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: Lindsey W

Hello,
I have multiple ovarian Endometriomas. I was wondering if you offer sclerotherapy? How far are you booking out? I already have diminished ovarian reserve. Would having this done hurt my reserve more?

Answer:

I am no longer offering this because the ideal sclerosant (tetracycline hydrochloride) is no longer accessible.

 

So,sorry.

 

GS

Name: Jaylin W

I was sexually active march 4th and had unprotected sex… no seman got inside of me.i tested myself on the 18 got a negative and than got my embryo transfer on the 18 tested myself on the 19,20,21
Got a negative tests and than got a faint positive 4 days after transfer on the 22nd is this pregnancy from me or from the embryo transfer. I also had an ultrasound on my belly while they did the embryo transfer of that matters

Answer:

You tested too early! I suggest you test again now. That will give a more definitive result!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Rossyel L

Quisiera saber si obtendré un pago por donarlo

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: jelsy r

i want to know if i qualify to be donor im 33 where i have to go and how much you pay for it?

Answer:

Yes you do!

 

I suggest you call Rozanne Sher at “Footsteps to Family” for more information. Her # is 702-860-0097.

Geoff Sher

Name: Ikhlas d

Hi . I try ivf I don’t get pregnant 🙁 I want baby but I can’t pay a lot money I don’t have 🙁 I need help plz

Answer:

If you’ve undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) and didn’t achieve a successful pregnancy, you may be wondering why. It’s important to know that IVF outcomes can be unpredictable, but there are factors that can affect your chances. Let’s explore some common reasons for IVF failure in simpler terms.

  1. Age: A woman’s age is a significant factor in IVF success. Generally, women under 35 have a higher chance of getting pregnant through IVF, around 35-40% per embryo transfer. However, this success rate decreases as women get older. For women in their mid-forties, the success rate drops to under 5%. This decline is mainly because the quality of eggs decreases as women age, affecting their ability to develop normally.

 

  1. Egg/Embryo Competency: Apart from age, the quality and competency of embryos also affect IVF success. The quality of eggs and embryos is influenced by a woman’s age. However, for older women or those with fewer eggs, the specific IVF protocol used to stimulate the ovaries becomes crucial. A more aggressive approach may be needed to maximize the chances of success. Previously, it was thought that the uterus was better for embryo development than the lab environment. So, early-stage embryos were transferred to the uterus based on their appearance. However, we now know that embryos that have progressed further in development are more likely to be successful. Embryos that don’t reach the blastocyst stage within 5-6 days after fertilization are considered less competent and not suitable for transfer. Additionally, Preimplantation Genetic Sampling / Testing (PGS/T) allows us to check the chromosomes of embryos. This technique helps select the most competent embryos for transfer, especially for older women, those with fewer eggs, repeated IVF failures, and recurrent pregnancy loss.

 

  1. Number of Embryos Transferred: Some people believe that transferring more embryos increases the chances of success. While this may have some truth, it’s essential to know that if the problem lies with the ovarian stimulation protocol, transferring more embryos won’t solve it. Also, transferring more embryos doesn’t fix issues related to embryo implantation dysfunction, such as anatomical or immunologic problems. Moreover, multiple embryos can lead to higher-order multiple pregnancies, which pose risks. To minimize these risks, it’s generally recommended to transfer a maximum of two embryos, or even just one, especially when using eggs from young women.
  1. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is often overlooked as a cause of unexplained IVF failure, especially in young women with normal ovarian reserve and fertile partners. Failure to identify and address these issues can result in repeated IVF failures. If transferring competent embryos repeatedly fails to result in a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction should be considered. The most common causes include:
    1. Thin Uterine Lining: When the lining of the uterus is too thin, it can affect the embryo’s ability to implant and grow.
    2. Surface Lesions in the Uterus: Polyps, fibroids, or scar tissue in the uterus can interfere with embryo implantation.
    3. Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID): Sometimes, the immune system can mistakenly attack the embryo, preventing successful implantation.
    4. Endocrine/Molecular Endometrial Receptivity Issues: Hormonal or molecular issues in the uterine lining can impact the embryo’s ability to attach and develop.
    5. Ureaplasma Urealyticum (UU) Infection: This infection in the cervical mucous and uterine lining can lead to unexplained early pregnancy loss or IVF failure. Both partners should be tested and treated if positive to prevent transmission.

