Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Woman With Endometriosis Failed IVF Cycle: Poor Egg Quality? Age Issue? PGS?

                                                                                                                                                    
Question:
I am 38 years old from Los Angeles. I just had a failed IVF cycle because my six embryos arrested on Day 5. On Day 3, five were Grade A and one was Grade B. They were 10, 8 and 6 cell. Doctor blames my age for the embryos arresting and basically said my eggs are poor quality. I find this confusing, since they were top ranked on Day 3. I've done one previous failed IVF last year at a different clinic (and still have a frozen Grade B blastocyst from that), but the doctor never blamed my egg quality. My AMH is 2 and other hormone numbers are normal. First IVF, they retrieved 27 eggs. This IVF, they retrieved 16 eggs.

I don't know my fertilization rate  for my most recent IVF because my doctor never told me how many of my eggs were immature, only answering that some of them were. For my first IVF about half the eggs were immature, and I had about a 50 percent fertilization rate. I have endometriosis, which has never been treated. It was discovered 2 1/2 years when I was having a myomectomy, but the doctor didn't remove it, only noting that I had significant ovarian endometriosis but no endometriomas. I've read that endo can affect egg quality or do you think the only issue here is my age, and I should just give up on IVF? My next step is to have a laparoscopy to remove the endometriosis.
Thanks for your time. N2N from California.


Answer:

Hello N2N from California USA,

I think that age has a significant effect on egg quality and that is the issue with age.  More and more eggs become less and less fertile.  There was a study recently that looked at IVF patients that were 37 years old and underwent PGS. PGS, or preimplantation genetic screening, is the proper term for testing for overall chromosomal normalcy in embryos. This involves removing a cell from an IVF embryo to test it for chromosomal abnormalities before transferring the embryo to the uterus.  Only 2 out of every 10 embryos were genetically normal.  So, even if they make it to blastocyst, there is still a chance that the treatment would fail because of abnormal embryos.  In general, there is debate as to whether endometriosis needs to be removed prior to IVF because of a potential effect on pregnancy rates, but there is no clear indication that endometriosis absolutely affects eggs unless there is an endometrioma present and/or the endometriotic fluid contaminates the fluid at retrieval.  If you want to be sure that it is not a factor, a laparoscopy followed by three months of Lupron should take care of that issue, but I'm not sure I would have you do it if you were my patient.  I think you are battling an age issue.

It is not unusual for good looking day #3 embryos to not make it to blastocyst.  In one of my patients recently, we had 12 embryos that were good quality (grade 1 or 2, 6-8 cells) on Day #3.  We cultured all of them and only 6 made it to blastocyst.  The rest arrested before Day #5.  So, your doctor is probably correct that this failure was due to egg quality.  That is what you are battling.  The bottom line is that IVF is trying to help you find the one or two good eggs that are still remaining in the ovary and it will just take time.  If you want it to go faster, then you need to move to donor eggs to improve the egg quality, but if you want a genetic child, then you need to resolve that it may take several attempts.  Unfortunately, there are no technologies yet, that can improve egg quality.  Only repetition is the option.  As long as your ovaries still respond well to stimulation, so that we can get a lot of eggs at retrieval, then you have a good chance of being successful if you hang in there.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG

Executive Medical Director

The Fertility and Gynecology Center

Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

History of Miscarriages, Now 9 Weeks Pregnant: Continue Progesterone Supplement (Crinone) ?

Question:

I'm from the U.S. After a long struggle with secondary infertility and 2 miscarriages, I am pregnant again, 9 weeks along. I'm on supplemental progesterone, Crinone 8% once a day. When can I feel okay about stopping the Crinone? I was supposed to see my doctor in 2 days, but he experienced a family tragedy, and I'm not sure when he'll be back. I think he had talked about stopping the Crinone at 9 or 10 weeks, but I was going to confirm that with him at my appointment, and I have no way of asking now.
Thank you for your time. M. from the U.S.

Answer:
Hello M. from the U.S.,

With your history of two miscarriages, I will usually be very conservative and continue the progesterone until 12 weeks gestational age.  However, medically, it would be okay to stop at 10 weeks.  By then, the placenta should be fully functional and providing all the hormone necessary to maintain the pregnancy.

Good luck!

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.
 
