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: Georgina H

Hi there,

I have high TPO antibodies (around 300) and now about to embark on our IVF journey in a few weeks. It seems that I have POI and I’m 27 years old.

I am currently on 100mg of Levothyroxine and I’m keen to explore all options to inform my clinic to manage IVF AND my thyroid to achieve a successful pregnancy. As I have POI, embryo numbers are likely to be small, so I’m concerned that my antibodies and autoimmune condition are going to attack our precious embryos.

What would you recommend in terms of treatment plan for management of the antibodies. Would a series of intralipid infusions be beneficial in improving implantation rate? My partner and I are paying for 2 rounds of IVF (which is financially breaking us) and we want to make sure that we can do everything correctly, as managing a thyroid issue alongside IVF are very difficult and two separate challenges to face at the same time.

Thank you so much!

Georgie

Answer:

Between 2% and 5% of women in their childbearing years deal with hypothyroidism, a condition that affects women more than men. This issue with the thyroid often leads to difficulties in getting pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy.

Hypothyroidism in women often  happens because the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The condition is known as Autoimmune Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease. Specific antibodies, like antithyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies, slowly reduce thyroid hormone production. Genetics, estrogen effects, and X chromosome abnormalities also contribute to its prevalence among women.

Here’s a surprising fact: Even women who don’t show obvious thyroid problems might have thyroid antibodies linked to trouble conceiving or experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL). These sneaky antibodies can linger without clear signs of hypothyroidism in clinical or lab tests. And commonly, even after treating hypothyroidism with hormone supplements, these antibodies stick around.

More than two decades ago, I performed a study and reported on the fact that almost 50% of women with thyroid antibodies, regardless of thyroid function, had overactive uterine natural killer cells (NKa) and activated cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTLa) that are capable of  attacking  the embryo’s “root system”  (trophoblast) and compromising implantation. The result was often total implantation failure (often erroneously diagnosed as infertility) or early pregnancy loss. Testing for NKa and CTLa requires access to  few highly specialized  Reproductive Immunology Reference laboratories. We demonstrated that treating these women with immune therapies like Intralipid or immunoglobulin-G, along with a sprinkle of low-dose steroids, significantly boosted their chances of successful reproduction.

For example, let’s take a peek at the journey of a one of my patients, a 42-year-old Australian physician. She faced a whopping 23 unsuccessful IVF attempts due to Hashimoto’s disease. We rapidly identified underlying NKa/CTLa  and after a single cycle of tailored immune therapy ( as above) she conceived and gave birth to a healthy baby boy—an incredible glimmer of hope in her life.

It’s important to note that not every woman with thyroid antibodies experiences an immune cell party in her body. However, understanding this unique relationship and providing the right treatments can reverse immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) caused by NKa/CTLa. This knowledge offers renewed hope, making the journey to successful reproduction a brighter and more achievable adventure.

In the end, remember this: Even when your body throws a curveball like autoimmune thyroid IID the game isn’t over. With the right strategies, a sprinkle of hope, and a dash of persistence, victory is within reach. So, chin up and keep moving forward.

Geoff Sher

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

I am attaching online links to two E-books which I 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 go to concierge@sherivf.com .
  • Also, I have just started a new Podcast https://rumble.com/c/c-3304480. Feel free to take a look-see……… And please spread the word!

 

Name: Nkoli A

Hello. I had an egg retrieval last week – 75 eggs collected, 1/2 normal insemination and 1/2 ICSI. 0 eggs fertilized with normal insemination. In the ICSI group (38 eggs) – 25 mature, 12 fertilized, 1 graded 3BB blast at the end now sent for PGT A testing.

For background: 34F, AMH 9.59, ACF in cycle prior to IVF start was abt 35 (17/18 on each side). During stims my E2 rose rapidly and so I was placed on Cetrotide on day 4/5. Triggered with Lupron after 8 days stimulation. E2 right before trigger was >6000.

Q: Do you think my poor outcome was due to an inherent egg quality or was I overstimulated? Would a slower stimulation produce better eggs? Did Lupron make things worse?

Thank you

Answer:

I suspect it has to do with the ovarian stimulation protocol rather than an inherent egg quality deficit.

Geoff Sher

Empowering Choices: Embryo Banking vs. Egg Banking for Fertility Preservation

Geoffrey Sher MD

It’s crucial for women to make informed decisions about preserving their fertility. Delaying trying to conceive, relying on egg freezing, or assuming the biological clock can be paused are misconceptions. As women age, egg quality declines, affecting the chance of a successful, healthy pregnancy.

Let’s break down the key points:

  1. Age and Egg Quality: As women progress past their mid-thirties, the quality of their eggs declines rapidly. This impacts conception rates, leading to higher miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome.
  2. Comparing Chances:
    • At 30, the natural conception rate is around 15-20%, with a 10-15% miscarriage rate and a 1:1000 chance of Down syndrome.
    • At 45, natural conception drops to 1-2%, with a 50-60% miscarriage rate and a 1:40 chance of Down syndrome.
  1. IVF and Age:
    • IVF success rates are better at younger ages, with a 50-60% conception rate for 30-year-olds and a 3-5% chance for 45-year-olds.
    • However, IVF doesn’t eliminate the increased risk of miscarriage or chromosomal abnormalities as women age.
  1. IVF Realities:
    • The success of IVF dramatically decreases with age, making informed decisions crucial.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)/Preimplantation Genetic Testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) is a breakthrough in fertility treatment, aiding the selection of the most viable embryos for a successful pregnancy. By analyzing all chromosomes, it significantly boosts the success rates of IVF. PGS/PGT-A not only increases the chance of a healthy baby per embryo transfer but also reduces the risks of miscarriages and chromosomal birth defects, regardless of the woman’s age.

