Thursday, July 21, 2011

Failed IVF Cycle With Drop in Estrogen & Progesterone Levels & PCO Type Response: Might Benefit From Adjustment In Protocol


HI, I have a question regarding spotting 5 days post transfer with full period bleed on 6 days post transfer. Here is our history:-I am 32 and my husband is 41. He has a daughter from a previous relationship.-I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve in January, and also stage III endometriosis in June with a laparoscopy. They were able to clean out almost all of the endometriosis except for some on the colon because I did have some bowel in my colon and they didn't wan to rip it. They also found a polyp in my uterus that they removed. Also, I have a luteal phase defect as I always would spot around 9dpo and would have an 11 day luteal phase with 24-26 day cycles.

- January/February 2011 - First treatment cycle. Letrozol with monitoring and intercourse and prometrium 50mg 1x a day. Luteal phase increased to 14 days with 29 day cycle. Negative.

-February/March - An ovulatory cycle - went in on day 3 and never came down to baseline. Ovulated day 8 (which has never happened) so couldn't do meds. Prometrium again, but only 11 day luteal phase, obviously negative.

-March/April. Anther cycle on Letrozol and prometrium - same as first cycle but negative.

-April/May - Moved to injections. Follistim 150mg and then decreased to 75 due to good response and high estrogen. Ganirelex 3-4 days prior to IUI. HCG trigger with 6 follicles developed and 1 mature. IUI with crinone (prometrium was causing depression). Luteal phase 14 days with 28 day cycle - negative.-Laproscopy in June.

-IVF June/July - Long protocol - BCP, 10mg Lupron for 10 days, Follistim 150mg day's 3-6, increase to 175 day 7-9 (estrogen at 840 after this). Decrease to 150mg days 10-11(estrogen shot up to 3400) Decrease Follistim to 75mg day 11-12 (estrogen 6000). All along with 5mg Lupron. HCG shotday 13(only half dose b/c estrogen so high. Retrieval on day 15. Starteg Crinone that day. 15 eggs retrieved with 14 fertilizing without assistance (husbands sper is great quality). Day 5 transfer, 1 blastocyst very good quality. All other embryo's taken to day 6 to freeze, but all but 1 poor quality so couldn't freeze. The 1 completely hatched so couldn't freeze and they didn't want to disrupt other embryo by transferring it. I had a follow up on day 5 post transfer to just check me for OHSS and they took my levels and my progesterone was 3 and estrogen 60 (at baseline they have never seen it below 72).

I knew something was wrong b/c I started spotting that day and a full period started that night. It is very heavy bleed which I usually don't have, but not nearly as much pain as I have had int he past, most likley from the endo surgery. I am taking a little while off, but it sounds like they think I have a true luteal phase as they never see this response to IVF. I want to be as edcuated as possible when I meet with my doctor.

What would your suggestion be for a luteal phase protocol to address this? I am nervous about the shots. The nurse said possibly estrogen patch, prometrium, and crinone or something along those lines with 2 progeteron meds. I have also asked to have my levels monitored during the next luteal phase. I am taking a cycle or two off before jumping into the next cycle. I am lucky to have the flexibility b/c my insurance covers this. I appreciate your feedback on this.

Thank you! K. from New York


Hello K. from the U.S. (New York),

You had an awkward IVF cycle to say the least, was my first impression. There were several interesting moments in your cycle. First, your response was very characteristic of a PCO-type response, very sensitive ovaries. I don't know if your doctor was expecting this or not, but hitting an estrogen level of 6000 put you at very high risk of OHSS. Despite this, your doctor continued the cycle and triggered with HCG, which further increases the risk. I think you are lucky to not have developed full blown OHSS.

Second, I found the up and down of your meds to be unusual.

Third, a PCO type response would explain the decrease in embryo quality. When the ovaries are hyperstimulated they often lead to a deficit in embryo development or quality. That would explain why there were so few embryos to freeze. If they had to culture to day#6 that means that the embryos had not reached blastocyst stage by day#5, which is not necessarily a good sign. For the one that did, I was surprised it wasn't just frozen at day#5 so there would not have been a hatching problem. Why did they wait an extra day?

Finally, the abrupt drop in estrogen and progesterone levels was sure curious. I have never seen such a precipitous drop in a patient that is receiving supplementation. Surely, the problem with serum (blood) hormone levels is that they don't accurately reflect the levels within the endometrium, but there will be some levels and there are minimum levels in the blood that we know usually mean there is adequate levels in the endometrium. Neither of your levels met these minimum levels, but there should have been hormone in the blood because of the medications you were taking. You were taking medications weren't you? I would be very surprised if they didn't supplement you. Basically the bleeding that you had was the onset of your period because the hormone levels had dropped so precipitously. That is how it works in a natural cycle.

Certainly in the next cycle, I would recommend that you take progesterone injections (50mg) per day beginning with the retrieval, then add vaginal progesterone (Crinone or Endometrin) after the embryo transfer (because it is messy and interferes with the transfer), I also would add estrogen supplementation by patch starting with the transfer as well, but in your case, your levels should have been high from the hyperstimulation. I'm still thinking of possible causes for the drop. . . did you not stop the lupron?

Protocols are highly different between centers and there is not one protocol that is necessarily better than another. These are just suggestions. Your doctor may want to do something entirely different. Also, because you had a PCO-type response, I would recommend that you not use the long protocol and instead use an antagonist protocol with Lupron 0.5 mg as the trigger instead of HCG. This will reduce your chances of developing OHSS.

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.

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