Certain causes of infertility are difficult or impossible  to reverse, e.g.; advanced age of the woman, severe male infertility, and immunologic implantation dysfunction associated with certain specific genetic factors.

Understanding the common factors contributing to IVF failure can help you have informed discussions with your doctor and make decisions for future attempts. Factors like the number of embryos transferred and implantation dysfunction play significant roles. While success cannot be guaranteed, knowing these factors can guide you in maximizing your chances and addressing potential issues.

 

Name: Suzanne E

Hello, I’ve tried a mini IVF cycle with the antagonist method which did not stimulate my follicles enough. Only had one follicle and the others didn’t grow past 10mm. And then I tried the microdose Lupron flare 3 times, and I went to egg retrieval once with that protocol producing two mature eggs. My biggest issue now is I always have a lead follicle around 17mm+, with a couple others behind at 8mm-11mm. I’m wondering if the Lupron stop protocol might be best for me next to try so I can get more follicles at retrieval.

Answer:

I think we should talk. Might I invite you to call my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 and set up an online consultation with me.

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

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  introduced. 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.

________________________________________________

  • Premature Luteinization: A Hurdle in Ovarian Stimulation

 

Premature luteinization, is a condition where a progressive increase in LH (luteinizing hormone) disrupts the development and maturation of follicles and eggs before the planned hCG trigger is initiated. This phenomenon is not an isolated occurrence; it results from a series of ovarian events, often affecting susceptible women, particularly older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). It is more likely to happen when the ovarian stimulation protocol fails to keep LH levels low throughout the stimulation process.

 

Once premature luteinization sets in during a stimulation cycle, it cannot be reversed by altering the ongoing stimulation or by administering GnRH antagonists like Ganirelix, Cetrotide, or Orgalutron midway through the cycle in the hope of rescuing the developing eggs. Unfortunately, once it starts, the cycle is likely to fail. This condition raises the risk of premature ovulation, unsuccessful egg retrieval (referred to as “empty follicle syndrome”), and the occurrence of chromosomal abnormalities in eggs and embryos.

 

This issue is most commonly observed in older women and those with severe DOR. However, its impact can be mitigated through personalized and strategic protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS), along with optimizing the type, timing, and dosage of the “hCG trigger shot.”

 

Typically, the “trigger shot” is administered after optimal ovarian stimulation to initiate meiosis (reproductive division) within  36- 40 hours, reducing the chromosome count from 46 to 23. Additionally, it enables the egg to detach from the follicle wall for easy retrieval.

 

Older women and those with DOR tend to have higher levels of biologically active LH, which promotes the production of excessive male hormones ( predominantly, testosterone) by ovarian connective tissue. A controlled amount of testosterone is necessary for healthy follicle development and egg development ( oogenesis)  induced by FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). Excessive LH activity can result in overproduction of ovarian testosterone, compromising oogenesis and leading to a higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities in eggs following meiosis.

 

Women with increased LH activity due to age or DOR are particularly vulnerable to the effects of prolonged exposure to LH-induced ovarian testosterone. Medications or protocols that further stimulate pituitary LH release, contain LH or hCG, or promote increased exposure to the woman’s own pituitary LH can be detrimental.

 

To address this issue effectively, it is crucial to tailor COS protocols, choose the appropriate hCG trigger dosage and type, and administer it at the right time. For urinary-derived hCG (such as Novarel, Pregnyl, and Profasi), 10,000U is the ideal dosage. When using recombinant DNA-derived hCG (like Ovidrel), 500mcg is recommended. Using lower dosages can increase the risk of egg chromosomal abnormalities and affect the overall outcome of IVF treatments.

 

 

 

Name: Paola S

Quisiera saber si una persona que está operada para no tener puede donar óvulos

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Elmis jumio S

Quiero donar obuy

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Charlotte L

Pleaze call

8087573783

Answer:

I suggest you  call my assistant, Patti Converse at 702-533-2691 and set up an online consultation with me to discuss.

