following the initiation of the LH surge or the hCG trigger shot, the egg undergoes a process called meiosis, halving its chromosomes to 23. During this process, a structure called the polar body is expelled from the egg, while the remaining chromosomes are retained. The mature sperm, also undergoing meiosis, contributes 23 chromosomes. Fertilization occurs when these chromosomes combine, resulting in a euploid embryo with 46 chromosomes. Only euploid embryos are competent and capable of developing into healthy babies.
  3. The Significance of Embryo Ploidy: Embryo ploidy, referring to the numerical chromosomal integrity, is a critical factor in determining embryo competency. Aneuploid embryos, which have an irregular number of chromosomes, are often incompetent and unable to propagate healthy pregnancies. Failed nidation, miscarriages, and chromosomal birth defects can be linked to embryo ploidy issues. Both egg and sperm aneuploidy can contribute, but egg aneuploidy is usually the primary cause.
  4. Embryo Development and Competency: Embryos that develop too slowly or too quickly, have abnormal cell counts, contain debris or fragments, or fail to reach the blastocyst stage are often aneuploid and incompetent. Monitoring these developmental aspects can provide valuable insights into embryo competency.
  5. Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): As women advance in their reproductive age, the number of remaining eggs in the ovaries decreases. Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) occurs when the egg count falls below a certain threshold, making it more challenging to respond to fertility drugs effectively. This condition is often indicated by specific hormone levels, such as elevated FSH and decreased AMH. DOR can affect women over 40, but it can also occur in younger

 Why IVF should be regarded as treatment of choice for older women an those who have diminished ovarian reserve ( DOR):

Understanding the following factors will go a long way in helping you to make an informed decision and thereby improve the chances of a successful IVF outcome.

  1. Age and Ovarian Reserve: Chronological age plays a vital role in determining the quality of eggs and embryos. As women age, there is an increased risk of aneuploidy (abnormal chromosome numbers) in eggs and embryos, leading to reduced competency. Additionally, women with declining ovarian reserve (DOR), regardless of their age, are more likely to have aneuploid eggs/embryos. Therefore, it is crucial to address age-related factors and ovarian reserve to enhance IVF success.
  2. Excessive Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Testosterone Effects: In women with DOR, their ovaries and developing eggs are susceptible to the adverse effects of excessive LH, which stimulates the overproduction of male hormones like testosterone. While some testosterone promotes healthy follicle growth and egg development, an excess of testosterone has a negative impact. Therefore, in older women or those with DOR, ovarian stimulation protocols that down-regulate LH activity before starting gonadotropins are necessary to improve egg/embryo quality and IVF outcomes.
  3. Individualized Ovarian Stimulation Protocols: Although age is a significant factor in aneuploidy, it is possible to prevent further decline in egg/embryo competency by tailoring ovarian stimulation protocols. Here are my preferred protocols for women with relatively normal ovarian reserve:
  1. Conventional Long Pituitary Down Regulation Protocol:
  • Begin birth control pills (BCP) early in the cycle for at least 10 days.
  • Three days before stopping BCP, overlap with an agonist like Lupron for three days.
  • Continue daily Lupron until menstruation begins.
  • Conduct ultrasound and blood estradiol measurements to assess ovarian status.
  • Administer FSH-dominant gonadotropin along with Menopur for stimulation.
  • Monitor follicle development through ultrasound and blood estradiol measurements.
  • Trigger egg maturation using hCG injection, followed by egg retrieval.
  1. Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP):
  • Similar to the conventional long down regulation protocol but replace the agonist with a GnRH antagonist from the onset of post-BCP menstruation until the trigger day.
  • Consider adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH) for women with DOR.
  • Consider using “priming” with estrogen prior to gonadotropin administration
  1. Protocols to Avoid for Older Women or Those with DOR: Certain ovarian stimulation protocols may not be suitable for older women or those with declining ovarian reserve:
  • Microdose agonist “flare” protocols
  • High dosages of LH-containing fertility drugs such as Menopur
  • Testosterone-based supplementation
  • DHEA supplementation
  • Clomiphene citrate or Letrozole
  • Low-dosage hCG triggering or agonist triggering for women with DOR

 Preimplantation Genetic Screening/Testing(PGS/T): PGS/T is a valuable tool for identifying chromosomal abnormalities in eggs and embryos. By selecting the most competent (euploid) embryos, PGS/T significantly improves the success of IVF, especially in older women or those with DOR.

Understanding the impact of advancing age and declining ovarian reserve on IVF outcomes is essential when making decisions about fertility treatments. Age-related factors can affect egg quality and increase the likelihood of aneuploid embryos with resultant IVF failure. Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) further complicates the process. By considering these factors, you can make informed choices and work closely with fertility specialists to optimize your chances of success. Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of these aspects empowers you to take control of your reproductive journey.

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  • IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION

 

Implantation dysfunction is often overlooked as a significant reason for IVF failure. This is especially true when IVF failure is unexplained, or when there are recurring pregnancy losses or underlying issues with the uterus, such as endo-uterine surface lesions, thin uterine lining (endometrium), or immunological factors.

IVF success rates have been improving in the past decade. Currently, in the United States, the average live birth rate per embryo transfer for women under 40 years old using their own eggs is about 2:5 per woman undergoing embryo transfer. However, there is a wide range of success rates among different IVF programs, varying from 20% to almost 50%. Based on these statistics, most women in the United States need to undergo two or more IVF-embryo transfer attempts to have a baby. Many IVF practitioners in the United States attribute the differences in success rates to variations in expertise among embryology laboratories, but this is not entirely accurate. Other factors, such as differences in patient selection, the failure to develop personalized protocols for ovarian stimulation, and the neglect of infectious, anatomical, and immunological factors that affect embryo implantation, are equally important.

Approximately 80% of IVF failures occur due to “embryo incompetency,” mainly caused by ( irregularities in chromosome number (aneuploidy), which is often related to the advancing age of the woman, diminished ovarian reserve ( DOR) but can also be influenced by the ovarian stimulation protocol chosen, and sperm dysfunction (male infertility). However, in around 20% of cases with dysfunction, failure is caused by problems with embryo implantation.

This section will focus on embryo implantation dysfunction and IVF failure which in the vast majority of cases is caused by:

  1. 1. Anatomical irregularities of the inner uterine surface:
  2. a) Surface lesions such as polyps/fibroids/ scar tissue
  3. b)endometrial thickness
  4.  
  5. 2. Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction ( IID)lesions
  6. a)Autoimmune IID
  7. b) Alloimmune IID

  1. ANATOMICAL IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION
  2. a) Surface lesions such as polyps/fibroids/ scar tissue

When there are problems with the structure of the uterus, it can lead to difficulties in getting pregnant. While uterine fibroids usually don’t cause infertility, they can affect fertility when they distort the uterine cavity or protrude through the lining. Even small fibroids located just beneath the lining and protruding into the cavity can decrease the chances of the embryo attaching. Multiple fibroids within the uterine wall that encroach upon the cavity can disrupt blood flow, impair estrogen delivery, and prevent proper thickening of the lining. These issues can be identified through ultrasound during the menstrual cycle’s proliferative phase. Any lesion on the uterine surface, such as submucous fibroids, adhesions, endometrial polyps, or placental polyps, can interfere with implantation by causing a local inflammatory response similar to the effect of an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD).

Clearly, even small uterine lesions can have a negative impact on implantation. Considering the high costs and emotional toll associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related procedures, it is reasonable to perform diagnostic tests like hysterosalpingography (HSG), fluid ultrasound examination (hysterosonogram), or hysteroscopy before starting IVF. Uterine lesions that can affect implantation often require surgical intervention. In most cases, procedures like dilatation and curettage (D&C) or hysteroscopic resection are sufficient. Rarely a laparotomy may be needed. Such interventions often lead to an improvement in the response of the uterine lining.

