Tuesday, April 3, 2012
How Can I Overcome Implantation Failure After Failing Multiple Fresh & Frozen Cycles?
Dear Dr Ramirez,
I'm a 43 years old female (from Australia) and for the last 2 years have been unsuccessful with IVF (in vitro fertilization) after 3 stimulated cycles and 10 Embryo transfers. I produce a good number of eggs (approx 18) with a stimulated cycle of 300iU/day of Gonal F. This egg number usually decreases at each stage; eg of 19 eggs, 13 are mature to fertilise, 6 fertilise and finally 1 or 2 reach day 5 blastocysts which can be transferred or frozen. All frozen eggs have always thawed well and transferred.
The pattern each cycle is similar however I'm finding that in this latest cycle only one embryo was transferred and the 2 remaining did not reach an acceptable stage for freezing. Implantation has always failed, even with the use of progesterone pessaries after transfer. I've also tried implanting 2 embryos with no positive result.
My specialist has resigned to the fact that my eggs are not of good quality due to my age. No testing on this has been suggested.
In terms of health I have PCO's and have a BMI of 30 (90kgs). I find it difficult to lose the weight which has been gradually gained in the last 8 years, have mild anxiety on the odd morning upon waking and trouble getting quality sleep 2 -3 nights per week. At times I suffer from low mood but put it down to the drugs and loss of hope. But I pull though with the support from family but use no medication. I do take a prenatal multivitamin 150mg of CoenzQ10 and fish oil. In your experience are there other treatments that could be explored for recurring implantation failure? Thank you, S. from Australia
Hello S. from Australia,
Based on your embryo development and transfer of at least one good blastocyst, the cause of your failures is not determinable. We classify this as implantation failure but in reality there are two steps that have to occur naturally after the embryo is transferred. These are embryo hatching and attaching to the uterine wall and the endometrium growing around the attached embryo (implantation). We have no way to confirm that these steps are occurring. For that reason, there are no specific therapies to overcome failure at this point, but there are many suggestions for things to try. I say "things to try" because these are not proven remedies either. Also keep in mind that IVF success is not only dependent on embryo quality/normality and endometrial processes, but also on the doctor's transfer technique.
I think that what I would do if you were my patient is:
(1) Abandon the blastocyst transfer. Blastocyst culturing does not guarantee a quality embryo or success. Laboratory techniques, media, etc are not perfect. I wholly believe that the uterus is a better culture media and environment than the lab. Also, some embryos that might be the normal and healthy ones may not develop to blastocyst, as has been shown by numerous studies looking at preimplantation genetic screening.
(2) You could consider PGS to determine which embryos are genetically normal, and therefore have the highest chances for success.
(3) I empirically add low dose aspiring 81 mg per day, Medrol (Prednisone) 16 mg per day and Heparin 2000 Units twice per day starting at the beginning of the IVF cycle in my patients that have had repetitive failures. This is a formula that has been proven to decrease recurrent miscarriages with the thought that adequate micro blood flow and immunological factors may be leading to failure. I also increase my progesterone supplementation by using both injectable and vaginal supplementation, and add estrogen supplementation after the transfer by patch. Acupuncture has also been found to increase success in some studies, possibly by increasing blood flow or by reducing stress. All of these latter treatments are, as I said earlier, unproven. We call it "throwing the kitchen sink in" which basically means trying everything under the sun.
Finally, if you really suspect that it is an embryo problem, then donor embryos would be the remaining option, or you could consider using a surrogate if you think your embryos are okay but the uterus is not hospitable (my presumption is that a diagnostic hysteroscopy was already done to make sure of this).
Keep trying and 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.