Who Benefits from PGS/PGT-A?

PGS/PGT-A) has revolutionized embryo evaluation, especially for those facing unexplained IVF failure, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL), and older women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).

Empowering Older Women: Embryo Banking

PGS/PGT-A is especially beneficial for women over 39 years of age and those with DOR, as it allows the storage (banking) of healthy embryos over multiple cycles, countering the ticking biological clock.. Selective banking of PGS-normal embryos over multiple cycles is a game-changer. It minimizes the impact of age on egg quality, giving these women a chance to make the most of their remaining time to conceive a healthy baby.

Egg Freezing: Factors to Consider

Eggs are vulnerable cells, and freezing a single egg is less effective than freezing a multi-cellular embryo. Additionally, a significant portion of eggs (especially in older women) have chromosomal abnormalities. This makes egg freezing less efficient and  embryo freezing, far more successful, especially when selectively freezing PGS/PGT-A-normal blastocysts.

Choosing the Right Path

Importantly, considering the decline in reproductive potential with age, it’s essential for women and couples to explore their fertility options before the age of 35. An aggressive approach, like moving to assisted reproduction and IVF can significantly improve outcomes. For younger women (<35y) who have normal egg reserves, especially those who are not married,  have not as yet settled on la “permanent” male partner or a do not feel secure with their existing male partner fathering a child with them might preferentially choose egg freezing . Conversely,  women who are comfortable with a designated male partner, older women and those who have DOR might rather select embryo banking.

In the choice between egg and embryo freezing, caution is advised. Current methods for egg selection lack chromosomal analysis. Conversely the performance of PGSGT-A allows for identification of the healthiest embryos for subsequent FET..

Either way, “timing” is a very important consideration.

By understanding these options, you can make an informed decision to maximize your chances of a healthy, happy family. Remember, knowledge is power in the journey to parenthood.

___________________________________________________________

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: Michaela T

I am 37, have low egg count and poor egg quality in the last 3 egg retreivals. There is mild adenomyosis and possible endometrioma on my scans. I don’t have any known autoimmune conditions. My fertility specialist feels I might have endometriosis which is affecting egg quality and possible embryo implantation. They have recommended intralipid this time. I have noticed it’s 200kCal per infusion. Does intralipid cause weight gain? Or any long term side effects? Thank you for your time and generosity with sharing your knowledge.

Answer:

It should not cause weight gain.

Geoff  Sher

__________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Name: Lindsay B

I had my first beta draw at 12 DPO (October 2) and it was 85. I had my second draw (October 5) and it was 315. What are the chances of this being a viable pregnancy? My doubling time according to these tests is 1.6 days and my 2 day change is a 139.5% increase.

Answer:

Likely to be viable!

Congratulations

_GS______________________________________________________

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: Revathi A

Hi my beta hcg report value is 819mlu/ml ..means I’m 100% pergenant or not

Answer:

It depends on whether the level is doubling every 2 days or not

TIMING AND INTERPRETATION OF hCG BLOOD PREGNANCY TESTS

Geoffrey Sher MD

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.

____________________________________________________________

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\

 

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Name: SL T

Hello there, and thank you for your generosity with responses and for publishing so many valuable resources! After RPL and testing high for immunoglobulin E, my IVF clinic is suggesting we enlist prednisone and lovenox as a means to prevent another miscarriage. However they caveated that this is not their specialty and suggested I reach out to a reproductive immunologist if I wanted further information – are either Dr. Sher or Dr. Tortoriello reproductive immunologists? I’m having a difficult time finding one. I’ve read all the ebooks and resources on this site and other types of immunoglobulin are referenced, but not E. I don’t want to take medications that aren’t going to help my cause and my clinic just seems inexperienced in this area.

Answer:

I was one of the pioneers into the field of ART-related reproductive immunology. Feel free to call my assistant, Patti Conve3rse (702-533-2691 to set up a consultation with me at your convenience.

A RATIONAL BASIS FOR MANAGEMENT OF IMMUNOLOGIC CAUSES OF EMBRYO IMPLANTATION DYSFUNCTION

Geoffrey Sher MD

In the world of assisted reproduction, when IVF fails repeatedly or without explanation, it’s often assumed that poor embryo quality is the main culprit. However, this view oversimplifies the situation. The process of embryo implantation, which begins about six or seven days after fertilization, involves a complex interaction between embryonic cells and the lining of the uterus. These specialized cells, called trophoblasts, eventually become the placenta. When the trophoblasts meet the uterine lining, they engage in a communication process with immune cells through hormone-like substances called cytokines. This interaction plays a critical role in supporting the successful growth of the embryo. From the earliest stages, the trophoblasts establish the foundation for the exchange of nutrients, hormones, and oxygen between the mother and the baby. The process of implantation not only ensures the survival of early pregnancy but also contributes to the quality of life after birth.

