Couples who have endlessly tried to conceive a child may feel like they have exhausted all their fertility options. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common assisted reproductive technology and leads to the highest chance of pregnancy for most couples, according to the Mayo Clinic. The fertility option may be effective, but can also be expensive — costing an average $7,500. But women who wish to double their chances of getting pregnant can now do so at half the price and with lower drug doses, thanks to a new IVF treatment dubbed mini-IVF.
The mini-IVF method was developed by Dr. Sherman Silber, IVF pioneer at the Infertility Center of St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Silber first introduced the success of his method at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Boston earlier this week. Silber reported on a series of trials that involved 520 women who underwent the mini-IVF treatment and their success rates.
The method involves giving a woman a daily pill for 10 to 12 days that contains a low dose of the fertility drug Clomid. This drug stimulates ovulation by blocking the estrogen receptors at the hypothalamus, which is known as an important “hormonal control center” for the body, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Clomid helps the hypothalamus stimulate the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are stimulants that trigger ovulation in a woman’s cycle.
Women who opt for a conventional IVF treatment are often exposed to high doses of anti-estrogen drugs that could cause ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome — an overreaction to fertility drugs. Side effects may include a swollen stomach, stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.
Due to its lower fertility drug dose, the mini-IVF treatment is half the price of the conventional method. The new treatment can cost anywhere from $1,700 to $2,000.
Throughout the 10 to 12 days of the mini-IVF treatment, women will undergo ultrasounds to check if their eggs are growing healthily. Once a woman’s eggs are deemed large enough, approximately 10 days later, doctors then remove them during a five-minute operation that doesn’t require general anesthesia, reports the Daily Mail.
The findings of Silber’s trials have revealed that the new treatment is not only successful but also boosts chances of fertility for women over their 40s. Compared to the conventional IVF method, women in this age group were twice as likely to get pregnant. For women who were aged 35 or below, the success rates were generally the same.
The live birth rate for a conventional IVF cycle is typically 30 to 35 percent for women under age 35, 25 percent for women between the ages of 35 and 37, 15 to 20 percent for women between the ages of 38 and 40, and six to 10 percent for women over 40, according to the New York University Fertility Center. These rates are doubled when women seek the mini-IVF treatment option, according to the study.
“This study is a valuable addition to the growing evidence that mild stimulation IVF needs to become the first choice in IVF clinics for many women,” Silber said.
In the U.S., 11 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For a list of IVF clinics that provide low-cost IVF in the United States, click here.