Hysterosonogram( HSN/saline ultrasound) is a procedure where a sterile saline solution is injected into the uterus through the cervix using a catheter. Vaginal ultrasound is then used to examine the fluid-filled cavity for any irregularities that might indicate surface lesions like polyps, fibroid tumors, scarring, or a septum. When performed by an expert, HSN is highly effective in detecting even the smallest lesions and can supplant hysteroscopy in certain cases. HSN is less expensive, less invasive/traumatic, and equally effective as hysteroscopy. The only drawback is that if a lesion is found, hysteroscopy may still be needed for treatment.

Hysteroscopy is a diagnostic procedure performed in an office setting with minimal discomfort to the patient. It involves inserting a thin, lighted instrument called a hysteroscope through the vagina and cervix into the uterus to examine the uterine cavity. Normal saline is used to distend the uterus during the procedure. Like HSN, hysteroscopy allows for direct visualization of the inside of the uterus to identify defects that could interfere with implantation. We have observed that around one in eight IVF candidates have lesions that need attention before undergoing IVF to optimize the chances of success. I strongly recommend that all patients undergo therapeutic surgery, usually hysteroscopy, to correct any identified issues before proceeding with IVF. Depending on the severity and nature of the problem, hysteroscopy may require general anesthesia and should be performed in a surgical facility equipped for laparotomy if necessary.

  1. b) Thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium)

As far back as In 1989, I and my team made an important discovery about using ultrasound to assess the thickness of the endometrium during the late proliferative phase of both “ natural” and hormone-stimulated cycles. The assessment helped predict the chances of conception. We found that an ideal thickness of over 9mm at the time of ovulation , egg retrieval or with the commencement of progesterone therapy in embryo recipient cycles ( e.g., IVF with egg donation, gestational, surrogacy and embryo adoption) was associated with optimal implantation rates, while an endometrial thickness of less than 8 mm was associated with failure to implant or early pregnancy loss in the vast majority of cases. An endometrium measuring <8mm was almost invariably associated with failure to implant or early pregnancy loss in the while an endometrium measuring 8 to 9 mm was regarded as being intermediate, and while pregnancies did occur in this range, the rates were only slightly lower than with an optimal lining of 9 mm

A “poor” uterine lining typically occurs when the innermost layer of the endometrium (basal or germinal endometrium) is unable to respond to estrogen by developing a thick enough outer “functional” layer to support successful embryo implantation and placental development. The “functional” layer, which accounts for two-thirds of the total endometrial thickness, is shed during menstruation if pregnancy does not occur.

The main causes of a poor uterine lining are:

  1. Damage to the basal endometrium due to:
    • Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis), often resulting from retained products of conception after abortion, miscarriage, or childbirth.
    • Surgical trauma caused by aggressive dilatation and curettage (D&C).
  1. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to:
    • Prolonged (back to back) use of clomiphene citrate for ovarian stimulation or…
    • Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug given to prevent miscarriage in the 1960s.
  1. Overexposure of the uterine lining to male hormones produced by the ovaries or administered during ovarian stimulation (primarily testosterone):
    • Older women, women with DOR (poor responders), and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often have increased biological activity of luteinizing hormone (LH), leading to testosterone overproduction by the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca). This effect can be further amplified when certain ovarian stimulation protocols were high doses of menotropins ( e.g., Menopur) are used.
  1. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium caused by:
    • Multiple uterine fibroids, especially if they are located beneath the endometrium (submucosal).
    • Uterine adenomyosis, which involves extensive abnormal invasion of endometrial glands into the uterine muscle.

In 1996 I introduced the Vaginal administration of Sildenafil (Viagra) to improve endometrial thickening. The selective administration of Sildenafil has shown great promise in improving uterine blood flow and increasing endometrial thickening in cases of thin endometrial linings. When administered vaginally, it is quickly absorbed and reaches high concentrations in the uterine blood system, diluting as it enters the systemic circulation. This method has been found to have minimal systemic side effects. However, it is important to note that Viagra may not be effective in all cases, as some cases of thin uterine linings may involve permanent damage to the basal endometrium, rendering it unresponsive to estrogen.

Severe endometrial damage leading to poor responsiveness to estrogen can occur in various situations. These include post-pregnancy endometritis (inflammation after childbirth), chronic granulomatous inflammation caused by uterine tuberculosis (rare in the United States), and significant surgical injury to the basal endometrium (which can happen after aggressive D&C procedures).

 

  1. IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION (IID)

There is a growing recognition that problems with the immune function in the uterus can lead to embryo implantation dysfunction. The failure of proper immunologic interaction during implantation has been implicated as a cause of recurrent miscarriage, late pregnancy fetal loss, IVF failure, and infertility. Some immunologic factors that may contribute to these issues include antiphospholipid antibodies (APA), antithyroid antibodies (ATA) , and activated natural killer cells (NKa).

  • Activated natural Killer Cells (NKa):

During ovulation and early pregnancy, the uterine lining is frequented by NK cells and T-cells, which together make up more than 80% of the immune cells in the uterine lining. These cells travel from the bone marrow to the endometrium where they proliferate under hormonal regulation. When exposed to progesterone, they produce TH-1 and TH-2 cytokines. TH-2 cytokines help the trophoblast (embryo’s “root system”) to penetrate the uterine lining, while TH-1 cytokines induce apoptosis (cell suicide), limiting placental development to the inner part of the uterus. The balance between TH1 and TH-2 cytokines is crucial for optimal placental development. NK cells and T-cells contribute to cytokine production. Excessive TH-1 cytokine production is harmful to the trophoblast and endometrial cells, leading to programmed cell death and ultimately to implantation failure. Functional NK cells reach their highest concentration in the endometrium around 6-7days after ovulation or exposure to progesterone, which coincides with the time of embryo implantation. It’s important to note that measuring the concentration of blood NK cells doesn’t reflect NK cell activation (NKa). The activation of NK cells is what matters. In certain conditions like endometriosis, the blood concentration of NK cells may be below normal, but NK cell activation is significantly increased.

There are several laboratory methods to assess NK cell activation (cytotoxicity), including immunohistochemical assessment of uterine NK cells and measuring TH-1 cytokines in the uterus or blood. However, the K-562 target cell blood test remains the gold standard. In this test, NK cells isolated from a woman’s blood are incubated with specific “target cells,” and the percentage of killed target cells is quantified. More than 12% killing indicates a level of NK cell activation that usually requires treatment. Currently, there are only a few Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories in the USA capable of reliably performing the K-562 target cell test.

There is a common misconception that adding IL (intralipid) or Intravenous gammaglobulin (IVIg) to NK cells can immediately downregulate NK cell activity. However, neither IL and IVIg cannot significantly suppress already activated NK cells. They are believed to work by regulating NK cell progenitors, which then produce downregulated NK cells. To assess the therapeutic effect, IL/IVIg infusion should be done about 14 days before embryos are transferred to the uterus to ensure a sufficient number of normal functional NK cells are present at the implantation site during embryo transfer. Failure to recognize this reality has led to the erroneous demand from IVF doctors for Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories to report on NK cell activity before and immediately after exposure to IVIg or IL at different concentrations. However, since already activated NK cells cannot be deactivated in the laboratory, assessing NKa suppression in this way has little clinical benefit. Even if blood is drawn 10-14 days after IL/IVIg treatment, it would take another 10-14 days to receive the results, which would be too late to be practically advantageous.

  • Antiphospholipid Antibodies:

Many women who struggle with IVF failure or recurrent pregnancy loss, as well as those with a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and dermatomyositis, often test positive for antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs). Over 30 years ago, I proposed a treatment for women with positive APA tests. This involved using a low dose of heparin to improve the success of IVF implantation and increase birth rates. Research indicated that heparin could prevent APAs from affecting the embryo’s “root system” ( the trophoblast), thus enhancing implantation. We later discovered that this therapy only benefits women whose APAs target specific phospholipids (phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine). Nowadays, longer-acting low molecular weight heparinoids like Lovenox and Clexane have replaced heparin.