There are numerous uterine factors that can impede embryo implantation potential. However, the vast majority relate to the following three (3) factors:

  1. Thin uterine lining (endometrium) . A lining that is <8mm in thickness at the time of ovulation, and/ or the administration of progesterone
  2. Irregularity the inner surface of the uterine cavity (caused by protruding sub-mucous fibroids, scar  tissue or polyps )
  • Immunologic factors that compromise implantation

Of these 3 factors, the one most commonly overlooked (largely because of the highly complex nature of the problem) is immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID), a common cause of “unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure and recurrent pregnancy loss. This article will focus on the one that most commonly is overlooked ….namely, 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 6-7 days 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 IVIg to NK cells can immediately downregulate NK cell activity. However, 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

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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: Pema L

I am 42 old woman, planning for IVF in next few months. What supplements, dosage and duration would you recommend for me? Thank you

Answer:

The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

Geoffrey Sher MD

It is important to nurture and take care of yourself mentally and physically when preparing and going through your IVF journey. This starts with trying to have a positive attitude about what you are about to go through, creating a stress support system for yourself by using tools such as visualization, acupuncture and meditation, eating the right foods taking a few supplements (see below) and balancing exercise with sufficient rest. . Not only will it help your experience but it may also help to increase your chances for IVF success

This article will focus on the role of nutritional supplements in preparing for IVF. You’ve probably wondered whether commercially available fertility supplements could help you achieve your goal. The answer is complex.

Here is my take: Nutrition is indeed a vital prerequisite for optimal reproductive function. However, a well-balanced diet that meets food preferences, coupled with modest vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplementation (as can be found in many prenatal vitamin preparations) should suffice.

This having been said, conceiving is a delicate process, and eating the right foods is essential to optimize reproductive potential. Indeed, a balanced diet (i.e. a lot of organic and brightly colored foods) will provide most of the nutrients you need. But the truth is that most people do not have a balanced diet and are unwittingly often deficient in important nutrients.

A balanced diet is one that is rich in good quality protein, low in sugar, salt, caffeine and industrially created trans-fats (trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oils) and soy, uncontaminated by heavy metals, free of nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs. This is why routine supplementation with the following nutrients could enhance preconception readiness:

  • Folic acid (400 micrograms daily)
  • Vitamins D-3 1,000U daily; Vitamin A (2565 IU daily); B3/Niacin (250mg daily); B6 (6mg -10 mg daily); B12 (12-20 mcg per day); C- (2,000 mg a day for both men and women); E (both sexes should get 150-200U daily); Vitamin D3 (2000U daily)
  • Co-enzyme Q10 (400-600mg daily )
  • Amino acids such as L-Carnitine (3 grams daily) and L-arginine (1 gram per day )
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (2,000mg per day)
  • Minerals, mainly zinc (15mg per day); selenium (70-100mcg per day); iron (up to 20mg per day ); magnesium (400mg per day )

There are likely to be significant reproductive health benefits (including enhanced fertility and intrauterine development) associated with the use of nutritional supplements. However there are also certain potential pitfalls associated with their use. Some supplements are not as safe as they would seem. For example, excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can even be dangerous to your health and may be associated with fetal malformations.

Additionally, numerous supplements have been found to contain contaminants such as toxic plant materials, heavy metals and even prescription medications that can compromise fetal development. Prior to the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and botanicals) were required to demonstrate safety. However, since passage of “the Act”, they are now presumed to be safe until shown otherwise, thus establishing a rather hazardous situation where a typical prenatal vitamin that will provide sufficient vitamins and minerals for a healthy early pregnancy and potentially dangerous supplements can and are being sold in the same store without product liability.

What about the use of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)?  DHEA is a male hormone supplement that is metabolized to androstenedione and testosterone in the ovaries.  While a small amount of ovarian testosterone is needed for optimal follicle and egg development, too much testosterone could be decidedly harmful. DHEA supplements probably won’t do harm if taken by healthy young women who have normal ovarian reserve, but they probably would not derive any benefit either. However, in my opinion, DHEA supplementation could be potentially harmful when taken by women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and older women in their 40’s as such women often already tend to have increased LH-activity, leading to increased ovarian testosterone. Additional ovarian testosterone in such women, could thus potentially compromise follicle development and egg quality/competency.

In summary: Maximizing reproductive performance and optimizing outcome following fertility treatment requires a combined strategy involving a balanced diet (rich in protein, low in sugars, soy and trans-fats), modest nutritional supplementation, limiting/avoiding foods and contaminants that can compromise reproductive potential, and adopting disciplined lifestyle modification such as not smoking, reducing stress, minimizing alcohol intake, avoiding nicotine and recreational drug consumption, and getting down to a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

 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: Mark S

Hello,

My wife and I are about to undergo an egg donor cycle for IVF. Im 40 years old, healthy weight, non-smoker, and have undergone a semen analysis and all the parameters are normal (75×10^6 concentration, 62% motile, 6% normal morphology). I took a DNA fragmentation test and have a slightly higher 25% DFI, but have been taking steps to get that lower.

A couple weeks ago I gave a sample to be frozen as a backup and the plan was to give a fresh sample on the transfer day next week. Then on Monday disaster struck and I contracted COVID. I had a fever between 101-101,5F for about 36 hours before it broke.

