Wednesday, May 2, 2012

35 Year Old Responds Well To Low Dose Clomid IUI Cycle: NOT A Low Responder!


Dr. Ramirez,

My husband and I have been infertile for more than 2 years now. We have gone through a wide variety of tests. I have had a polyp removed through operative hysteroscopy and we were asked to try on our own for 3 months afterwards (unsuccessfully). I am 35 years with borderline bad FSH (around 10 on day 3). I have a low antral follicle count (usually around 7 if they can see both ovaries during the ultrasound). We have tried 1 IUI (negative for pregnancy) and I was prescribed 50 mg Clomid on days 3 - 7 for the IUI. I ovulated 3 eggs with this dose and was triggered with an HCG shot when the 3 follicles were between 1.7 - 2.0 and IUI took place approximately 24 and 48 hours after this injection.

I have 2 questions:

1. Is the fact that I developed 3 eggs on Clomid a good or bad sign? My doctor says I will likely be what he calls a poor responder to medications because of my low antral follicle count and IVF may not be more worthwhile than IUI because of this. Does the fact that I got 3 with Clomid mean I might do better with injections then he thinks or are the 2 medications so different that my response to Clomid doesn't indicate anything?

2. What is the purpose of a blood test the day of my second IUI? I have a lot of problems with all the blood work that is required for monitoring due to bad veins (day 3 plus 4 more days of blood tests/ultrasounds before my IUI). I thought when I was triggered that would be my last blood test, but I was told I needed another blood test/ultrasound the day of my second IUI (48 hours post trigger). I asked the nurse if the blood test was essential and she said yes and it is part of the cycle monitoring that all fertility clinics require it so I forced another blood test through my already bruised veins. I understand the ultrasound was to show if the follicles released, but what would the purpose of this blood test be and is it really as essential as they say it is? (I was also on progesterone suppositories 200 mg twice a day following the IUI so I don't think it was to measure progesterone since those were prescribed regardless of the blood results).

I really appreciate you providing this service and if we do decide to travel for treatment, California will be our choice. Thanks again, A. from British Columbia


Hello A. from Canada (British Columbia),

The fact that you responded well to low dose Clomid is very, very reassuring and I completely disagree with your doctor's opinion. FSH levels and Antral counts are indirect measures of ovarian response but not absolute. In other words, studies have shown that these numbers can vary from cycle to cycle and so the response can vary from cycle to cycle. Besides, an FSH level of 10 is not necessarily that bad. Sure, we prefer the level to be 7 or less, but it is much better than a level of 12 or greater, which I often see. Even these patients do respond to stimulation albeit only a few follicles.

So, considering that you responded well to Clomid, low dose Clomid no less, is more of an indication that you are NOT a low responder. A low responder would have only one follicle despite high dose (250mg) of Clomid. One thing these two levels do tell you, however, is that you may not have as much time to work with as you would have thought. You will need to use your time wisely and strongly consider a more aggressive approach (such as IVF). I would not recommend more than 4 IUI attempts. If that does no work (which is the number where most patients will be pregnant), then you have to go to IVF.

In terms of your second question regarding the blood test, I have absolutely no idea why it is being done. It must be something specific to your doctor. You will have to ask him. Now, I do an ultrasound after each IUI so that I can see if ovulation has occurred. That way I know that the timing was good. Since I don't know what test they did or what it could be, I can't try to explain why they would do it. It can't or shouldn't be a progesterone level, which is what we often use to determine if ovulation occurred, but that test is not valid if progesterone supplementation is given.

Thank you for your question and consideration...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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