  • Antithyroid Antibodies ( thyroid peroxidase  -TPO and antithyroglobulin antibodies (TGa)

Between 2% and 5% of women of the childbearing age have reduced thyroid hormone activity (hypothyroidism). Women with hypothyroidism often manifest with reproductive failure i.e., infertility, unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure, or recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). The condition is 5-10 times more common in women than in men. In most cases hypothyroidism is caused by damage to the thyroid gland resulting from thyroid autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s disease) caused by damage done to the thyroid gland by antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal auto-antibodies. The increased prevalence of hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) in women is likely the result of a combination of genetic factors, estrogen-related effects, and chromosome X abnormalities. This having been said, there is significantly increased incidence of thyroid antibodies in non-pregnant women with a history of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss and thyroid antibodies can be present asymptomatically in women without them manifesting with overt clinical or endocrinologic evidence of thyroid disease. In addition, these antibodies may persist in women who have suffered from hyper- or hypothyroidism even after normalization of their thyroid function by appropriate pharmacological treatment. The manifestations of reproductive dysfunction thus seem to be linked more to the presence of thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) than to clinical existence of hypothyroidism and treatment of the latter does not routinely result in a subsequent improvement in reproductive performance. It follows that if antithyroid autoantibodies are associated with reproductive dysfunction they may serve as useful markers for predicting poor outcome in patients undergoing assisted reproductive technologies. Some years back, I reported on the fact that 47% of women who harbor thyroid autoantibodies, regardless of the absence or presence of clinical hypothyroidism, have activated uterine natural killer cells (NKa) cells and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and that such women often present with reproductive dysfunction. We demonstrated that appropriate immunotherapy with IVIG or intralipid (IL) and steroids subsequently often results in a significant improvement in reproductive performance in such cases.


Almost 50% of women with antithyroid antibodies do not have activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) or natural killer cells (NK cells). This suggests that the antibodies themselves may not be the direct cause of reproductive dysfunction. Instead, the activation of CTL and NK cells, which occurs in about half of the cases with thyroid autoimmunity (TAI), is likely an accompanying phenomenon that damages the early “root system” (trophoblast) of the embryo during implantation.

Treating women who have both antithyroid antibodies and activated NK cells/CTL with intralipid (IL) and steroids improves their chances of successful reproduction. However, women with antithyroid antibodies who do not have activated NK cells/CTL do not require this treatment.

  • Treatment Options for IID:
  1. Intralipid (IL) Therapy: IL is a mixture of soybean lipid droplets in water, primarily used for providing nutrition. When administered intravenously, IL supplies essential fatty acids that can activate certain receptors in NK cells, reducing their cytotoxic activity and enhancing implantation. IL, combined with corticosteroids, suppresses the overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by NK cells, improving reproductive outcomes. IL is cost-effective and has fewer side effects compared to other treatments like IVIg.
  2. Intravenous immunoglobulin-G (IVIg) Therapy:In the past, IVIg was used to down-regulate activated NK cells. However, concerns about viral infections and the high cost led to a decline in its use. IVIg can be effective, but IL has become a more favorable and affordable alternative.
  3. Corticosteroid Therapy: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and dexamethasone, are commonly used in IVF treatment. They have an immunomodulatory effect and reduce TH-1 cytokine production by CTL. When combined with IL or IVIg, corticosteroids enhance the implantation process. Treatment typically starts 10-14 days before embryo transfer and continues until the 10th week of pregnancy.
  4. Heparinoid Therapy: Low molecular weight heparin (Clexane, Lovenox)can improve IVF success rates in women with antiphospholipid antibodies (APAs) and may prevent pregnancy loss in certain thrombophilias when used during treatment. It is administered subcutaneously once daily from the start of ovarian stimulation.
  5. TH-1 Cytokine Blockers (Enbrel, Humira):TH-1 cytokine blockers have limited effectiveness in the IVF setting and, in my opinion, no compelling evidence supports their use. They may have a role in treating threatened miscarriage caused by CTL/NK cell activation, but not for IVF treatment. TH-1 cytokines are needed for cellular response, during the early phase of implantation, so completely blocking them could hinder normal implantation.
  6. Baby Aspirin and IVF:Baby aspirin doesn’t offer much value in treating implantation dysfunction (IID) and may even reduce the chance of success. This is because aspirin thins the blood and increases the risk of bleeding, which can complicate procedures like egg retrieval or embryo transfer during IVF, potentially compromising its success.
  7. Leukocyte Immunization Therapy (LIT):LIT involves injecting the male partner’s lymphocytes into the mother to improve the recognition of the embryo as “self” and prevent rejection. LIT can up-regulate Treg cells and down-regulate NK cell activation, improving the balance of TH-1 and TH-2 cells in the uterus. However, the same benefits can be achieved through IL (Intralipid) therapy combined with corticosteroids. IL is more cost-effective, and the use of LIT is prohibited by law in the USA.

Types of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and NK Cell Activation:

  1. 1.Autoimmune Implantation Dysfunction: Women with a personal or family history of autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus Erythematosus, thyroid autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s disease and thyrotoxicosis), and endometriosis (in about one-third of cases) may experience autoimmune IID. However, autoimmune IID can also occur without any personal or family history of autoimmune diseases. Treatment for NK cell activation in IVF cases complicated by autoimmune IID involves a combination of daily oral dexamethasone from the start of ovarian stimulation until the 10th week of pregnancy, along with 20% intralipid (IL) infusion 10 days to 2 weeks before embryo transfer. With this treatment, the chance of a viable pregnancy occurring within two completed embryo transfer  attempts is approximately 70% for women <40 years old who have  normal ovarian reserve.
  2. Alloimmune Implantation Dysfunction:NK cell activation occurs when the uterus is exposed to an embryo that shares certain genotypic (HLA/DQ alpha) similarities with the embryo recipient.
      • Partial DQ alpha/HLA genetic matching: Couples who share only one DQ alpha/HLA gene are considered to have a “partial match.” If NK cell activation is also present, this partial match puts the couple at a disadvantage for IVF success. However, it’s important to note that DQ alpha/HLA matching, whether partial or total, does not cause IID without associated NK cell activation. Treatment for partial DQ alpha/HLA match with NK cell activation involves IL infusion and oral prednisone as adjunct therapy. IL infusion is repeated every 2-4 weeks after pregnancy is confirmed and continued until the 24th week of gestation. In these cases, only one embryo is transferred at a time to minimize the risk of NK cell activation.
      • Total (Complete) Alloimmune Genetic Matching: A total alloimmune match occurs when the husband’s DQ alpha genotype matches both that of the partner. Although rare, this total match along with NK cell activation significantly reduces the chance of a viable pregnancy resulting in a live birth at term. In some cases, the use of a gestational surrogate may be necessary.

It should be emphasized that poor embryo quality is not always the main cause of reproductive dysfunction and that the complex interaction between embryonic cells and the lining of the uterus  plays a critical role in successful implantation. Women with personal or family histories of autoimmune disease or endometriosis and those with unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure or recurrent pregnancy loss, often have immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID as the underlying cause . For such women, it is important to understand how IID leads to reproductive failure and how selective treatment options such as intralipid (IL), corticosteroid and heparinoid therapy, can dramatically  improve reproductive outcomes. Finally, there is real hope that proper identification and management of IID can  significantly improve the chance of successful reproduction and ultimately contribute to better quality of life after birth.

___________________________________________________________________

  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION (IID)

More than 50% of patients with endometriosis have antiphospholipid antibodies ( APA’s) in their blood. These antibodies, given certain conditions, are capable of attacking the embryo and preventing implantation. There are at least 21 varieties of APA. Treatment requires prior and specific identification of all 21 sub-types and their gammaglobulin isotypes. Unfortunately, only a handful of Laboratories in the United States are capable of adequately testing for APAs. But it is probably not APAs that cause infertility in endometriosis patients. Rather it is the coexistence activated NK cells (Nka) and (to a lesser extent) activated T-cells (cytotoxic lymphocytes-CTL)that attack the early embryo’s root system as soon as it tries to attach to the uterine wall that causes the problem. The presence of APAs probably represents a marker which identifies those endometriosis patients who have immunologic problems requiring immunotherapy (approximately 30% of women with endometriosis (regardless of its severity) test positive for Nka cells). Optimal treatment is predicated upon an accurate diagnosis.