I know that a fever can affect sperm quality and am now unsure of whether I should go ahead with a fresh sample or should use the backup sample? I would think that the frozen sample is better since it was before the fever, but maybe a fresh sample would still be preferable for other reasons? Maybe the fever wouldnt have an immediate impact since I would likely be providing it roughly 8-10 days after the fever? Are there any downsides to just using a frozen sample?

Thanks for any help,
Mark

Answer:

Since you have no fertility issues and your sperm parameters are normal, provided proper protocol was followed, your back-up specimen should be fine for fertilization in-vitro.

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Name: Neelam R

Hi Dr you come so highly recommended. Would you transfer an embro with 35% mosaicism on chromosome 18? My current gyanae thinks it’ll correct itself in the womb. Thank you

Answer:

No doubt a tough call….I would  transfer BUT would do an early CVS or amniocentesis to make certain that the baby was OK…leaving open the option to terminate, if not so!

Good luck and G-d bless!

 

Geoff Sher

 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Name: Sara E

Hello. My husband and I are trying for our first. I am 44. My AMH was assessed 8 months ago and was .09. At the time my FSH was 14. I took a urine sample this cycle and it is .36. Is IVF even a realistic possibility for us? Thank you in advance for your time.

Answer:

IVF at 44y, even with normal ovarian reserve (AMH) is a long shot. See below.

Sorry!

Geoff Sher

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Geoffrey Sher MD

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Name: Mary Jane G

Dear Doctor,

I am not sure who I should contact but I used to love going on your social media pages as they were both insightful and encouraging. Some days the posts were very medical and some days the post just made me laugh and forget all my fertility issues. I have noticed your posts the last couple of months are just medical – no feeling, no emotion, no making the patient relax for awhile. Why did you change doing this? This was one of the reasons I went to your social media every day and now I am thinking of unfriending your center. It seems like the personal touch is gone and to be honest that is what I am looking for in a fertility center. Someone who cares about their patients and that is no longer present in your social media.

Answer:

Thank you for your feed-back. You make a valid criticism and I will try to do better going forward!

Perhaps if I post a photograph of myself, it will make you laugh!!

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: Madyson R

On 9/22 I had an HCG test done and my numbers were 8,221.0 and then I got my HCG test done again on 9/27 and the numbers were 11,225.0. Are the numbers rising at a good pace?

Answer:

At this stage of pregnancy, the levels do not rise as fast as earlier on. I think this is perfectly acceptable…/However an US done in 1-2 weeks should be definitive!

Good luck!

Geoff Sher

___________________________________________________________________

TIMING AND INTERPRETATION OF hCG BLOOD PREGNANCY TESTS

Geoffrey Sher MD

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.

____________________________________________________________________________

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\

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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\

 

HGH

Name: Bree M

Hi Dr. Sher,

I’m wondering what your opinion is on using HGH specifically for egg QUALITY (not quantity). I’m turning 44 in a week and although my reserve seems to be fine, it’s the quality that I’m attempting to help. So far I’ve had one doctor tell me that HGH can possibly help with quality and another day that there is no research indicating that and given quantity is not my concern, it would not make sense to use HGH.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!!

Answer:

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

Geoffrey Sher MD

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________

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: Mary P

We are 20 weeks and have our anatomy scan next week. Very anxious! Day 5 4AA euploid embryo. Quad screen levels all looked perfect at 16 weeks. Is it safe to relax now? Does a tested high-quality embryo with a negative quad screen all but guarantee a live birth? Thank you so much!

Answer:

I would all-but stop worrying at this stage`.

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: Rachel L

Hi Dr. Sher,
At what stage of the menstrual cycle do you recommend starting the birth control pill, prior to initiating ivf stimulation protocol?
Thank you for your help.

Regards,

RACHEL

Answer:

Within the 1st week of the period starting.

One often hears the expressed opinion that the BCP suppresses response to ovarian stimulation. This is not the case, provided that the BCP is overlapped with administration of an agonist (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact) for several days leading up to the start of menstruation and the initiation of ovarian stimulation cycle with gonadotropin drugs. If the latter precaution is not taken, and the cycle of stimulation is initiated coming directly off the BCP the response will often be blunted and subsequent egg quality could be adversely affected. The explanation for this is that in natural (unstimulated) as well as in cycles stimulated with fertility drugs, the ability of follicles to properly respond to FSH stimulation is dependent on their having developed FSH-responsive receptors . Pre-antral follicles (PAF) do not have such primed FSH receptors and thus cannot respond properly to FSH stimulation with gonadotropins. The acquisition of FSH receptor responsivity requires that the pre-antral follicles be exposed to FSH, for a number of days (5-7) during which time they attain “FSH-responsivity” and are now known as antral follicles (AF). These AF’s are now able to respond properly to stimulation with administered FSH-gonadotropins. In regular menstrual cycles, the rising FSH output from the pituitary gland insures that PAFs convert tor AF’s. The BCP (as well as prolonged administration of estrogen/progesterone) suppresses FSH. This suppression needs to be countered by artificially causing blood FSH levels to rise in order to cause PAF to AF conversion prior to COS commencing, otherwise pre-antral-to –antral follicle conversion will not take place in an orderly fashion, the duration of ovarian stimulation will be prolonged and both follicle and egg development may be compromised. GnRH agonists (e.g. Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact) , cause an immediate surge in release of FSH by the pituitary gland thus causing conversion from PAF to SAF. This is why, women who take a BCP to launch a cycle of COS need to have an overlap of the BCP with an agonist. By overlapping the BCP with an agonist for a few days prior to menstruation the early recruited follicles are able to complete their developmental drive to the AF stage and as such, be ready to respond appropriately to optimal ovarian stimulation. Using this approach, the timing of the initiation of the IVF treatment cycle can readily and safely be regulated and controlled by varying the length of time that the woman is on the BCP.