Geoff Sher

 

_______________________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________________________________________ 

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: Michelle D

Hello Dr. Sher,

I just watched a video of your interview with Dr. Aimee regarding RIF. I am age 36 with 5 failed to implant IUI’s and 2 IVF retrievals with donor sperm. Prior to now I never tried to get pregnant. I’ve had hsg, sis, hysteroscopy, blood work. All levels and tests within normal limits. The clinic I go to will transfer or freeze at day 3 if you retrieve less than 5 embryos. 1st I had 3 day 3 embryos and 2nd I had 4 day 3 embryos. AMH 1.34. It was suggested to me to do an ERA but I haven’t seen much convincing evidence for this test. I’m also not convinced that my embryos are of great quality. I’ve decided to do another retrieval and push to blast regardless of what happens. Do you think it’s necessary to do the ERA? In my gut I believe I may have better luck with blastocyst tested embryos? I’ve done one frozen transfer and it was modified natural. The other two transfers were fresh. Any information or advice will be helpful.

Answer:

  • ADDRESSING DIMINISHING OVARIAN RESERVE (DOR) IN IVF

Understanding the impact of 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 women 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. Ovarian Reserve: While chronological age plays a vital role in determining the quality of eggs and embryos [there is an increased risk of egg aneuploidy (irregular chromosome number) in eggs,  leading to reduced embryo 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 both older women or those who (regardless of their age) have DOR, ovarian stimulation protocols that down-regulate LH activity before starting gonadotropins are necessary to improve egg/embryo quality and IVF outcomes.
  3. It is possible to regulate the  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 in Women with DOR: Certain ovarian stimulation protocols may not be suitable for women 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 for aneuploidy (PGS/PGTA): PGS/PGTA is a valuable tool for identifying chromosomal abnormalities in eggs and embryos. By selecting the most competent (euploid) embryos, PGS/PGTA significantly improves the success of IVF, in women with DOR.

Understanding the impact of declining ovarian reserve on IVF outcomes is essential when making decisions about fertility treatments. Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) can affect egg quality and increase the likelihood of aneuploid embryos with resultant IVF failure. By considering this factor, 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.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

  • 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: Amy Lauren L

I had my first HCG quantitative blood test done yesterday, measured at 22mlU. I decided to have another test done today at another laboratory and it was 21mlU over a 24 hr period. Should I be concerned? Does a 1ml drop over 24hrs indicate a miscarriage ?

Answer:

Sadly it is concerning. I  suggest suggest you repeat it in 2 days to  make sure….It should at least double.

Going through IVF is a major investment, emotionally, physically, and financially, for every patient or couple. One of the most crucial moments is receiving the result of the blood test for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) pregnancy. It’s a big deal! The days after the embryo transfer, waiting for this result, can be extremely stressful. That’s why it’s crucial for the IVF doctor and staff to handle this information with care and professionalism. They should be accessible to the patient/couple and provide results promptly and sensitively.

Testing urine or blood to check for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the best way to confirm pregnancy. Urine tests are cheaper and more commonly used. They are also more convenient because they can be done anywhere. However, blood tests are more reliable and sensitive than urine tests. They can detect pregnancy earlier and at lower hCG levels. Blood tests are also more accurate and can track changes in hCG levels over time. Urine tests can detect hCG when blood levels are above 20IU, which is about 16-18 days after ovulation or 2-3 days after a missed period. Blood tests can measure any concentration of hCG about 12-13 days after ovulation.

Detecting hCG in the blood early on and tracking its increase is especially useful for women undergoing fertility treatments like controlled ovarian stimulation or in vitro fertilization. The sooner hCG is detected and measured, the more information can be gathered about the success of implantation and the health of the developing embryo.

Typically, two beta hCG blood tests are done, spaced 2-4 days apart. It’s best to wait for the results of the second test before reporting on the pregnancy. This is because an initial result can change, even from equivocal or negative to positive. Sometimes a normal embryo takes longer to implant, and the hCG level can be initially low or undetectable. Regardless of the initial level, the test should be repeated after two days to check for a significant rise in hCG. A significant rise usually indicates that an embryo is implanting, which suggests a possible pregnancy. Waiting for the second test result helps avoid conveying false hope or disappointment.


It’s important to note that beta hCG levels don’t double every two days throughout pregnancy. Once the levels rise above 4,000U, they tend to increase more slowly. Except in specific cases like IVF using an egg donor or transfer of genetically tested embryos, the birth rate following IVF in younger women is around 40% per embryo transfer. Patients need to have realistic expectations and should be informed about how and when they will receive the news, as well as counseling in case of a negative outcome.