About 33% of cases, endometriosis, (regardless of its severity) is associated with an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) linked to activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa), cytotoxic uterine lymphocytes (CTLa) and to a much lesser extent to APA.  This is diagnosed by testing the woman’s blood for APA and for NKa using the K-562 target cell test. NKa and CTLa activation  can also be determined by endometrial biopsy for cytokine analysis. NKa/CTLa  attack the embryo’s  invading trophoblast cells (developing “root system”) as soon as begins to  attach to the uterine lining. In most cases, this results in death of the embryo even before the pregnancy is diagnosed. Sometimes it presents as a chemical pregnancy or as an early miscarriage. . As such, many women with endometriosis, rather than being infertile, in the strict sense of the word, actually experience repeated undetected “mini miscarriages”.

Women who harbor APA’s often experience improved IVF birth rates when heparinoids (Clexane/Lovenox) are administered from the onset of ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins until the 10th week of pregnancy. NKa is treated with a combination of Intralipid (IL) and steroid therapy: Intralipid (IL) is a solution of small lipid droplets suspended in water. When administered intravenously, IL provides essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.IL is made up of 20% soybean oil/fatty acids (comprising linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid and stearic acid) , 1.2% egg yolk phospholipids (1.2%), glycerin (2.25%)  and water (76.5%).IL exerts a modulating effect on certain immune cellular mechanisms largely by down-regulating NKa.

 While the exact cause of endometriosis remains an enigma, it is now apparent that immunologic dysfunction is likely to be a significant feature in many cases of this disease. Whether immunopathology is causally linked to this condition or whether it occurs in response to endometriosis is unknown. Regardless, the underlying immunologic disorder adversely impacts on implantation of the embryo/early conceptus. It is possible, through thorough and meticulous evaluation, to quantify, typify and thereupon, selectively treat the underlying IID.. In so doing, IVF pregnancy rates can be significantly improved.

 

 

 

 


  •  In a

 

 

 

 

Name: Isa F

Doctor ayúdeme tengo miedo de haber malogrado mi estimulación ovarica, en mi última inyección que era de ovidrel de 250, no supe ponérmela la inyecte dos veces porque no había puesto la dosis correcta y me di cuenta después de inyectarme y por eso en ese momento, me la volví a inyectar con el resto de la dosis qué faltaba, y siento que no aplique los 250 si no un poquito menos, soy una tonta no supe ponérmela y tengo miedo de haber arruinado todo, qué hago?

Answer:

Please re-post this in English and I will respond promptly!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Priscilla W

At what age is it unethical to do IVF and do you check ovarian reserves before you make that choice.

Answer:

Over 43y of age, egg donation is advisable because with advancing age, egg quality declines starting at 35 y and really accelerating after 40Y. At a younger age, egg donation should also be seriously contemplated in women who have VERY depleted ovarian reserve (AMH=,0.2ng/ml).

Egg donation is when a woman donates her eggs for assisted reproduction or research purposes. In assisted reproduction, it usually involves using IVF technology, where the eggs are fertilized in a lab. Unfertilized eggs can also be frozen for future use. Egg donation is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) involving a third party.

For women who can’t get pregnant with their own eggs due to disease or low ovarian reserve, egg donation offers a realistic chance of becoming parents. It has clear benefits. First, young donors often provide more eggs than needed for a single IVF cycle, resulting in extra embryos that can be frozen for later use. Second, eggs from young donors are much less likely to have chromosomal abnormalities, reducing the risk of miscarriage and birth defects like Down’s syndrome.

Around 10%-15% of IVF procedures in the United States involve egg donation, mostly for older women with diminished ovarian reserve or for menopausal women. A much smaller percentage are performed on younger women who have premature ovarian failure or repeated IVF failures with low-quality eggs or embryos. Another rapidly emerging reason for egg donation is same-sex couples, mainly female, who want to share the experience of parenting, with one partner providing the eggs and the other receiving them. 

Most egg donation in the U.S. is done through licensed egg donor agencies or frozen egg banks, where anonymous donors are recruited. Sometimes recipients seek known donors through an agency, but this is less common and often done through private arrangements. Close family members are often approached as donors. Recipients may want to know or meet their egg donor to become familiar with their physical traits, intellect, and character, but anonymous donors are more common in the U.S. Recipients using anonymous donors are usually more open about the child’s conception when disclosing to family and friends. 

Donor agencies and Egg Banks provide detailed profiles and information about each donor for recipients to choose from. The recipient interacts with the egg donor program or Egg Bank in-person, over the phone, or online. After narrowing down choices, the recipient shares medical records with their IVF physician for consultation and examination. The process is facilitated by nurse coordinators who address all clinical, financial, and logistical aspects. Donor selection and matching are completed during this time. 

Egg donor agencies and egg banks typically prefer donors under 35 years old with normal ovarian reserve to minimize risks. Having a history of successful pregnancies or live births gives confidence in the donor’s reproductive potential. However, due to the shortage of donors, strict criteria like previous successful pregnancies cannot always be met. 

Sometimes donors may blame infertility on complications from the egg retrieval process, leading to legal actions. Evidence of trouble-free pregnancies provides comfort to the egg donor program when selecting a donor.

Screening Egg Donors

Genetic Screening: Many egg donor programs now use genetic screening panels to test for various genetic disorders. They follow the recommendations of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and screen prospective donors for a host ( a panel) of conditions such as sickle cell trait or disease, thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, and Tay Sachs disease. About 90% of programs offer consultation with a geneticist.

Psychological/Emotional Screening: Recipient couples value compatibility with their chosen egg donor in terms of emotions, physicality, ethnicity, culture, and religion. Psychological screening is important in the United States. Since most donors are anonymous, it’s essential for the donor agency or IVF program to assess the donor’s commitment and motivation for providing this service. Some donors may not cope with the stress and stop their stimulation medication without informing anyone, causing the cycle to be canceled. 

Donor motivation and commitment need to be assessed carefully. Recipients in the U.S. often consider the “character” of the prospective egg donor as significant, believing that flaws in character may be genetically passed on. However, character flaws are usually influenced by environmental factors and unlikely to be genetically transmitted. 

Donors should undergo counseling, screening, and selective testing by a qualified psychologist. If needed, they should be referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation. Tests like the MMPI, Meyers-Briggs, and NEO-Personality Indicator may be used to assess personality disorders. If significant abnormalities are found, the prospective donor should be automatically disqualified.

When choosing a known egg donor, it’s important to ensure that she is not coerced into participating. Recipients considering a close friend or family member as a donor should be aware that the donor may become a permanent and unwanted participant in their new family’s life.

Drug Screening: Due to the prevalence of substance abuse, we selectively perform urine and/or serum drug testing on our egg donors.

Screening for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): FDA and ASRM guidelines recommend testing all egg donors for STDs before starting IVF. While it’s highly unlikely for DNA and RNA viruses to be transmitted to an egg or embryo through sexual intercourse or IVF, women infected with viruses like hepatitis B, C, HTLV, HIV, etc., must be disqualified from participating in IVF with egg donation due to the remote possibility of transmission and potential legal consequences. 

Prior or existing infections with Chlamydia or Gonococcus suggest the possibility of pelvic adhesions or irreparably damaged fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility. If such infertility is later attributed to the egg retrieval process, it can lead to litigation. Even if an egg donor or recipient agrees to waive legal rights, there is still a potential risk of the offspring suing for wrongful birth later in life.