Since optimizing follicular response to COS requires that prior to stimulation with gonadotropins, FSH-induced conversion from PAF to AF’s first be  completed and the BCP suppresses FSH, it follows when it comes to women launching COS coming off a BCP something needs to be done to cause a rise in FSH for 5-7 days prior to menstruation heralding the cycle of CO S.This is where overlapping the BCP with an agonist (e.g. Lupron/Superfact/Buserelin) comes in. The agonist causes FSH to be released by the pituitary gland and if overlapped with the BCP for several days and this will  (within 2-5 days) facilitate PAF to AF conversion…. in time to start COS with the onset of menstruation. Initiating ovarian stimulation in women taking a BCP, without doing this is suboptimal

I believe it to be essential regardless of the protocol of COS protocol being contemplated, for women who launching ovarian stimulation coming off a BCP to overlap with an agonist for several days in advance of initiating ovarian stimulation with the onset of menstruation,

___

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: Timi G

Dear dr. Sher!
I have a question about Clexane. I’m 17 weeks pregnant, I’ve been injecting 0.4 clexane since the beginning, I started at about 67 kg and gained about 3 kg so far.
I am on immune therapy due to previous treatments, from there the doctor sent me to a hematologist with a question mark, because I only had minor deviations, both of them thought a lot about whether I needed the injection but in the end the hematologist prescribed it. (Only one value I had was really bad, the anti-c1q.)
Since then, I havent been visiting the hematologist separately, but we checked the thrombosis values (INR, APTI, Fibrogen) at the lab, they were in the normal range, but I only attend immune controls and gynecological examinations.
Now, for the next immune control, the doctor asked for anti-xa results which I have just learned is necessary for the proper injection dose. It will be in 2 days, and it can take up to 20 days to see the results.
Because of this, I am a little scared that we hadn’t watched anti-xa separately until now. Everything was fine with the baby, including the measures, heartbeats, etc.
My question is, could this cause a problem if we haven’t watched anti-xa more often? Is it too late that the data will only be revealed after about 3 weeks? Would I have had symptoms/signs if the current dosage was not enough?
Thank you very much for the answers.

Answer:

In my opinion, in the absence oft certain thrombophilias, or a history of thromboembolism,  heparin therapy for suspected immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) s rarely required beyond the 10th week.

In the world of assisted reproduction, when IVF fails repeatedly or without explanation, it’s often assumed that poor embryo quality is the main culprit. However, this view oversimplifies the situation. The process of embryo implantation, which begins about six or seven days after fertilization, involves a complex interaction between embryonic cells and the lining of the uterus. These specialized cells, called trophoblasts, eventually become the placenta. When the trophoblasts meet the uterine lining, they engage in a communication process with immune cells through hormone-like substances called cytokines. This interaction plays a critical role in supporting the successful growth of the embryo. From the earliest stages, the trophoblasts establish the foundation for the exchange of nutrients, hormones, and oxygen between the mother and the baby. The process of implantation not only ensures the survival of early pregnancy but also contributes to the quality of life after birth.

There are numerous uterine factors that can impede embryo implantation potential. However, the vast majority relate to the following three (3) factors:

  1. Thin uterine lining (endometrium) . A lining that is <8mm in thickness at the time of ovulation, and/ or the administration of progesterone
  2. Irregularity the inner surface of the uterine cavity (caused by protruding sub-mucous fibroids, scar  tissue or polyps )
  • Immunologic factors that compromise implantation

Of these 3 factors, the one most commonly overlooked (largely because of the highly complex nature of the problem) is immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID), a common cause of “unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure and recurrent pregnancy loss. This article will focus on the one that most commonly is overlooked ….namely, 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 6-7 days 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 IVIg to NK cells can immediately downregulate NK cell activity. However, 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 Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    • 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: Eleuteria E

Cómo puedo lograr quedarme embarazada

Answer:

Please re-post in English!

Geoff Sher

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Name: Tracy W

Hi there,

I was wondering why you decrease the dosage of Lupron once the Estrogen begins? I struggle with a thin endometrium lining and was reading your protocol for FET. I was wondering if the reason why my lining may not get so thick is because the Lupon dosage that I took is 10 IU 5 days prior to stopping birth control and then remains the same amount instead of decreasing it once estrogen starts. I have had multiple hysteroscopies and no longer have scar tissue. I also did a mock transfer and they did not detect endometriosis or endometritis. Curious if the lack of decreasing the Lupron might have something to do with it? Thanks or your help!

Answer:

Frankly , little to no Lupron is needed once the estrogen therapy begins.

A thin uterine lining can have numerous causes.