**For my readers who are unfamiliar with the use of progesterone to support a pregnancy, here are some additional facts: "Progesterone is essential for the normal functioning of the reproductive system. After ovulation, the corpus luteum (which is the empty follicle from which the egg was released) produces progesterone, which acts on the womb lining and causes it to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant. This is known as the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. If an egg implants successfully into the womb, the corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone to maintain the pregnancy until the placenta develops fully. The placenta produces increasing amounts of progesterone until it is fully developed, when it then takes over the production of progesterone to continue to support the pregnancy.
In some women, insufficient progesterone is produced during the luteal phase and this causes problems with implantation of fertilized eggs into the womb lining and maintaining a pregnancy in the early stages. Crinone vaginal gel is used to treat this hormone deficiency. One applicatorful is inserted into the vagina every day, starting either one day after ovulation is known to have occurred, or on day 18 to 21 of the woman's cycle. (Day one is the first day of your period.) The gel is usually continued until the placenta is producing enough progesterone to support the pregnancy.
Crinone vaginal gel is also used to support pregnancy in women having in vitro fertilization (IVF). In this case the gel is used daily, starting after the embryo has been transferred into the womb, for the first 30 days of confirmed pregnancy."
www.netdoctor.co.uk/pregnancy/medicines/crinone.html
 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Conceiving After 45: IVF With Your Own Eggs Or Donor Eggs?


Question:

Dr Ramirez,
What are the chances of a 45 year old woman conceiving using IVF with her own eggs? Would it be worth trying or would you recommend using donor eggs? A. from the UK

Answer:
Hello A. from the UK,

There are always exceptions to the rule, however, the chances of pregnancy, even with IVF, are very slim.  In the 2012 National summary produced by our Centers for Disease Control (CDC), based on IVF reporting data, the national averages for women >44 years old is 5% pregnancy rate and 2% delivery rate.  This, of course, is an average and the statistics can be different for different centers.  There have been pregnancies over 44 years old but they are very few.  In my center, the oldest patient to get pregnant using her own eggs (as opposed to using donor eggs) was 44 years old.
I tell my patients that only God can determine who will be the exception to the rule, but if you don't try, then you have a 0% from the start.  However, if you decide to try, you have to go in with the understanding that your chances are slim.  Until you try, you won't know the outcome.  If you want a better chance, the donor eggs will be much better.

I have a 45 year old patient contemplating this now who is leaning toward trying at least once because she wants to reassure herself that she has done everything possible to have another child (she has one already).  I told her, and you should understand this too, that IVF is not a perfect technology even in young women, and like trying naturally, it can take several tries.  So if you want to be absolutely sure that you tried your very best with IVF, then you need to be prepared to try several times.

As to whether or not it is worth it, that is a totally individual decision.  The worthiness of something is defined by yourself.

Good Luck,
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.
 

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"How In Vitro Fertilization Works" Video from TED-Ed

Dear Readers,
I recently found this nicely animated video on In Vitro Fertilization created on the new TED-Ed platform. You might find this a good way to not only inform yourself but also friends and family who might have trouble understanding the fertilization process. 

"Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples worldwide. But in the last 40 years, more than 5 million babies have been born using in vitro fertilization (IVF). How does it work? Nassim Assefi and Brian A. Levine detail the science behind making a baby in a lab."

Lesson by Nassim Assefi and Brian A. Levine, animation by Kozmonot Animation Studio.


 
 
 
As always, I am open to questions regarding this complex but important assisted reproductive technology, IVF.
 
 
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Upcoming Frozen Embryo Transfer #4: Do I Transfer 1, 2 or 3????


Question:

Hello,
I have a son via FET. I have now had three cycles of FET total. The first did not work, the second we got my son, and this last one worked- however I had a miscarriage at 6.5 weeks pregnant. I now have 4 embryos left frozen and am starting my next IVF cycle. They are frozen in vials of 2 each. I am so concerned if only one survives: do I only implant only one and pray it works, or do I thaw the last two we have and implant all 3? I obviously want the ultimate outcome: a pregnancy. 
 
My doctor is NO help when I ask what he recommends.  I am scared to only implant one.  Yet I am scared to use all of them in this one last attempt we have.  Is only implanting one pointless? Can you give me a recommendation on what is best if this situation were to happen on the day of transfer? The transfer is only a couple weeks away so I am so nervous.
 
Thank-you so much.
 
S. from Illinois. Nervous mom!!!!!!!

Answer:

Hello S. from the U.S. (Illinois),

Since you haven't given me your age, I can't give you specific recommendations but will have to answer your question in more general terms.  Also, another significant piece that would help answer the question is whether your embryos were frozen on day#3 (cleaved) or day#5 (blastocyst).