When an embryo starts to implant, it releases the pregnancy hormone hCG into the woman’s bloodstream. Around 12 days after egg retrieval, 9 days after a day 3 embryo transfer, or 7 days after a blastocyst transfer, a woman should have a quantitative beta hCG blood pregnancy test performed. By that time, most of the hCG injected to prepare the eggs for retrieval should have cleared from the bloodstream. So, if the test detects more than 10 IU of hCG per ml of blood, it indicates that the embryo has attempted to implant. In third-party IVF (e.g., ovum donation, gestational surrogacy, embryo adoption, or frozen embryo transfers), no hCG trigger is administered, so any amount of hCG detected in the blood is considered significant.

Sometimes, there is a slow initial rise in hCG between the first and second tests (failure to double every 48 hours). In such cases, a third and sometimes a fourth hCG test should be done at two-day intervals. A failure to double on the third and/or fourth test is a poor sign and could indicate a failed or dysfunctional implantation. In some cases, a progressively slow rising hCG level might indicate an ectopic pregnancy, which requires additional testing and follow-up.

In certain situations, the first beta hCG level starts high, drops with the second test, and then starts doubling again. This could suggest that initially, multiple embryos started to implant but only one survived to continue a healthy implantation.

It’s customary for the IVF clinic staff to inform the patient/couple and the referring physician about the hCG pregnancy test results. Often, the IVF physician or nurse-coordinator coordinates with the referring physician to arrange all necessary pregnancy tests. If the patient/couple prefer to make their own arrangements, the program should provide detailed instructions.

In some cases, when the two blood pregnancy tests show that one or more embryos are implanting, certain programs recommend daily injections of progesterone or the use of vaginal hormone suppositories for several weeks to support the implantation process. Others give hCG injections three times a week until the pregnancy can be confirmed by ultrasound examination. Some IVF programs don’t prescribe any hormones after the embryo transfer.

Patients with appropriate doubling of hCG levels within two days after frozen embryo transfer (FET) or third-party IVF procedures such as surrogacy or egg donation may receive estradiol and progesterone injections, often along with vaginal hormone suppositories, for 10 weeks after the implantation is diagnosed by blood pregnancy testing.

A positive Beta hCG blood pregnancy test indicates the possibility of conception, but ultrasound confirmation is needed to confirm the pregnancy. Until then, it is referred to as a “chemical pregnancy.” Only when ultrasound examination confirms the presence of a gestational sac, clinical examination establishes a viable pregnancy, or after abortion when products of conception are detected, is it called a clinical intrauterine pregnancy.

A significantly elevated  hCG blood level without concomitant detection of an gestational sac inside the uterus by ultrasound after 5 weeks gestation raises the suspicion of an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.

The risk of miscarriage gradually decreases once a viable clinical pregnancy is diagnosed (a conceptus with a regular heartbeat of 110-180 beats per minute). From this point onward, the risk of miscarriage is usually 10- 15% for women under 40 years old and around 35% for women in their early forties.

Dealing with successful IVF cases is relatively easy as everyone feels happy and validated. The real challenge lies in handling unsuccessful cases. Setting rational expectations from the beginning is crucial. In some cases (fortunately rare), emotional pressure may overwhelm the patient/couple, leading to a need for counseling or psychiatric therapy. I always advise my patients that receiving optimal care doesn’t always guarantee the desired outcome. There are many variables beyond our control, especially the unpredictable nature of fate. With around 36 years of experience in this field, I strongly believe that when it comes to IVF, the saying “man proposes while God disposes” always holds.

There are a few important things to consider when interpreting blood hCG levels. Levels can vary widely, ranging from 5mIU/ml to over 400mIU/ml, 10 days after ovulation or egg retrieval. The levels double every 48-72 hours until the 6th week of pregnancy, after which the doubling rate slows down to about 96 hours. By the end of the 1st trimester, hCG levels reach 13,000-290,000 IU and then slowly decline to around 26,000-300,000 IU at full term. Here are the average hCG levels during the first trimester:

  • 3 weeks after the last menstrual period (LMP): 5-50 IU
  • 4 weeks LMP: 5-426 IU
  • 5 weeks LMP: 18-7,340 IU
  • 6 weeks LMP: 1,080-56,500 IU
  • 7-8 weeks LMP: 7,650-229,000 IU
  • 9-12 weeks LMP: 25,700-288,000 IU

Most doctors wait until around the 7th week to perform an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. By that time, the heartbeat should be clearly visible, providing a more reliable assessment of the pregnancy’s viability.