Back in 1989, I conducted a study that examined how the thickness of a woman’s uterine lining, known as the endometrium, affected the successful implantation of embryos in IVF patients. The study revealed that when the uterine lining measured less than 8mm in thickness by the day of the “hCG trigger” in fresh IVF cycles, or at the start of progesterone therapy in embryo recipient cycles (such as frozen embryo transfers or egg donation IVF), the chances of pregnancy and birth were significantly improved. In my opinion, an ideal estrogen-promoted endometrial lining should measure at least 9mm in thickness, while a lining of 8-9mm is considered “intermediate.” In most cases, an estrogenic lining of less than 8mm is unlikely to result in a viable pregnancy.

A “poor” uterine lining typically occurs when the innermost layer of the endometrium, called the basal or germinal endometrium, fails to respond to estrogen and cannot develop a thick enough outer “functional” layer to support optimal embryo implantation and placenta development. The “functional” layer makes up two-thirds of the total endometrial thickness and is the layer that sheds during menstruation if no pregnancy occurs.

The main causes of a “poor” uterine lining include:

  1. Damage to the basal endometrium due to:
    • Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis) often resulting from retained products of conception after abortion, miscarriage, or birth.
    • Surgical trauma caused by aggressive uterine scraping during procedures like D&C.
  1. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to:
    • Prolonged or excessive use of clomiphene citrate.
    • Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug given to pregnant women in the 1960s to prevent miscarriage.
  1. Overexposure of the uterine lining to ovarian male hormones, mainly testosterone, which can occur in older women, women with diminished ovarian reserve, and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) who have increased LH biological activity. This hormonal imbalance leads to the overproduction of testosterone in the ovary’s connective tissue, further exacerbated by certain ovarian stimulation methods used in IVF.
  2. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium, often caused by:
    • Multiple uterine fibroids, especially those located beneath the endometrium (submucosal).
    • Uterine adenomyosis, an abnormal invasion of endometrial glands into the uterine muscle.

“The Viagra Connection”

Eighteen years ago, I reported on the successful use of vaginal Sildenafil (Viagra) in treating women with implantation dysfunction caused by thin endometrial linings. This breakthrough led to the birth of the world’s first “Viagra baby.” Since then, thousands of women with thin uterine linings have been treated with Viagra, and many have gone on to have babies after multiple unsuccessful IVF attempts.

Viagra gained popularity in the 1990s as an oral treatment for erectile dysfunction. Inspired by its mechanism of action, which increases penile blood flow through enhanced nitric oxide activity, I investigated whether vaginal administration of Viagra could improve uterine blood flow, deliver more estrogen to the basal endometrium, and promote endometrial thickening. Our findings confirmed that vaginal Viagra achieved these effects, while oral administration did not provide significant benefits. To facilitate treatment, we collaborated with a compound pharmacy to produce vaginal Viagra suppositories.

In our initial trial, four women with a history of poor endometrial development and failed conception underwent IVF treatment combined with vaginal Viagra therapy. The Viagra suppositories were administered four times daily for 8-11 days and stopped 5-7 days before embryo transfer. This treatment resulted in a rapid and significant improvement in uterine blood flow, leading to enhanced endometrial development in all four cases. Three of these women subsequently conceived. In 2002, I expanded the trial to include 105 women with repeated IVF failure due to persistently thin endometrial linings. About 70% of these women responded positively to Viagra therapy, with a notable increase in endometrial thickness. Forty-five percent achieved live births after a single cycle of IVF with Viagra treatment, and the miscarriage rate was only 9%. Women who did not show improvement in endometrial thickness following Viagra treatment did not achieve viable pregnancies.

When administered vaginally, Viagra is quickly absorbed and reaches the uterine blood system in high concentrations. It then dilutes as it enters the systemic circulation, explaining why treatment is virtually free from systemic side effects.

It is important to note that Viagra may not improve endometrial thickness in all cases. Approximately 30-40% of women treated may not experience any improvement. In severe cases of thin uterine linings where the basal endometrium has been permanently damaged and becomes unresponsive to estrogen, Viagra treatment is unlikely to be effective. This can occur due to conditions such as post-pregnancy endometritis, chronic inflammation resulting from uterine tuberculosis (rare in the United States), or extensive surgical damage to the basal endometrium.

In my practice, I sometimes recommend combining vaginal Viagra administration with oral Terbutaline (5mg). Viagra relaxes the muscle walls of uterine spiral arteries, while terbutaline relaxes the uterine muscle itself. The combination of these medications synergistically enhances blood flow through the uterus, improving estrogen delivery to the endometrial lining. However, it’s important to monitor potential side effects of Terbutaline such as agitation, tremors, and palpitations. Women with cardiac disease or irregular heartbeat should not use Terbutaline.

Approximately 75% of women with thin uterine linings respond positively to treatment within 2-3 days. Those who do not respond well often have severe inner ( (basal) endometrial lining damage, where improved uterine blood flow cannot stimulate a positive response. Such cases are commonly associated with previous pregnancy-related endometrial inflammation, occurring after abortions, infected vaginal deliveries, or cesarean sections.

Viagra therapy has been a game-changer for thousands of women with thin uterine linings, allowing them to successfully overcome infertility and build their families.

Geoff Sher

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Name: Y M

Dear Dr. T,

When is one directed towards the surrogacy option?
Thank you.

