Dr. Edward Ramirez is the medical director of Monterey Bay IVF, a women's fertility & gynecology center located in Monterey, California. He hopes to provide those who read his infertility blog with insights into the latest advances in women's health & infertility issues. He respectfully shares his knowledge as a specialist with women and men from all over the world. Visit his center at www.montereybayivf.com
38 Year Old TTC'r With Factor V Lieden, MTHFR, High BMI, High FSH & Good Embryos Has Done 3 IVF Cycles: I'd Throw In The Kitchen Sink!
I am a 38 yo female in the Northeast US. I started menstruating when I was 10 yo and due to irregular (too frequent) and heavy periods, went on BCP's at age 15 thru 35 - after stopping BCP's, my periods are very regular. We started TTC 3 years ago, and after no success, initial tests showed my H had good sperm count but low motility. We started w/ an RE in Jan 09. For me, my problem areas are age, high BMI, hypothyroid (well controlled) and + for MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) & Factor 5 Leiden. No PCOS, no endometriosis, tubes are open, endometrial lining develops well, FSH 9.
We were advised to go right to IVF to increase our chances of conception. IVF#1 5/09 Lupron/Gonal F protocol - 13 retrieved, 7 fertilized, 3 day transfer of 3 embryos - all Grade 2 (8, 7, 6 cells), resulted in pregnancy that ended in m/c at 8 weeks due to triploidy. IVF#2 8/09 Lupron Flare protocol - 13 retrieved, 2 fertilized, 3 day transfer of 2 embryos - Grade 2 (6 & 5 cell) BFN. Dec 09 - had a d&c and a month of antibiotics & estrace to prepare for IVF. IVF #3 1/10 w/ acupuncture, Lupron/Gonal F/Menopur - 13 retrieved, 5 fertilized, 3 day transfer of 3 embryos - all Grade 1 (8 cells) another BFN. All IVF's had ISCI and last 2 w/Assisted Hatching and no embryos made it to freeze. My E2 levels were consistent for all 3 - always between 1900-2300. My meds are always prenatal vits, folgard, baby asa, and levoxyl (thyroid). Lovenox only during pregnancy. My RE says that my age is the problem & that although I respond well and fertilize well, my eggs are of poor quality and arrest several days after transfer. I have no more covered IVF's, but do have 6 IUI's. His recommendation was to try 4 IUI's and if I do not get pregnant, to move onto other options, like DE (donor eggs).
1. Do you agree with this diagnosis? Would it be worth trying another IVF with another RE? I have been very happy w/ my experience w/ this group.
2. I've read about Natural Killer cells & antibodies & immunology treatments - my RE says the studies do not support this type of treatment and this will not help. Do you agree?
3. I've had my first IUI on 3/31 and am awaiting a beta on 4/13. Do you think trying several IUI's is worth it or are the chances of success so low that I am wasting my time?
4. Is moving onto Donor Eggs my best next step?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply. I really enjoy reading your answers on this site. A. from the U.S.A.
Hello Alyssa from the U.S.,
1. In reviewing your history, out of three IVF cycles, you were successful with one (the first one), but in each, you stimulated well, had a good number of eggs retrieved and, except for the second cycle, had decent embryos. So that means that your ovaries are functioning well and stimulating well despite your high FSH level, and you seem to make good embryos. Of course, since embryos are rated only based on how they look, we cannot know if they are normal or not. Your first pregnancy was genetically abnormal and that is the "age factor" i.e. poor quality eggs leading to abnormal embryos. It is possible that the embryos in cycles #2 and 3 were genetically abnormal as well and that is the reason they did not implant. So, I agree that egg quality might be the issue, leading to imperfect embryos. That is the hurdle that you need to overcome and is totally based on your age. You may not necessarily need to change doctors, but it just may take more tries to become pregnant, since the majority of your eggs are not good quality and the goal is to get a good one.
However, pregnancy rates do vary by physician and protocols, and that could possibly make a difference. For instance, I do not use the Long (lupron) protocol or flare protocol. I use a combination (Ganerelix (antagonist) + Follistim + Menopur) protocol. That could possibly make a difference in your stimulation and the number of eggs retrieved, thereby increasing the chances of finding a good egg. Also, a lot of it is just luck of the draw, so to speak. Each cycle is unique and has the potential to yield a different outcome.
2. You have a +MTHFR and Factor V Leidin. That puts you at increased risk immunologically. For that reason, low dose aspirin, Medrol, and possibly Heparin or Lovenox, might make a difference and would be a good idea. I automatically place my failed patients on this protocol. My reasoning is that, despite the studies showing no value to this regimen, it is like stress reduction, acupuncture or any number of other adjuncts that have not been clinically proven in that, it doesn't hurt and it might help. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine does not advocate the use of immunological therapies, so your RE is correct. However, if you keep failing multiple times and that is something you want to try, then go for it. Basically I throw the kitchen sink in to try to overcome the failures. So, what's the harm?
3. If your IUI is positive, great. If negative, then you need to understand that you are doing them because you have the benefit and not because it is a better treatment. It is not. It certainly has a chance of working that is better than trying naturally, but that chance is not that good. At 38 yo, the chances are about 7-10% per cycle, which is much less than the 60+% with IVF per cycle. But, that doesn't mean it can't work. The goal would be to make sure that you are ovulating as least three eggs with each cycle. It should preferably be 5. Use injectables if you have to. It is the ovulation of multiple eggs that increases the pregnancy rate with IUI.
4. Donor eggs is certainly an option and an option that you will have until you are 50 years old. It certainly gives you the best chances of success because it eliminates the egg factor and reduces the risk of miscarriage. It's your ace in the pocket. Whether or not to proceed with it at this time is your personal decision. Because your ovaries stimulate well, there is still the opportunity for you to get pregnant with your own eggs. There should still be some good ones left inside. It will just be a matter of time. But, if you would rather not keep trying until you find that good egg, and increase your chances of success in the shortest time, then donor eggs would be the logical option. There was a report in the NY Times about a patient who is now the oldest patient to get pregnant successfully with her own eggs at age 49. She was very persistent and dedicated to being successful, and it took her two years of doing IVF.
I hope this helps, you have the potential to get that one good embryo & it may only be a matter of time and changing up the treatment protocol a bit. I find it heartening that you are willing to stay open to all possibilities, so I know you will succeed!