In some cases, blood hCG levels can be unusually high or increase faster than normal. This could indicate multiple pregnancies or a molar pregnancy. Rarely, conditions unrelated to pregnancy, such as certain ovarian tumors or cancers, can cause detectable hCG levels in both blood and urine.

 

To summarize, testing urine or blood for hCG is the most reliable way to confirm pregnancy. Urine tests are more common and convenient, while blood tests are more accurate and can detect pregnancy earlier. Tracking hCG levels in the blood is especially important for women undergoing fertility treatments. It’s essential to wait for the results of a second blood test before confirming pregnancy to avoid false hope or disappointment. Interpreting hCG levels requires considering various factors, and doctors usually perform an ultrasound around the 7th week for a more accurate assessment. Unusually high hCG levels may indicate multiple pregnancies or other conditions unrelated to pregnancy. Providing sensitive and timely communication of results is crucial for IVF clinics to support patients through the emotional journey.

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: Tara B

Dr sher
In the past 2 years I have had 2 mmc one at 6 weeks and one at 9 weeks. The products were tested of the 9 week one it was genetically normal. After that I have had 3 chemical pregnancies.genetic testing normal Immunological testing anti tpo positive thyroid is normal. Apla once protein s positive but in the second report normal. Tnf alpfa, nk cells blood all are normal. In the most recent chemical had taken intralipid, lmwh, predisolone, aspirin still did not work. Any other treatment or testing?

Answer:

Having done the tests you describe has no real merit if they were not done at one of about 4 Reproductive Immunology Laboratories in Th US that can do these tests with  optimal specificity and sensitivity.

We need to talk! I invite you to contact my assistant, Patti Converse (702-533-2691 or concierge@sherivf.com.

  • 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

 

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: Bamikole fikayo O

Can letrozol and omega3 take together during period

Answer:

Yes!

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: anne c

Dear Dr. Sher,

Do very thin women with low BMI still need the Ovidrel double dosage? (250×2)

Thank in advance for the guidance,

Anne

Answer:

Perhaps not but since it will do no harm…”Rather safe than sorry”. So yes, I would still “trigger with 500mcg Ovidrel.

Geoff Sher

Name: Elizabeth T

Dear Dr Sher,

I’d like some advice regarding protocol choice for what will be my 4th IVF-ICSI cycle.

I am in the UK. I have no medical problems, but I do have a BMI of 33 (prev 43), I have just recently turned 40 and work as a hospital doctor so can be under stress. No FH of fertility issues, in fact my mother had a surprise pregnancy at 45 with normal outcomes.

Initial investigations demonstrated a normal age adjusted AMH (12 in UK measurements), AFC of 31 on TVUSS but polyp was seen. Had resultant hysteroscopy for polypectomy which was otherwise normal.

Husband has teratozoospermia with 1.3 % morphology, otherwise counts well above average (116m/ml concentration) hence ICSI.

I started treatment age 39.5. All done privately rather than NHS given BMI.

Cycle 1 – Norethisterone 5mg. Then stimulated with Folliotropin Alfa 225 (ovaleap)/ Ganirilex. 36 hour trigger – 250mg Ovitrelle
Outcome – 6 eggs, 2 mature, 0 blasts.

Cycle 2 – Leuprorelin (Prostap). Ovaleap 300mg for stimulation. 37 hour Ovitrelle 250mg trigger.
Retrieved 10, Mature 9, Blasts 1 – slow to progress, transferred at day 6. Failed.

Cycle 3 (now 40yo) – as above with only change was increasing Ovaleap to 375mg during stimulation.
Retrieved 8, Mature 4, Blasts 0

Their opinion is that this is now clearly an egg problem despite promising AMH and relate it to my age. They are suggesting the next cycle is my last with my own eggs.

As such, I just wanted an opinion on their suggested protocol – which is to do exactly the same as cycle 3, but with potentially a double dose Ovitrelle to trigger and ICSI-AOA with calcium ionophore.

My questions are:

1. Is this planned protocol right given my previous outcomes or should I be asking for consideration of an alternative to planned medications? Could the higher dose of Ovaleap have been detrimental given the worse results?
2. Would getting my bmi below 30 before the next stimulation be of proven benefit? (I am continuing lose weight, but could defer by a month or two to lose that 11kg)
3. Beyond 5mg folate, vit D, coQ10, avoiding caffeine/alcohol and eating a colourful diet – am I missing any key supplementation?
4. How many cycles should I undertake before calling it quits? Is there a ‘magic’ number? (4 feels too early)

Thank you so much in advance for any advice. If there are some specific papers I should read to help inform any discussion with my team/or someone in the UK you would suggest I contact for a second opinion, please do let me know.