 

Screening Embryo Recipients

Medical Evaluation: Before starting infertility treatment, it’s important to assess a woman’s ability to safely carry a pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby. This involves a thorough evaluation of cardiovascular, hepatorenal, metabolic, and reproductive health.

Infectious Screening: It is crucial to screen embryo recipients for infectious diseases. If the cervix is infected, introducing an embryo transfer catheter can transmit the infection to the sterile uterine cavity, leading to implantation failure or miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy.

Immunologic Screening: Some autoimmune and alloimmune disorders can affect the success of implantation. To prevent treatment failure, it is advisable to evaluate the recipient for immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) and in some cases, test both the recipient and sperm provider for alloimmune similarities that could affect implantation.

Disclosure and Consent: Full disclosure about the egg donation process, including medical and psychological risks, is necessary. Sufficient time should be dedicated to addressing questions and concerns from all parties involved. 

It’s important for all parties to seek independent legal advice to avoid conflicts of interest. Consent forms are reviewed and signed by the donor and recipient independently.

Types of Egg Donation

Conventional Egg Donation: This is the standard process for egg donor IVF. The menstrual cycles of the donor and recipient are synchronized using birth control pills. Both parties undergo fertility drug stimulation, allowing for precise timing of fresh embryo transfer. The success rate for pregnancy through this method is over 50% per cycle.

Donor Egg Bank: In this approach, eggs from young donors are frozen and stored for later use in IVF and embryo transfer. Frozen egg banks offer access to non-genetically tested eggs. While it provides convenience, there are minimal financial benefits. 

Through an electronic catalogue, recipients can select and purchase 1-5 frozen eggs. These eggs are fertilized through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and up to 2 embryos are selectively transferred, resulting in a 30-40% pregnancy rate without the risk of multiple pregnancies. This method reduces the cost, inconvenience, and risks associated with conventional fresh egg donor cycles. It is important for the recipient couple to be made aware that frozen eggs are slightly less likely to result in viable embryos as compared to fresh eggs and that the pregnancy rate using frozen eggs is also somewhat lower.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening/Testing for Aneuploidy (PGS/PGT):

The use of PGS/PGT to select embryos for transfer in IVF with egg donation is a topic of debate. Since most egg donors are under 35 years old, about 60-70% of embryos created from their eggs will likely have the correct number of chromosomes (euploid). This means that transferring up to two “untested” embryos from these donors should result in similar pregnancy rates compared to using PGS/PGT for embryo selection. However, it may in the future, become possible and practical to perform PGS/PGT on eggs for selective banking in the future. This could lead to improved success rates using banked eggs that have been tested for chromosomal abnormalities.

Egg Donation with Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): Advances in embryo cryopreservation technology have made FET cycles a preferred method for many fertility specialists and patients. Whether or not embryos have undergone PGS/PGT testing, they are frozen as blastocysts and transferred in a subsequent FET cycle. This approach is more convenient, less complicated logistically, and can significantly improve the chances of successful pregnancy.

Financial Considerations in the United States:

The cost of an egg donor cycle involves various expenses. The average fee paid to the egg donor agency per cycle is typically between $2,000 – $8,000. Additional costs include psychological and clinical pre-testing, fertility drugs, and donor insurance, which range from $3,000 to $6,000. The medical services for the IVF treatment cycle can cost between $8,000 and $14,000. The donor stipend can vary widely, ranging from $5,000 to as high as $50,000, depending on the specific requirements of the recipient couple and supply-demand factors. Consequently, the total out-of-pocket expenses for an egg donor cycle in the United States ranges from $15,000 to $78,000, making it financially challenging for most couples in need of this service.

To address the growing gap between the need for affordable IVF with egg donation, various creative approaches have emerged. Here are a few examples:

 

  • Egg Banking: As mentioned earlier, egg banking is a method where eggs are preserved and stored for future use.
  • Egg Donor Sharing: This approach involves splitting the cost between two recipients, who then share the eggs for transfer or freezing. However, the downside is that there may be fewer eggs available for each recipient.
  • Egg Bartering: In this scenario, a woman undergoing IVF can exchange some of her eggs with the clinic in return for a reduction in her IVF fee. This arrangement can be problematic because if the woman donating her eggs fails to conceive while the recipient does, it may cause emotional distress and potential complications in the future.
  • Financial Risk Sharing: Some IVF programs offer a refund of fees if the egg donation is unsuccessful. This option is preferred by many recipient couples as it helps to spread the financial risk between the providers and the couple.

Moral, Legal, and Ethical Considerations:

In most States in the USA, the “Uniform Parentage Act” protects the recipient couple from legal disputes relating to parental claims by the donor. This “act” which states that the woman who gives birth to the child is legally recognized as the mother has generally prevented legal disputes over maternal custody in cases of IVF with egg donation. While a few states have less clear laws on this matter, there have been no major legal challenges so far.

The moral, ethical, and religious implications of egg donation vary and greatly influence the cultural acceptance of this process. In the United States, the prevailing attitude is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should have their views respected as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others.

Looking ahead, there are important questions to consider. Should we cryopreserve and store eggs or ovarian tissue from a young woman who wishes to delay having children? Would it be acceptable for a woman to give birth to her own sister or aunt using these stored eggs? Should we store ovarian tissue across generations? Additionally, should egg donation primarily be used for stem cell research or as a source of spare body parts? If we decide to pursue these avenues, how do we ensure proper checks and balances? Are we willing to go down a slippery slope where the dignity of human embryos is disregarded, and the rights of human beings are compromised? Personally, I hope not.

__________________________________________________________________________________

PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

 

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

 

 

Name: Ridi D

Me and my wife are looking to have an IVF/ICSI cycle. I have a severe non-obstructive azoospermia, I did a micro-tese procedure and they were able to find one good sperm which after that they froze the tissue extracted for further search at the clinic we will choose. The urologist that performed the procedure has instructed me to choose a clinic that has a big embryology lab that can have multiple people spend multiple hours searching through the frozen samples to find more sperm to use for the ICSI.

Therefore my question is how big is the embryology department at your clinic and will there be multiple embryologist that can search for a few hours until they find the sperm from the samples. Thank you!

Answer:

We have the required resources to do this.

 

Geoff Sher

___________________________________________________________________________

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Anne C

Dear Dr. Sher,

What is the ideal daily dosage for Omnitrope?

Thanks for your kind and expert guidance,

A.C.

Answer:

There is no uniformity here. A dosage ranging from 8U per day to 20U per day is probably fine. I start the omnitrope with ovarian stimulation and discontinue on the day of the “trigger”.

 

Geoff Sher

____________________________________________________________

  • IVF and the use of Supplementary Human Growth Hormone (HGH) : Is it Worth Trying and who needs it?

Older women and those who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have greater difficulty in conceiving naturally or through assisted reproductive technology (ART). This is largely due to an inevitable increase in egg aneuploidy (numerical chromosome irregularity). However, although less significant than the rising increase in egg aneuploidy, advancing age and DOR are both also associated with non-chromosomal egg deterioration involving a decline in mitochondrial activity as well  as a progressive reduction in the  ability of the granulosa cells that line the inside of the follicle to respond to FSH stimulation.

Getting older women and those with DOR to respond optimally to ovarian stimulation often represents a serious challenge. Many will fail to respond adequately to standard ovarian stimulation regimens, requiring any individualized and strategic approach to ovarian stimulation…. one that regulates and limits exposure of ovarian follicles and eggs to LH-induced local male hormones (predominantly testosterone). This, in my opinion is best addressed by using a modified long pituitary down regulation protocol with an agonist (e.g. Lupron/Buserelin/Superfact) coming off a birth control pill. Thereupon, as soon as the period starts, the agonist is supplanted by an antagonist (e.g. Cetrotide/Orgalutron/Ganirelix) and stimulation with recombinant FSH (Follistim/Gonal-F/Puregon) along with a small amount of menotropin (e.g. Menopur) until t optimal follicle development prompts initiation of the hCG trigger. More than 15 years ago, I reported on the observation that in some women with severe DOR, the addition of intramuscular administration of estradiol valerate (i.e. Delestrogen) prior to and during gonadotropin stimulation (i.e. “estrogen priming”) is capable of further enhancing follicle growth .

