Tuesday, February 2, 2010
PCOS Patient Beginning IVF Treatment, What Questions Should She Ask Her Doctor?
I have PCOS and I've started IVF (in vitro fertilization). I have concerns because I don't really understand what is going on. They say they want my estrogen level up and that it is going in the right direction but they keep increasing my medication. Why? How can I tell if it is working?
I have started since January 22nd. Is it normal to continue and what questions do I ask my doctor to see if my chances remain good?
Thank you for your question, it's always good to know exactly what is going on so don't hesitate to ask your doctor as many questions as you can. Take a pad of paper with you and write down the answers if you need to.
Let me begin with our protocol at our clinic for patients such as yourself. With PCOS patients we have to be very careful because if you over-respond, you could develop and illness called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Many IVF programs use a protocol called a "step-up" protocol whereby you start on a lower dose and it is slowly increased based on your estradiol levels and ovarian response. They should be doing ultrasounds at the same time to see how many follicles are growing and what size the are. Once it looks like you are stimulating, the dose is usually kept constant until the follicles reach the appropriate size for retrieval (18-24 mms).
If you started on the 22nd of January, your cycle is definitely going kind of slow. Most patients will respond within 10-16 days. I would presume you are getting closer.
If your doctor is not explaining these things, then you need to be more insistant that you want an explanation at each visit. Most doctors, or their respective nurses, will then explain how things are going and what the goal and timeline is. We can usually predict, within a day or two, when you will be ready to retrieve.
What you should ask is:
1. How am I doing?
2. Am I responding to this dose or protocol? Are my follicles increasing?
3. How many growing follicles do I have?
4. When are you expecting me to be ready to retrieve? Transfer? Explain that you need to plan the date.
5. What if I have too many follicles? Will you cancel me? Do you Coast? Will you trigger with HCG or Lupron? (Lupron is what I use because it has a shorter duration of action and has been shown to decrease the incidence of OHSS if there are too many follicles and the estradiol is too high (over 4000).
6. What is my estradiol level? (the goal is to have a level of 2000-4000 at the point that the follicles are ready for retrieval. If the estradiol level is over 4000, then the risk for OHSS is higher).
I hope this gives you enough questions to ask for now. Keep informed and stay in touch! Good luck!
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D.
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.