Best Wishes,
E

Answer:

WE really should talk. If interested, please call my assistant, Patti Converse (702-533-2691) and set up an online consultation with me. In the interim, please review the articles below.

GS

_______________________________________________________________

  • Overcoming Age Barriers in IVF and Embracing New Pathways to Parenthood: Unlocking the Possibilities.

Age should never be a barrier to hope and fulfillment when it comes to IVF. Many women in their early to mid-40s are successfully having IVF babies using their own eggs, especially if they have a good number of eggs left in their ovaries. However, for women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) or those over the age of 44, where the chances of success with their own eggs are low, IVF with egg donation can be a highly successful and safe option. Let’s explore why age affects IVF outcomes and discover the possibilities that lie ahead.

The egg plays a crucial role in determining the quality of the embryo, with a “competent” egg having the best chance of developing into a healthy baby. As women age, the chances of having eggs with an irregular number of chromosomes (aneuploid) increase significantly. Fertilizing an aneuploid egg will result in an embryo with an abnormal number of chromosomes, making it unable to develop into a healthy baby.

Chromosomal abnormalities are the main cause of failed implantation, pregnancy losses, and birth defects. As women get older, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in embryos rises, leading to lower IVF success rates. Additionally, older women may experience hormonal imbalances that further affect egg quality and development. However, personalized stimulation protocols can help protect egg quality and improve IVF outcomes by regulating hormone production and activity.

When it comes to IVF in older women, selecting the right ovarian stimulation protocol is crucial. Various protocols are available, each tailored to meet individual needs. However, certain protocols should be avoided for older women or those with DOR to optimize chances of success.

I selectively use a variety of ovarian stimulation protocols for ovarian stimulation/IVF in older women and those with DOR :

  • The conventional long pituitary down-regulation protocol: This involves administering a GnRH agonist like Lupron or Buserelin for a few days prior to initiating ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins. Then, a combination of FSH-dominant gonadotropin and a small dose of Menopur is administered, and ultrasound and blood tests are done to monitor follicle development. The eggs are triggered for maturation with hCG, and the egg retrieval is scheduled for approximately 36 hours later. This protocol is often preferred for older women who have adequate ovarian reserve (AMH=>1.5ng/ml).
  • The agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP):, This is similar to the conventional long down-regulation protocol. However, instead of using an agonist, a GnRH antagonist is administered from the onset of stimulation with gonadotropins. This protocol is often preferred for older women who have moderately severe DOR (AMH=0.5-1.5ng/ml).
  • A/ACP with Estrogen “priming”; For women with very severe, DORI prescribe  estrogen “priming “with skin estradiol (E2) patches or Estradiol injections administered bi-weekly. For some time before commencing gonadotropin stimulation, in an attempt to enhance ovarian response to stimulation. This protocol is sometimes used in older women who have severe DOR ( <0.5-1.5ng/ml).

In my opinion, the following ovarian stimulation protocols all promote over-exposure to LH-induced ovarian testosterone and are best avoided in older women and women with DOR, undergoing ovarian stimulation for IVF:

  • Agonist “flare” protocols, which cause a surge of pituitary-LH at the wrong time.
  • High dosages , LH-containing fertility drugs (e.g., menotropins such as Menopur).
  • Testosterone-based supplements like Androgel.
  • DHEA supplementation: DHEA is converted to testosterone in the ovaries.
  • Clomiphene citrate & Letrozole, promote exaggerated pituitary LH release that can result in over-production of ovarian testosterone.
  • Triggering egg maturation with too low a dosage of hCG (the ideal dosage is 10,000U of urine derived hCG) andf Recombinant DNA-derived hCG ( the ideal dosage is 500mcg of Ovidrel).

In cases where using their own eggs is no longer viable due to age and severe DOR, using donor eggs provides a fulfilling path to parenthood. Although some may initially hesitate due to the lack of genetic relation, it’s important to understand that the person who gives birth is considered the true biological parent in most cultures and legal systems. Becoming a parent through this connection can bring immense joy and fulfillment, as countless successful cases have shown.