More recently, researchers have shown that the administration of human growth hormone (HGH), as an adjunct to ovarian stimulation, can enhance follicle response in older women and those with DOR. Two basic mechanisms have been proposed: a) enhanced response to FSH by up-regulating the FSH receptors on follicular granulosa cells and, b) through a direct effect of HGH on the egg itself whereby mitochondrial activity is enhanced.  Human eggs do have receptors to HGH but eggs retrieved from older women show decreased expression of such receptors (as well as a reduced amount of functional mitochondria. It was recently observed that some such women treated with HGH, show a marked increase in egg functional mitochondria along with improved egg quality.

 ________________________________________________________

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

 

 

Name: Kristina H

I am 30, my husband is 29. I was diagnosed with PCOS at 15. I had a miscarriage at age 20 at 8 weeks. Last year, I had three miscarriages (one at 6 weeks, 5 weeks and then at 4 weeks). During my work up last year, we did genetic testing. My results were positive for mosaic Turner’s syndrome. This was only positive in less than 50% of my sample. Based on that, we chose to go the route of IVF. I did a retrieval this past July and did PGTA testing. I had 16 eggs retrieved, 12 mature, 9 fertilized, 4 embryos, 3 were genetically normal- 1 was abnormal (mosaic).

In the mean time, we had a spontaneous pregnancy in August. Since then, we have lost the baby (at eight weeks). Based on my PGTA testing, the numbers aren’t awful, and 75% of my embryos were “normal”, one had a genetic abnormality- NOT the chromosome that is linked with Turner’s.

We have tested this tissue from my miscarriage and it showed three different types of chromosomal abnormlities (none of which were Turners related).

I have been on medications (metformin, inositol, CoQ10, prenatals) to improve egg quality for over a year now. When I got pregnant in August of this year, my TSH was high, so I have since been started on Synthroid and taken off of it for normal TSH levels. I take all of my medications religiously. I just don’t understand why this is happening. My husbands tests have all been prestine. I have had a coagulation work up through a naturopath that I saw last year in the midst of my miscarriages, which was normal.

My husband and I have since done ERA/ EMMA/ ALICE which came back normal. I also did the UTIMPRO which is came back unremarkable. I did the Receptiva test which showed the BCL6 as positive, but the CD138 was negative. My fertility team has since let me know that they suspect it is endometriosis.

I am naieve, I know nothing about endometriosis. I am incredibly new to this world. My fertility clinic has decided to move forward with 2 rounds of Lupron (so two months) with Letrozole with the plans to implant at the end of Feb.

Does this sound right? Does this sound like a solid course of action moving forward? Should I be asking for more investigation towards this “suspected” endo. Should I be talking to someone about having the lap surgery to confirm this diagnosis? I am just so lost.

My problem is, I would hate to implant my embryos and have it end up in this same situation, and waste our three healthy embryos. I am just hoping for some guidance.

Answer:

Respectfully, I do not concur with the suggested approach. You have recurrent pregnancy loss. I suggest you read the articles I wrote , below and then seriously consider calling my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-to set up an online consultation with me to discuss your case in detail.

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A. UNDERSTANDING RECURRENT PREGNANCY LOSS ( RPL): CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS.

When it comes to reproduction, humans face challenges compared to other mammals. A significant number of fertilized eggs in humans do not result in live births, with up to 75% failing to develop, and around 30% of pregnancies ending within the first 10 weeks  (first trimester). Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) refers to two or more consecutive failed pregnancies, which is relatively rare, affecting less than 5% of women for two losses and only 1% for three or more losses. Understanding the causes of pregnancy loss and finding solutions is crucial for those affected. This article aims to explain the different types of pregnancy loss and shed light on potential causes.

Types of Pregnancy Loss: Pregnancy loss can occur at various stages, leading to different classifications:

  1. Early Pregnancy Loss: Also known as a miscarriage, this typically happens in the first trimester. Early pregnancy losses are usually sporadic, not recurring. In over 70% of cases, these losses are due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo, where there are more or fewer than the normal 46 chromosomes. Therefore, they are not likely to be repetitive.
  2. Late Pregnancy Loss: Late pregnancy losses occur after the first trimester (12th week) and are less common (1% of pregnancies). They often result from anatomical abnormalities in the uterus or cervix. Weakness in the cervix, known as cervical incompetence, is a frequent cause. Other factors include developmental abnormalities of the uterus, uterine fibroid tumors, intrauterine growth retardation, placental abruption, premature rupture of membranes, and premature labor.

Causes of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL): Recurrent pregnancy loss refers to multiple consecutive miscarriages. While chromosomal abnormalities are a leading cause of sporadic early pregnancy losses, RPL cases are mostly attributed to non-chromosomal factors. Some possible causes include:

  1. Uterine Environment Problems: Issues with the uterine environment can prevent a normal embryo from properly implanting and developing. These problems may include inadequate thickening of the uterine lining, irregularities in the uterine cavity (such as polyps, fibroid tumors, scarring, or adenomyosis), hormonal imbalances (progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defects), and deficient blood flow to the uterine lining.
  2. Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID): IID is a significant cause of RPL, contributing to 75% of cases where chromosomally normal embryos fail to implant. It involves the immune system’s response to pregnancy, which can interfere with successful implantation.
  3. Blood Clotting Disorders: Thrombophilia, a hereditary clotting disorder, can disrupt the blood supply to the developing fetus, leading to pregnancy loss.
  4. Genetic and Structural Abnormalities: Genetic abnormalities are rare causes of RPL, while structural chromosomal abnormalities occur infrequently (1%). Unbalanced translocation, where part of one chromosome detaches and fuses with another, can lead to pregnancy loss. Studies also suggest that damaged sperm DNA can negatively impact fetal development and result in miscarriage.

 

IMMUNOLOGIC IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION AND RPL:

 

Autoimmune IID: Here an immunologic reaction is produced by the individual to his/her body’s own cellular components. The most common antibodies that form in such situations are APA and antithyroid antibodies (ATA). But it is only when specialized immune cells in the uterine lining, known as cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cells, become activated and start to release an excessive/disproportionate amount of TH-1 cytokines that attack the root system of the embryo, that implantation potential is jeopardized. Diagnosis of such activation requires highly specialized blood test for cytokine activity that can only be performed by a handful of reproductive immunology reference laboratories in the United States. Alloimmune IID, (i.e., where antibodies are formed against antigens derived from another member of the same species), is believed to be a common immunologic cause of recurrent pregnancy loss. Autoimmune IID is often genetically transmitted. Thus, it should not be surprising to learn that it is more likely to exist in women who have a family (or personal) history of primary autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE), scleroderma or autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reactionary (secondary) autoimmunity can occur in conjunction with any medical condition associated with widespread tissue damage. One such gynecologic condition is endometriosis. Since autoimmune IID is usually associated with activated NK and T-cells from the outset, it usually results in such very early destruction of the embryo’s root system that the patient does not even recognize that she is pregnant. Accordingly, the condition usually presents as “unexplained infertility” or “unexplained IVF failure” rather than as a miscarriage. Alloimmune IID, on the other hand, usually starts off presenting as unexplained miscarriages (often manifesting as RPL). Over time as NK/T cell activation builds and eventually becomes permanently established the patient often goes from RPL to “infertility” due to failed implantation. RPL is more commonly the consequence of alloimmune rather than autoimmune implantation dysfunction. However, regardless, of whether miscarriage is due to autoimmune or alloimmune implantation dysfunction the final blow to the pregnancy is the result of activated natural killer cells (NKa) and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTL B) in the uterine lining that damage the developing embryo’s “root system” (trophoblast) so that it can no longer sustain the growing conceptus. This having been said, it is important to note that autoimmune IID is readily amenable to reversal through timely, appropriately administered, selective immunotherapy, and alloimmune IID is not. It is much more difficult to treat successfully, even with the use of immunotherapy. In fact, in some cases the only solution will be to revert to selective immunotherapy plus using donor sperm (provided there is no “match” between the donor’s DQa profile and that of the female recipient) or alternatively to resort to gestational surrogacy.

