Monday, August 9, 2010

45 Year Old Danish Couple On Sixth IVF Attempt: Should They Alter Meds & Blastocyst Transfer?


Dear Dr. Ramirez,

We are a 45 year old couple from Denmark on our sixth IVF attempt. The first three attempts produced 5/5/9 eggs with 225-275 units of Gonal-F and a fertility rate of 100%/60%/60% respectively. Eggs for transfer were three 8-cells on try one on day three, two 8-cells and one 10-cell on try two on day three and two morulas and a 10-cell on the third attempt on day five.

We then increased Gonal-F to 375 units and got 12 and 13 eggs in the next two attempts and a fertility level of 85%-100% and decided to go for Blastocysts and had two BC's and a Morula in the fourth attempt on day six and one BC and a Morula transferred the last time on day six. On the recent attempts we've been supplementing with Ovitrelle prior to aspiration (as well as folic acid, acupuncture and considerate food and no alcohol of course). After aspiration a dose of 16mg Medrol was administered for four days, then 8mg and then 4mg, as well as 81mg of Aspirin for the duration.

Our questions are: 1)should we continue to go for Blastocysts for transfer, and 2) do you have any suggestions as to an altered protocol perhaps in terms of increasing the dose or frequency of Medrol or any other meds that might help us?

Thanks in advance for your reply. T. From Denmark


Hello T. from Denmark,

The good news is that your wife's ovarian response is still good and strong. She has done very well on her current stimulation protocols. The problem that you have is not so much the external quality of the embryos formed, they have been good, but the internal quality of the embryos. We know that with age, the quality of the eggs and thus the embryo quality deteriorates. That is probably what is leading to your failure. We rarely see pregnancies after the age of 43 in a woman using her own eggs. However, there was a case in New York of a woman who was successful at 49 years old, and is currently the oldest to become pregnant with her own eggs using IVF. It did take her two and 1/2 years of trying, however. Statistically, your chances of pregnancy with IVF are less than 1% per attempt based on age factors alone.

In terms of whether to do D#3 or D#5 transfers, I don't think it makes any difference. One is not better than the other. The embryos that would make it to blastocyst would still have done so in the uterus. In fact, I think the uterus is a better culture environment than the lab. I generally transfer at D#3 for this reason. In fact, in your case if you were my patient, I would transfer ALL embryos back on D#3 to maximize your chances.

In terms of what other protocols, I use Medrol starting at the beginning of the cycle (D#2) taken as 16 mg until the transfer then decreasing to 8 mg thereafter. I stop with the pregnancy test. I also use aspirin 81 mg per day starting at the beginning of the cycle and heparin 2000 units twice per day injections starting at the beginning of the cycle. I also use a "mixed" protocol of Gonal-f or Follistim + Menopur/Repronex for a total FSH dose of 600IU to start. In most cases, the patients stay at that level but some will decrease based on their response. In your case, your wife does not need more meds since she stimulated well, but a mixed protocol might be advised.

Your only option is to keep trying or move to donor. I am amazed that you have done so many cycles already. Most in the U.S. will not do that many cycles due to cost issues.

Good luck with this upcoming cycle & never lose sight of your can be achieved if you are open to options.

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

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