Age may reduce the chances, but it does not eliminate the possibility of having a child through IVF. When IVF with own eggs is not an option, embracing the alternative of egg donation opens doors to highly successful and fulfilling paths to parenthood. It’s time to unlock the possibilities and embark on the journey towards creating a loving 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.

 _______________________________________

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: Anne C

Dear Dr. Sher,

I am 43 years old, and due to the high rate of aneuploidy in the previous two attempts, and following your teachings, I convinced my doctor not to use Decapeptyl in the dual trigger, but only Ovidrel 250. However, I couldn’t convince him to use a double dosage of Ovidrel… I weigh 99 lbs and am 5’6” tall (low BMI), and I had about 20 oocytes last time. Do I really need the double dosage? How can I convince him?

Thank you so much for your kindness in responding to all of us.
Anne

Answer:

I really cannot suggest how to approach your doctor on this matter!

So sorry!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Ashley P

Hello Dr. Sher at my current clinic I have gone through 4 transfers with PGT-A normal embryos. My first transfer resulted in a chemical pregnancy, but the following transfers did not implant at all. The tests I have done are ERA, EMMA/Alice and receptivaDX which all came back negative or normal. I suspected I have endometrioses but don’t have the classic symptoms and every doctor did not think I had it either. But recently I had laparoscopic surgery with an endo specialist, and he found and excision severe endo that had my ovaries stuck to my pelvic wall and my tubes were damaged, so they were removed.

Now to the question what kind of FET protocol should I do? Like do you think I should do suppression before a transfer. Should I also be doing a steroid or other medications?

Thank you I appreciate you taking the time to answer questions.

Answer:

In my opinion this is almost certainly an implantation dysfunction. Bear in mind that in 30% of cases, endometriosis is associated with an immunologic 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. 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.

 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\

 

 

IVF

Name: Ella B

I am considering the second attempt of IVF and choosing the clinic, but prior wanted to briefly get some consultancy concerning the chances for success.

I live in Milan and last year made an attempt of egg freezing at IVI clinic. Aged 42, the sonogram showed 9 follicles, one dominant, all the tests were good, including hormones. The doctor told me to start Progynova before next period, which I did. But next sonogram showed only 4 follicles in the next period, so doctor decided to stop Progynova in this cycle considering it not very promising (as a reason he considered multiple flights that occurred that month). In the next period sonogram showed 5 follicles, and the doctor decided to start stimulation. Might be worth mentioning that each cycle showed a dominant follicle and corpus luteum meaning the ovulation was in every cycle. The stimulation was with Bemfola and Meriofert injections and Provera G pills. Each week the tests were made, that were all good. The stimulation was long (16 days), as the follicles were growing slowly at the beginning. After that the doctor scheduled the eggs pick-up. One day before the pick-up the injection of Decapeptyl was made. During pick-up the doctor punctured 3 follicles but they were all empty (only liquid but no eggs). As a reason the doctor considered the age. Therefore before my second attempt I wanted to consult first if you see any chances for success with my own eggs or as the follicles turned out to be empty during the first attempt that means it will be always like that?

Thank you very much in advance

Answer:

Respectfully,

Freezing eggs in a woman of your age (regardless of ovarian reserve), yields very disappointing results. It is far better to fertilize the eggs, take them to blastocyst and to biopsy those that make it to that stage by no later than day 6…and do PGS/PGT to determine if any are euploid for subsequent dispensation at FET.

Below, please find 2 articles of mine on the issue of age/ovarian reserve on IVF outcome and on “Empty Follicle Syndrome.:

  • 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.

  • “EMPTY FOLLICLE SYNDROME”

Empty Follicle Syndrome” is a misleading term because follicles always contain eggs. However, some eggs may have difficulties detaching and being retrieved. This is more likely to happen when multiple attempts are needed to retrieve an egg from a follicle, indicating the egg may have chromosomal abnormalities.

The hormonal environment created during controlled ovarian stimulation plays a significant role in egg development. In certain cases, follicles may not release their eggs during retrieval, leading to the misconception of “empty” follicles.

This situation is most commonly encountered in older women, those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). To address this problem, personalized protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation and careful administration of the hCG trigger shot are important.

The hCG trigger shot is given after optimal ovarian stimulation to initiate the process of reducing the number of chromosomes in the egg. It also helps the egg detach from the follicle’s inner wall. This allows for easier retrieval during the egg retrieval procedure.