 

DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF RPL.

In the past, women who miscarried were not evaluated thoroughly until they had lost several pregnancies in a row. This was because sporadic miscarriages are most commonly the result of embryo numerical chromosomal irregularities (aneuploidy) and thus not treatable. However, a consecutive series of miscarriages points to a repetitive cause that is non-chromosomal and is potentially remediable. Since RPL is most commonly due to a uterine pathology or immunologic causes that are potentially treatable, it follows that early chromosomal evaluation of products of conception could point to a potentially treatable situation. Thus, I strongly recommend that such testing be done in most cases of miscarriage. Doing so will avoid a great deal of unnecessary heartache for many patients. Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward determining effective treatment for couples with RPL. It results from a problem within the pregnancy itself or within the uterine environment where the pregnancy implants and grows. Diagnostic tests useful in identifying individuals at greater risk for a problem within the pregnancy itself include Karyotyping (chromosome analysis) both prospective parents Assessment of the karyotype of products of conception derived from previous miscarriage specimens Ultrasound examination of the uterine cavity after sterile water is injected or sonohysterogram, fluid ultrasound, etc.) Hysterosalpingogram (dye X-ray test) Hysteroscopic evaluation of the uterine cavity Full hormonal evaluation (estrogen, progesterone, adrenal steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, FSH/LH, etc.) Immunologic testing to include Antiphospholipid antibody (APA) panel Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel Antithyroid antibody panel (i.e., antithyroglobulin and antimicrosomal antibodies) Reproductive immunophenotype Natural killer cell activity (NKa) assay (i.e., K562 target cell test) Alloimmune testing of both the male and female partners

 

TREATMENT OF RPL

  • Treatment for Anatomic Abnormalities of the Uterus: 

This involves restoration through removal of local lesions such as fibroids, scar tissue, and endometrial polyps or timely insertion of a cervical cerclage (a stitch placed around the neck of the weakened cervix) or the excision of a uterine septum when indicated. Treatment of Thin Uterine Lining: A thin uterine lining has been shown to correlate with compromised pregnancy outcome. Often this will be associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium. Such decreased blood flow to the uterus can be improved through treatment with sildenafil and possibly aspirin. sildenafil (Viagra) Therapy. Viagra has been used successfully to increase uterine blood flow. However, to be effective it must be administered starting as soon as the period stops up until the day of ovulation and it must be administered vaginally (not orally). Viagra in the form of vaginal suppositories given in the dosage of 25 mg four times a day has been shown to increase uterine blood flow as well as thickness of the uterine lining. To date, we have seen significant improvement of the thickness of the uterine lining in about 70% of women treated. Successful pregnancy resulted in 42% of women who responded to the Viagra. It should be remembered that most of these women had previously experienced repeated IVF failures. Use of Aspirin: This is an anti-prostaglandin that improves blood flow to the endometrium. It is administered at a dosage of 81 mg orally, daily from the beginning of the cycle until ovulation.

 

Treating Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction with Selective Immunotherapy: 

Modalities such as intralipid (IL), intravenous immunoglobulin-G (IVIG),  heparinoids (Lovenox/Clexane), and corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) can be used in select cases depending on autoimmune or alloimmune dysfunction. The Use of IVF in the Treatment of RPL In the following circumstances, IVF is the preferred option: When in addition to a history of RPL, another standard indication for IVF (e.g., tubal factor, endometriosis, and male factor infertility) is superimposed and in cases where selective immunotherapy is needed to treat an immunologic implantation dysfunction.  The reason for IVF being a preferred approach when immunotherapy is indicated is that in order to be effective, immunotherapy needs to be initiated well before spontaneous or induced ovulation. Given the fact that the anticipated birthrate per cycle of COS with or without IUI is at best about 15%, it follows that short of IVF, to have even a reasonable chance of a live birth, most women with immunologic causes of RPL would need to undergo immunotherapy repeatedly, over consecutive cycles. Conversely, with IVF, the chance of a successful outcome in a single cycle of treatment is several times greater and, because of the attenuated and concentrated time period required for treatment, IVF is far safer and thus represents a more practicable alternative Since embryo aneuploidy is a common cause of miscarriage, the use of preimplantation genetic screening/ testing (PGS/T), with tests such as next generation gene sequencing (NGS), can provide a valuable diagnostic and therapeutic advantage in cases of RPL. PGS/T requires IVF to provide access to embryos for testing. There are a few cases of intractable alloimmune dysfunction due to absolute DQ alpha gene matching ( where there is a complete genotyping match between the male and female partners) where Gestational Surrogacy or use of donor sperm could represent the only viable recourse, other than abandoning treatment altogether and/or resorting to adoption. Other non-immunologic factors such as an intractably thin uterine lining or severe uterine pathology might also warrant that last resort consideration be given to gestational surrogacy. Conclusion:

 Understanding the causes of pregnancy loss is crucial for individuals experiencing recurrent miscarriages. While chromosomal abnormalities are a common cause of sporadic early pregnancy losses, other factors such as uterine environment problems, immunologic implantation dysfunction, blood clotting disorders, and genetic or structural abnormalities can contribute to recurrent losses. By identifying the underlying cause, healthcare professionals can provide appropriate interventions and support to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. The good news is that if a couple with RPL is open to all of the diagnostic and treatment options referred to above, a live birthrate of 70%–80% is ultimately achievable.

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B. WHY IVF SHOULD BE REGARDED AS A TREATMENT OF CHOICE FOR INFERTILE WOMEN WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS.

 When women with endometriosis-related infertility seek treatment, they are often advised to try ovarian stimulation with or without  intrauterine insemination (IUI) as a first option. However, it’s important to clarify the reality and set the record straight. In vitro fertilization (IVF) offers distinct advantages and a higher chance of success compared to IUI. Let’s explore why IVF should often be considered as the primary approach for women with endometriosis.

  1. The Toxic Pelvic Factor:

Endometriosis causes the lining of the uterus to grow outside the uterus. As these deposits bleed over time, they release toxins into the pelvic secretions. These toxins coat the peritoneum, the membrane that covers the abdominal and pelvic organs. When eggs are released from the ovaries, they must pass through these toxic secretions to reach the sperm in the fallopian tubes. The toxins alter the egg’s envelopment, making it less receptive to fertilization. This explains why women with endometriosis are far less likely to conceive naturally, following ovulation induction or after surgical attempts to eliminate the condition. Consider the following: .

  • Ovulation induction with or without intrauterine insemination (IUI) is commonly recommended for women with mild to moderately severe endometriosis. However, while fertility drugs can stimulate the growth of multiple follicles, ovulatory women (including those with mild to moderately severe endometriosis) usually ovulate only one egg a time. Therefore, the use of fertility drugs in such cases doesn’t significantly improve pregnancy potential.
  • Surgery to remove endometriotic deposits or adhesions: Surgical removal of visible endometriotic lesions in mild to moderate endometriosis does not usually improve pregnancy potential significantly. This is because endometriosis is an ongoing process, with new lesions constantly developing. Even after the visible lesions are removed, invisible lesions continue to release toxins that can compromise natural fertilization. In contrast, IVF bypasses the toxic pelvic environment by retrieving eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them outside the body, and transferring resulting embryos to the uterus. This makes IVF the preferred treatment for endometriosis-related infertility.

 

  1. The Immunologic Factor:

 

Approximately one third of women with endometriosis also have an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) related to the activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa). This requires selective immunotherapy with Intralipid infusions or heparinoids, which can be effectively implemented in combination with IVF.