We always consider age when counseling patients on the number to transfer because this affects the quality of the embryos and therefore their chances of implantation.  Of course, the younger you are, the higher your chances of implantation and pregnancy per embryo.  Because the technology has gotten so much better over the years, pregnancy rates have gone up and we have realized a problem; namely, an increase in multiples, especially those over twins.  As a consequence, every IVF Physician is wary of putting to many back for fear of getting too many in return.  As a result, the American Society for Reproductive medicine and the Society for Assisted reproduction, its subgroup, have produced recommendations or guidelines for transfer.  these of course are dependent on the age and the stage of development.  Their recommendations are as follows:

 Cleaved embryos:   
                             35    35-37    38-40  40 years old
   Favorable         1-2       2         3        5+
   Unfavorable        2        3         4        5+

 Blastocyst         

   Favorable          1        2         2        3
   Unfavorable      2        2         3        3

I have my patient sign a counseling for that they have been informed regarding these guidelines and either choose to follow them or choose a different number.  I do let my patients decide within reason.  Because you have gotten pregnant with these embryos before, that would be an additional piece of information making me more cautious.

So here's the decision.  Unless you are over 35, I would recommend no more than 2 if they are blastocysts.  If these are cleaved embryos, then I would recommend 2-3.  But, the risk is of getting multiple implantations leading to at least twins.  With blastocysts and transferring 2, my twin rate is 56%.  With cleaved and transferring 3, my twin rate is 35%.  Are you willing to take the risk of having twins?  The pregnancy is harder and there is an increased risk of fetal loss.  If you are not willing to take the risk of twins then you would only transfer 1 no matter what stage.  If you are not willing to take the risk of triplets, then you would not transfer more than 2.  I do not recommend triplets.  The fetal loss rate can be as high as 50%.  The down side of transferring less than 2 is a decrease in pregnancy rates per cycle, but not necessarily over all.  It make take more attempts to get pregnant doing single embryo transfer.

I hope this gives you the information you needed to help with the decision.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Recurrent Miscarriages: Is It A Hormonal Issue?


Question:

Dear Dr. Ramirez,

I am writing from Pennsylvania. In 2006, I had two or three miscarriages.  After that, I went to a fertility clinic and had TSH, prolactin, DRVV, and anti-cardiolipin antibodies tested.  All were normal.  I also had progesterone level checked at the very beginning of one of the pregnancies as well as a non-pregnant menstrual cycle after ovulation.  Both were normal.  I had irregular cycles that were anywhere from six to ten weeks apart.  I knew when I ovulated because I got pain in whichever ovary released the egg and always had a luteal phase of 14 days. I also conceived easily.  
 
The doctor felt the lining of my uterus was getting too old to sustain a pregnancy since so much time elapsed between cycles. In February 2007, I conceived on one round of Clomid and carried that child full-term.  I then had two more children in 2009 and 2011 with no help despite still having the same irregular cycles.  My cycles are a little better now and usually five to six weeks apart, but I have had three miscarriages again in September 2012, December 2013 and June 2014.  All the miscarriages I ever had were missed abortions with embryo development ending between week 5 and 6 with the exception of the most recent which ended at 11 weeks 5 days despite fetus having a strong heartbeat and normal looking development.  Since a drop in progesterone causes shedding of the lining of the uterus, is it safe to assume that since my miscarriages were not spontaneous that progesterone was not an issue?  Could other hormones be issues or was chromosomal defect the likely issue all these times? 

Thank you for your time. Sincerely, M. from Pennsylvania

Answer:

Hello M. from the U.S. (Pennsylvania),

There are basically five known causes of recurrent miscarriages from the following abnormalities: genetic, anatomic, immunologic, hormonal and infectious.  When a woman has had two or three miscarriages, she automatically has earned the diagnosis of "recurrent pregnancy loss" and as such, needs to undergo a thorough evaluation of these elements.  The most common cause of miscarriages is genetic abnormalities and is responsible for 85% of miscarriages in women over 35 years old.  A recent study showed this cause to be less in younger women.  Genetic abnormalities can be caused from an inherited disorder or a spontaneous disorder, whereby the egg makes a genetic error when it is dividing leading to an abnormal embryo.  Most of these pregnancies will end before 12 weeks gestational age.

The recommended testing is as follows:

Genetic: wife and husband chromosomal analysis, saliva DNA analysis

Anatomic: diagnostic hysteroscopy, pelvic ultrasound, end cycle endometrial biopsy for dating and b-Integrin

Immunologic: Complete antiphospholipid antibodies, natural killer cells, Factor V Leiden, MTHFR, Antinuclear antibodies, Lupus anticoagulant, anti-Thyroid antibodies

Hormonal: FSH, LH, TSH, Prolactin, Estradiol, Mid-luteal Progesterone

Infectious: GC, Chlamydia, Ureaplasma/Mycoplasma, Toxoplasmosis

Age is probably the most common major cause which leads to an increase in genetic abnormalities.  Since you don't mention your age, that could be part of the problem if you are over 35 years old.  The good news is that most women with recurrent miscarriage will eventually have a successful pregnancy.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
www.montereybayivf.com

 

Monday, June 2, 2014

REQUEST FOR HELP FROM MY READERS

Dear Readers,

It has been a while since I last posted to this blog, and to my readers I apologize.  Things have been quite busy, hectic and stressful this year.  As you know, we are still in a recession here in the U.S. (not officially of course) which has placed a great deal of stress on my practice.  Although I have continued to answer questions that come in daily in the comment sections, posting in this blog is one of my duties that I have neglected.  I'll strive to do better from here on out!