Women with increased LH activity, such as older women, those with DOR, and women with PCOS, are more susceptible to the negative effects of LH-induced ovarian testosterone. Excessive LH activity can compromise egg development and increase the chances of chromosomal abnormalities. Medications like clomiphene and Letrozole can stimulate LH release, and certain drugs containing LH or hCG can have negative consequences.

Individualizing the controlled ovarian stimulation protocol, determining the correct dosage and type of hCG trigger, and administering it at the right time are crucial. The recommended dosage of urinary-derived hCG products is 10,000 units, while for recombinant DNA-derived hCG, the optimal dosage is 500 micrograms. A lower dosage of hCG can increase the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the eggs and negatively impact the outcome of IVF.

Understanding the role of LH activity, the effects of medications on hormone release, and the importance of personalized protocols are vital. By optimizing these factors, the risk of failed egg retrieval and “empty follicle syndrome” can be minimized, improving the chances of successful IVF outcomes.

 __________________________________________________________________

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\

 

 

 

N

Name: Mohammed 1

Buenas noches has comprado hoy el tratamiento y el día 4 del mes que viene es el primer día de la regla. Cuando tenía que tomarlo empieza hoy o después del día 4 ?

Answer:

Please post in English!

 

Geoff Sher

Name: Neha S

I like to know the cost of IVF treatment at your centre. I am 42 and I have had to genetically tested embryo’s. My first IVF was done in India. The first frozen embryo transfer failed. Before trying another FET I want to evaluate all the options available for me especially given that time is probably not on my side. My AMH is 0.5. last few cycles I have had lutenized unrupted follicle. Regular periods I experience regular LH surge and BBT rise every month.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Answer:

Please contact my assistant, Patti for information on cost (702-533-2691). Below is some information for your interest.

  • 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.

  • Premature Luteinization: A Hurdle in Ovarian Stimulation

 

Premature luteinization, is a condition where a progressive increase in LH (luteinizing hormone) disrupts the development and maturation of follicles and eggs before the planned hCG trigger is initiated. This phenomenon is not an isolated occurrence; it results from a series of ovarian events, often affecting susceptible women, particularly older women and those with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). It is more likely to happen when the ovarian stimulation protocol fails to keep LH levels low throughout the stimulation process.

 

Once premature luteinization sets in during a stimulation cycle, it cannot be reversed by altering the ongoing stimulation or by administering GnRH antagonists like Ganirelix, Cetrotide, or Orgalutron midway through the cycle in the hope of rescuing the developing eggs. Unfortunately, once it starts, the cycle is likely to fail. This condition raises the risk of premature ovulation, unsuccessful egg retrieval (referred to as “empty follicle syndrome”), and the occurrence of chromosomal abnormalities in eggs and embryos.

 

This issue is most commonly observed in older women and those with severe DOR. However, its impact can be mitigated through personalized and strategic protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS), along with optimizing the type, timing, and dosage of the “hCG trigger shot.”

 

Typically, the “trigger shot” is administered after optimal ovarian stimulation to initiate meiosis (reproductive division) within  36- 40 hours, reducing the chromosome count from 46 to 23. Additionally, it enables the egg to detach from the follicle wall for easy retrieval.

 

Older women and those with DOR tend to have higher levels of biologically active LH, which promotes the production of excessive male hormones ( predominantly, testosterone) by ovarian connective tissue. A controlled amount of testosterone is necessary for healthy follicle development and egg development ( oogenesis)  induced by FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). Excessive LH activity can result in overproduction of ovarian testosterone, compromising oogenesis and leading to a higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities in eggs following meiosis.

 

Women with increased LH activity due to age or DOR are particularly vulnerable to the effects of prolonged exposure to LH-induced ovarian testosterone. Medications or protocols that further stimulate pituitary LH release, contain LH or hCG, or promote increased exposure to the woman’s own pituitary LH can be detrimental.

 

To address this issue effectively, it is crucial to tailor COS protocols, choose the appropriate hCG trigger dosage and type, and administer it at the right time. For urinary-derived hCG (such as Novarel, Pregnyl, and Profasi), 10,000U is the ideal dosage. When using recombinant DNA-derived hCG (like Ovidrel), 500mcg is recommended. Using lower dosages can increase the risk of egg chromosomal abnormalities and affect the overall outcome of IVF treatments.

_______________________________________________________________________

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\