 

  1. Ovarian endometriomas :

 

Women, who have advanced endometriosis, often have endometriotic ovarian cysts, known as endometriomas. These cysts contain decomposed menstrual blood that looks like melted chocolate. Hence the name “chocolate cysts”. These space-occupying lesions inside the ovaries  can activate ovarian connective tissue (stroma or theca) resulting in an overproduction of male hormones (especially testosterone). An excess of ovarian testosterone can severely compromise follicle and egg development in the affected ovary. Endometriomas of >1 cm in size should in my opinion be addressed because in my opinion, they can and do adversely affect the quality of eggs produced in the affected ovary. We confirmed this effect in a study where we  evaluated egg quality in a number of women who had one or more endometriomas involving one ovary while the  contralateral ovary was unaffected. We were able to show that those eggs aspirated from follicles in the endometrioma-affected ovary were of markedly reduced  quality (and, the embryos and blastocysts they propagated were fewer in number and of markedly reduced quality as compared to those harvested from the un affected ovary.

 

  • Conventional surgical treatment performed to remove endometriomas involvers laparoscopy or laparotomy with aspiration of the cyst content followed by complete removal and/or  ablation/obliteration  of the cyst wall. This should be done at least 6 weeks in advance of egg retrieval, in my opinion.  Such treatment is associated with pain and a risk of surgical complications.
  • An alternative approach which I and my colleagues first reported on more than 2 decades ago, known as Ovarian Sclerotherapy is a highly effective, inexpensive and safe outpatient method for treating endometriomas in women planning to undergo IVF. The process involves needle aspiration of the “chocolate colored”  liquid content of the endometriotic cyst, followed by the injection of 5% tetracycline hydrochloride into the cyst cavity. Such treatment will, more than 75% of the time result in disappearance of the lesion within 6-8 weeks. Ovarian sclerotherapy can be performed under local anesthesia or under conscious sedation. It is a safe and effective alternative to surgery for definitive treatment of recurrent ovarian endometriomas in a select group of patients planning to undergo IVF. It is in  my opinion, unfortunate that Ovarian Sclerotherapy is not readily available in this country.

 

I am not suggesting that all women with infertility-related endometriosis should automatically resort to IVF. Quite to the contrary…. In spite of having reduced fertility potential, many women with mild to moderate endometriosis can and do go on to conceive on their own (without treatment). It is just that the chance of this happening is so is much lower than normal.

IVF is by far the most successful approach to dealing with endometriosis-related infertility , especially when it comes to women above the age of 35 years, those who have moderate or severe disease and for women who have DOR. Understanding how endometriosis affects IVF outcomes can help make informed decisions about treatment. By  providing a more favorable environment for fertilization and implantation. IVF offers much  higher success rates when compared to ovulation induction with or without  IUI or surgical correction. Simply put……If you’re facing infertility due to endometriosis, it’s worth considering IVF as the first line of treatment to increase your chances of having a baby

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PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD!!

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\

 

Name: Nelly V

Cómo hago para quedar embarazada

Answer:

Please post in English!

 

GS

Name: Tony A

Can a woman that has had molar pregnancy twice within 4 years and undergone chemotherapy be advised to go for IVF?

Answer:

It is possible

Molar pregnancy or hydatidiform mole — is a benign tumor that occurs in the uterus. It starts when an egg is fertilized, but instead developing into a normal, conceptus + placental tissue, the placenta tissue develops into a mass of small cysts. Here, the root system (trophoblast) of the embryo which under normal conditions develops into the placenta that connects the baby to the mother. With molar pregnancy, the roots of the trophoblast (chorionic villi) undergo cystic degeneration and when the woman bleeds, these cystic structures are passed in dark blood, giving rise to the common description of “white currants floating in red currant jelly”.

The condition usually presents with one or more of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding in the first trimester
  • Very high beta hCG levels early on in pregnancy
  • Exaggerated pregnancy symptoms and pernicious intractable vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum)
  • Rapid (often painful) enlargement of the early pregnant uterus
  • Ultrasound evidence of a typical “snow storm pattern)

A molar pregnancy can have serious complications. It can become invasive (an invasive mole or chorioadenoma destruens) and permeate the uterine wall or it can (albeit rarely) develop into a rare form of cancer known as choriocarcinoma.

Molar pregnancies are rare (about 1:2000 pregnancies) and having occurred.it infrequently (<1:1000) recurs in the same woman. It is at least twice as common among Asian women. On rare occasions (1%) a twin pregnancy will comprise of a normal baby and a mole. In about 20%-40% of cases the healthy baby will survive to delivery.

There are two types of molar pregnancies: a) the complete molar pregnancy: Here there’s no embryo or normal placental tissue is present. b) . A partial molar pregnancy, there is a developing embryo present but it is abnormal and non-viable, but there can be some “normal” placental tissue present as well.

Complete Hydatidiform Molar Pregnancies” occur when an egg that has no chromosomal material (anuclear) is fertilized by a sperm and thereupon divides in two and propagates haphazard tissue growth. Like normal pregnancies, the complete mole has 46 chromosomes (two sets of 23), i.e., it is diploid.  However, unlike with normal fertilization, where one set of chromosomes comes from the mother and the other set from the father, both sets of chromosomes come from the father in the case of a complete molar pregnancy. This results from duplication of a sperm’s chromosomes after it has fertilized an “inactive” egg.  Since an embryo that has a YY karyotype is not viable, the chromosome gender of the complete molar pregnancy is invariably XX (female). Accordingly, with IVF, if one selectively only transfers only male (XY) embryos, the possibility of a complete molar pregnancy can be virtually eliminated.

A Partial Molar Pregnancyon the other hand, most often results from an egg being fertilized by 2 separate sperm, such that instead of the resulting embryo comprising 46 chromosomes (23 from the egg + 23 from the sperm), it instead has 69 chromosomes (23 from the egg + 46 from 2 separate sperm). However, it can also happen where one sperm fertilizes an egg, but one group of 23 chromosomes duplicates …again resulting in 3 groups of 23 chromosomes (triploidy)…..for a total of 69 chromosomes. Thus with partial moles, the sex chromosome configuration will be XXY or XYY. Partial moles can thus be avoided through selectively fertilizing an egg by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected, and thereupon performing PGD on the embryo(s) to exclude triploidy.

Persistent trophoblastic disease refers to the situation where following treatment to remove a molar pregnancy some molar tissue is retained and starts to grow again. It occurs in 8-10% of molar pregnancies. In such cases the woman will usually need to undergo chemotherapy

Treatment involves complete emptying of the uterus as soon as the diagnosis is made – even in cases where a spontaneous passage of the molar tissue appears to be complete. The reason is to avoid the development of an invasive mole (where the uterine wall is permeated by remaining tissue), and to limit the development of choriocarcinoma a very malignant tumor that invades the uterus and can spread rapidly via the blood system to bone, lungs, brain and other sites. Fortunately this cancer does respond well to hysterectomy, removal of ovaries plus aggressive chemotherapy.

In the vast majority of properly managed cases however, outcome after treatment is usually excellent. In cases where the beta hCG level fails to drop appropriately following evacuation of the uterus, chemotherapy will usually be curative. Close follow-up with serial quantitative blood hCG testing, ultrasound and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is essential. After successful treatment, the woman must use very effective contraception for at least 6 to 12 months, so as to avoid pregnancy in order to allow for proper follow-up.

 

_______________________________________________________________

Herewith are  online links to 2  E-books recently  co-authored with  my partner at SFS-NY  (Drew Tortoriello MD)……. for your reading pleasure:

  1. From In Vitro Fertilization to Family: A Journey with Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) ; https://sherfertilitysolutions.com/sher-fertility-solutions-ebook.pdf

 

  1. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained IVF Failure: The Immunologic Link ;https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYKz-EkAjMqwMa1ZcufIloRdxnAfDH8L/view

 

I invite you to visit my very recently launched “Podcast”,  “HAVE A BABY” on RUMBLE;   https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480

If you are interested in having an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 or email her at concierge@sherivf.com\