Answer:

IVF surrogacy involves the transfer of one or more embryos into the uterus of a surrogate, who provides a host womb and carries the baby to term, but does not contribute genetically to the baby. Typically, the intended mother provides the eggs and her partner (the intended father) provides the sperm. However, at times eggs and/or sperm may be derived from gamete donors. While ethical, moral, and medico‑legal issues still apply, IVF surrogacy appears to have gained social acceptance. We offer IVF surrogacy as an option at most SIRM programs.

Candidates for IVF surrogacy can be divided into two groups: (1) women who are not capable of carrying a pregnancy to full term due to: their uterus having been surgically removed (hysterectomy), disease, or developmental absence of the uterus (from birth) and (2) women who have been advised against undertaking a pregnancy because of systemic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc.

As in preparation for other assisted reproductive techniques, the biological/intended parents, the surrogate and/or donors undergo a thorough clinical, psychological, and laboratory assessment prior to embarking on the process. The purpose is to exclude sexually transmitted diseases that might damage eggs, sperm and embryos, or be carried to the surrogate with embryo transfer. They are also counseled on issues faced by all IVF participants such as the possibility of multiple gestation, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.

All legal issues pertaining to custody and the rights of the biological parents and the surrogate should be discussed in detail and the appropriate consent forms completed following full disclosure. We recommend that the surrogate and biological/intended parents get separate legal counsel to avoid any conflict of interest that could arise were one attorney to counsel both parties.

Selecting a Surrogate

Couples with the necessary financial resources will usually retain a surrogacy agency to find a suitable IVF surrogacy candidate. We direct our patients to reputable surrogacy agencies who have access to quality surrogates. Because the surrogate gives birth, it is rarely possible or even realistic for her to remain anonymous.

Since recruiting a gestational surrogate from an agency can be very expensive, many infertile couples who qualify for IVF surrogate parenting solicit the assistance of empathic friends or family members to act as surrogates.

Other couples independently seek surrogates by advertising in the media.

Screening the Surrogate

Once the surrogate has been selected, she will undergo thorough medical and psychological evaluations, including:

  1. Cervical cultures and/or blood tests to screen for infection with sexually transmitted bacteria such chlamydia, ureaplasma, gonococcus and syphilis or viruses such as cytomegalic virus, HIV, HTLV, and hepatitis.
  2. A variety of blood‑hormone tests, such as the measurement of plasma prolactin and thyroid‑stimulating hormone (TSH) and tests to ensure that the surrogate is immune to the development of rubella (German measles).
  3. Physical evaluation
  4. Psychological assessment

When friends or family members serve as IVF surrogates they should be be carefully assessed to ascertain whether they might have been coerced to paricipate. This is especially important when a young family member is being recruited.

The surrogate should also be counseled on issues such as risks and consequences of multiple pregnancies. Such discussions should include agreement on the number of embryos to be transferred and the delicate issue of selective pregnancy reduction , in the event of a high order multiple pregnancy (triplets or greater).

The surrogate should visit with her designated IVF physician who should take her medical history and perform a thorough physical examination. Thereupon she should have a full consultation with the nurse coordinator charged with oversight of her treatment. The coordinator will outline the exact IVF-surrogacy process step by step, will make certain that the surrogate understands that she has full right of access to the clinic staff and that her concerns will be addressed promptly at all times. The surrogate should also be informed that if pregnancy occurs, she will be referred to a qualified obstetrician or perinatologist for prenatal care and delivery.

Once a viable pregnancy is confirmed by ultrasound recognition of a fetal heartbeat (at the 6th-7th week), there is a better than 85% chance that the pregnancy will proceed normally to term. Once the pregnancy has progressed beyond the 12th week, the chance of a healthy baby being born is upward of 95%.

At Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS), depending on the age of the egg provider (under 39 years) and her having normal ovarian reserve, we would anticipate approximately a 40%-50% birthrate every time good quality advanced embryos (expanded blastocysts) are transferred. The birthrate falls with further advancement in the age of the egg provider and with diminishing ovarian reserve. It is important to note that there is no convincing evidence to suggest an increase in the incidence of spontaneous miscarriage or birth defects as a direct result of IVF surrogacy.

If the surrogate’s blood pregnancy tests are negative, treatment with estrogen, progesterone and corticosteroids is discontinued, and she can expect to menstruate within four to 10 days. In the event that the pregnancy test is positive, estrogen, progesterone and steroid therapy are continued till the 10th week of pregnancy.

After the evaluation and counseling of both the couple and the surrogate has been completed, the three parties should meet. And, once all the evaluations have been completed, the intended parents will select a date to begin treatment.

Synchronizing the Cycles of Surrogate and Aspiring Mother

Both the surrogate and the egg provider are placed on monophasic birth control pills (BCP) for 10-25 days. The objective ist to insure that they both start menstruating around the same date so as to launch their cycle of treatment together. Thus the duration that each would remain on the BCP will depend on the desired timing of the start of the IVF treatment cycle. At some point while taking the BCP, both parties will overlapped the BCP with a GnRH agonist (GnRHa) such as Lupron for a period of approximately 2-3 days, whereupon the BCP will be stopped and the Lupron continued. Menstruation will follow (in both) within a few days.