This post is a little different and a little off subject, but something important that I want to request from my readers. Yes, instead of you asking something from me, I'm asking something from you this time.  As you know, the internet has become the biggest driving force for information and patients also use this to choose their doctors or clinics.  This is a good thing, as anyone who has ever looked for a doctor, plumber, contractor, etc. realizes, but at the same time, the current sites that rate are flawed and often unreliable which make it a bad thing.  It also can be used as a weapon against competitors.  This latter point is something that I've only recently come to realize.  I usually don't pay any attention to the rating sites, such as "Yelp" but just by chance, while looking for something else, I came upon it and saw some ratings of me "Edward J. Ramirez MD".  My overall rating was a 2 (out of 5) based on four reviews, three of which were terrible!  Interestingly, all three were within 1 week of each other so I decided to see if I could recognize who these "former patients" were and figure out why they hated me.  The site had the first name and the initial of the last names listed so I thought I would look them up using that criteria.  I have electronic medical records so it is not a difficult thing to do.  I also had the time period (April 2014) to help with the search.  Interestingly, I could not find any patients with the first names and last name initials to match these three patients.  I also found the exact same texts in reviews on two other review sites!  What I concluded is that these three "patients" were not actual patients but could only have been staff from a competing clinic that is trying to drive patients away from me by using these review sites.  Why do I suspect a competitor?  Because each of the reviews mention going to a "bigger Bay area clinic or another doctor".   Of course they wouldn't state the clinic or doctor by name because that would them reveal who was placing these malicious reviews.

Many of you, my readers/followers, have never met me and don't know me personally.  However, from my writing, I hope that you can see my devotion to patients and to treating them properly and respectfully.  My consultations are 1+ hours long, and I don't limit the number of questions, how much time spent with the patients or tell the patient what to do.  I also give my patients my email address in order to have almost immediate access to me for additional questions. I always try to make sure that the patient(s) understand everything that I have explained fully and clearly, even drawing diagrams and giving handouts regarding the topics.  At the end of the consult, I give each patient a "consultation diagnosis and treatment" summary with a written explanation of their options.  As you have read here in this blog, I believe that patients should be given options and should understand the pros/cons, risks/benefits, approximate costs and approximate pregnancy rates for each option; and I believe that this is a personal problem that they need to decide for themselves.  Each patient has different priorities and needs and therefore, the decision will be different for each.  As such I DO NOT TELL PATIENTS WHAT TO DO!  I give them options.  My role, as I explain to each new patient, is to be their consultant, adviser, advocate and therapist to help them reach their goal.  I am here to help them to the best of my abilities via the path that they choose, even if it is against my recommended path. Some patients can't afford IVF so prefer to try IUI or prefer it because it is more natural, whereas other patients want to be pregnant immediately so want to  bypass the easy treatments like ovulation induction or IUI and go straight to IVF.  I believe that is THEIR choice, not mine.  I'm there to help them in whichever path they choose.

So as you can see, when reviews show up that state that "I don't spend time answering questions" or "push them into IVF" or "don't explain things to them", you can bet that it is NOT a real patient writing that review, because that is exactly the opposite of what I really do.

After these many years of writing these blogs, answering questions through All Experts and responding to questions in the comments on this blog, I am asking for assistance from you, my readers and followers.  The best way to overcome these false reviews is to put REAL reviews on these sites.  If you have found me to be helpful to you, despite the fact that you have never seen or met me, but you feel that I've spent time on your questions, given you proper and reliable answers, given you hope, or helped you understand what you are going through, I would greatly appreciate it if you would call up one of these rating sites like YELP and put in a good word for me.  Give me a rating that you feel I deserve and comments that you feel reflect what you feel about me.  In this way, not only will you be helping me, but more importantly, you will be giving potential patients searching for a doctor a VALID review upon which to base their opinion and choices.  I hope that you will go to a review site (type in Edward J. Ramirez MD or Fertility and Gynecology Center or Monterey Bay IVF or all three) and file a review of your experience in return for the information, response or advice that I have given you.

I would greatly appreciate your help in this matter.

Edward J. Ramirez, M.D.
Monterey Bay IVF
Monterey, California



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