At this point the egg provider begins controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) with gonadotropins while the IVF surrogate commences corticosteroid (dexamethasone or prednisone) therapy and either, twice weekly injections of estradiol valerate (Delestrogen) or daily estradiol skin patches. Blood estradiol measurements are taken twice weekly and the dosage of administered estradiol is adjusted so as to attain a blood estradiol level of between 500 and 1,000pg/ml. Then, as soon as the egg provider (based on hormonal testing and ultrasound follicle assessment) receives the hCG “trigger shot” the surrogate starts receiving daily intramuscular progesterone injections ( while continuing estradiol therapy). In the case of day 3 embryo transfers, this continues for 4 days prior to the embryo transfer and in the case of blastocyst transfers, for 6 days.

Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Selection-the Ideal Approach for Gestational Surrogacy

PGS of embryos via next generation gene sequencing (NGS) requires that the woman’s IVF cycle be broken into two parts – the first involving stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization, and removal of a cell from the embryo for testing. Because CGH testing requires 4-5 weeks to obtain results, the embryos are frozen while the testing is performed on the removed cell. The woman then returns at a later date for her embryo transfer. We call this process “Staggered IVF “. The same approach to ET can be used with gestational surrogacy and the same 60+% birth rate can be anticipated when CGH-normal embryos are transferred. In fact, Staggered IVF lends itself to Gestational Surrogacy because it is possible in this way to completely segregate the ovarian stimulation process from the ET. This allows couples seeking gestational surrogacy to delay identifying and recruiting a surrogate until they are assured of having “competent” embryos available for transfer.

Management and Follow‑up after the Embryo Transfer

Following embryo transfer, the surrogate will be given daily progesterone injections and bi-weekly estradiol valerate injections and/or suppositories in order to sustain an optimal environment for implantation. Approximately 10 days after the embryo transfer, she will undergo a pregnancy test. A positive test indicates that implantation is taking place. In such an event, the hormone injections will be continued for an additional four to six weeks. In the interim, an ultrasound examination will be performed to definitively diagnose a clinical pregnancy. If the test is negative, all hormonal treatment is discontinued, and menstruation will ensue within three to 10 days. If the surrogate does not conceive, the aspiring mother may have her remaining embryos frozen, to be thawed and transferred to the uterus of the surrogate at a later date. If, in spite of both the initial attempt and subsequent transfer of thawed embryos the surrogate does not conceive, the infertile couple may schedule a new cycle of treatment.

Toward the Bioethics of IVF Surrogacy

The determination of ethical guidelines has not kept pace with the exploding growth and development in IVF. However, some leaders in the field are working together, sharing experiences and advice, in an attempt to formulate a code of ethics.

The genetic combination of the male and the female provide two of the essential elements which, along with gestation, are necessary to produce a human being. The two‑out‑of‑three rule basically looks at these three elements: the egg, the sperm, and the gestational component. If at all possible, I recommend that at least two of these three components be contributed by the intended parents. If they can only contribute one, it is important to make every effort not to have the other two contributed by the same person (i.e., the egg provider should not also be the surrogate) as this can cause a variety of problems.

 

Name: Shian T

Hi there, I just turned 42 w an AMH of 1.33-1.71 and have been undergoing IVF treatments for over three years with some success – I was pregnant twice, both unviable and resulting in two D&Cs. This is in addition to a natural pregnancy when I was 32 that ended w a D&C due to fetal demise. I recently had a battery of bloodwork conducted and several levels came back abnormal/high:

-Immunoglobulin E (134 kU/L)
-DHEA Sulfate (209 mcg/dL)
-Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (139 nmol/L)

Only the Immunoglobulin E appears connected to recurrent pregnancy loss, as my level indicates some kind of overactivity w my immune system. I’ve read online about how Prednisone and Lovenox can address this and I’m writing to find out what kind of protocol you’d recommend given my situation.

I appreciate your help!!

Answer:

In the world of assisted reproduction, when IVF fails repeatedly or without explanation, it’s often assumed that poor embryo quality is the main culprit. However, this view oversimplifies the situation. The process of embryo implantation, which begins about six or seven days after fertilization, involves a complex interaction between embryonic cells and the lining of the uterus. These specialized cells, called trophoblasts, eventually become the placenta. When the trophoblasts meet the uterine lining, they engage in a communication process with immune cells through hormone-like substances called cytokines. This interaction plays a critical role in supporting the successful growth of the embryo. From the earliest stages, the trophoblasts establish the foundation for the exchange of nutrients, hormones, and oxygen between the mother and the baby. The process of implantation not only ensures the survival of early pregnancy but also contributes to the quality of life after birth.

There are numerous uterine factors that can impede embryo implantation potential. However, the vast majority relate to the following three (3) factors:

  1. Thin uterine lining (endometrium) . A lining that is <8mm in thickness at the time of ovulation, and/ or the administration of progesterone
  2. Irregularity the inner surface of the uterine cavity (caused by protruding sub-mucous fibroids, scar  tissue or polyps )
  • Immunologic factors that compromise implantation

Of these 3 factors, the one most commonly overlooked (largely because of the highly complex nature of the problem) is immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID), a common cause of “unexplained (often repeated) IVF failure and recurrent pregnancy loss. This article will focus on the one that most commonly is overlooked ….namely, 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 6-7 days 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 IVIg to NK cells can immediately downregulate NK cell activity. However, 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 Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    • 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.

 

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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\