Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fourth IVF Cycle Ends In A Chemical Pregnancy: What Can Be Done?


Hi Dr. Ramirez,

I have been on a rollercoaster ride for the past week and I am hoping that you can offer me your opinion.

I received a positive beta after my 4th IVF on Monday (11dp3dt). It was 14.3 and my RE said that it was quite low. I held out hope as I am convinced that I tend to implant a little later than others. In a previous cycle I had a negative beta 12dp3dt and found out that I was pregnant a couple of weeks later. I tested 3 days later and my beta was up to 52.8. I was so excited and felt so much better about things. I am scheduled to go back on Sunday morning for another beta.

I am currently taking Crinone 2xday. For the past week, I have had dark brown Crinone gunk(sorry for TMI). Last night and this morning there was some red blood on the applicator tip. At 1st I thought it was just irritation but for the past couple of hours, when I wipe there has been more red blood. I am also getting some minor cramping.

I am freaking out and I am so worried that things are moving in the wrong direction. I called my clinic and they said that they cant know anything until Sundays beta. They said it could be start of a miscarriage given the low beta #'s or it could be irritation from the Crinone or even pregnancy spotting.

I was hoping that you could offer some advice as I remember in the past that you prescribe Crinone to your patients.

Is RED spotting normal? How much spotting is normal? Was I foolish to be hopeful after my #'s doubled? Do you think its likely that this will end in miscarriage?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated. I dont know if i can hold out until Sunday's beta.

Thank you,

D. from Boston, Mass.


Hello D. from the U.S.(Massachusetts),

The advice that your doctor gave you is completely correct. It could be from the Crinone, and I have seen an increased incidence of spotting in my patients using Crinone), it could be implantation spotting or pregnancy spotting or it could be indicating an abnormal pregnancy. There is no way to know which of these is the correct diagnosis. In general, I reassure my patients not to worry about spotting. I only worry if the bleeding is bright red flow like a period with accompanying cramping. The only way to determine the fate of this pregnancy at this point is to continue to follow the bHCG's every other day. This trend will then give you a better idea of how the pregnancy is doing. AS long as the bHCG is rising, then you can be reassured. If it plateaus or drops, then that is not a good sign.

Follow-Up Question #1:

 Dr. Ramirez,

Thank you for getting back to me. Unfortunately, my beta level dropped on Saturday so it looks like I will be having another chemical pregnancy. I am devastated of course. I was hoping that you might be able to provide me with some insight as to an explanation as to why this keeps happening.

A little history:

Me: 31 years old- normal FSH but AMH is .8

Husband: Very low morphology (less than 1%)

This was our 4th IVF cycle and 3rd chemical pregnancy. I have had tons of testing... RPL work-up, HSG, genetic testing, uterine biopsy and all came back normal.

I am a low responder and in previous cycles have had poor egg quality. I just switched REs and had a better response with an Estrogen Priming Antagonist protocol. He used a low dose HCG with Gonal F. Quality and ICSI fertilization rate was much better so I was hopeful that this was it.

My RE said that it was likely a chromosomal issue with the embryo and probably because of poor egg quality and we just need to keep trying and hopefully will get that “one” good egg. I don’t know if I am comfortable with that answer. We only have 2 insurance tries left and I want to make sure we are exploring all options before proceeding again. What would you recommend for your patients at this point? Do you think that it is worth doing a Sperm DNA fragmentation test?

What could be the reason for all of these chemical pregnancies?

Any insight is greatly appreciated.

Follow-Up Answer #1 :

Hello Again,

The exact reason cannot be known, of course but the most common reason for chemical pregnancies are a genetic abnormality in the embryo. With poor morphology in the semen analysis and your young age, definitely the genetic weakness could be from the sperm. I don't recommend the sperm DNA fragmentation test because it only gives the indication for the batch of sperm that it tests and not the sperm as a whole. In addition, the treatment recommendation is to use ICSI, which I presume you are doing already. So you won't gain anything from that test. If we suspect the sperm, other than ICSI you have the choice of either using donor sperm the next time or maybe try using a supplement for three months before doing IVF again. The supplements that your husband can try, which might help with sperm quality, are either Proxeed or Fertility Blend (vitamins) and CoQ10 600 mg per day. He will have to wait three months because sperm are on a 90 day cycle #the sperm made today won't be expressed for 90 days.

The only other options I could give are what I would do with my patients who have recurrent miscarriages (which is what you have even if it is a chemical pregnancy). Studies have shown the benefit of these meds and it is standard of practice to use these with recurrent miscarriages.

I would add: aspirin 81 mg per day, Medrol 15 mg per day until transfer then decrease to 8 mg per day, Heparin 2000 units twice per day and CoQ10 600 mg per day, all starting with the start of the cycle (CD#2). The Aspirin and Heparin are withheld from the day of HCG trigger until the day after the retrieval. The only other option you might want to consider is genetic testing of the embryos prior to transfer, called preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). That way you will know if the embryos are normal genetically or not. The downside of using PGS is I have observed and some studies have shown a drop in pregnancy rates after this. Some of my colleagues say that if it is done by a very experienced embryologist who does lots of these procedures, the pregnancy rate does not drop.

You'll have to discuss these options with your doc. I'm afraid there are no exact answers to your dilemma. But, studies on patients with recurrent pregnancies have shown that eventually these patients are successful. So, hang in there, even if your insurance coverage expires.

Follow-Up Question #2:

Thank you so much for your thorough response. I really appreciate it.

I am only 31 years old but I do have a low AMH (only .8) so along with that and the fact that I am a low responder, my RE suspects that I may have a diminished ovarian reserve. So, unfortunately, both my husband and I seem to have issues.

Do you think that the low AMH and dimished ovarian reserve contribute to the repeat miscarriages? Or do you think it is likely a sperm issue?

Is there any way to tell who is main contributor to this issue? We are not ready to talk about donors at this point and will continue to try with our own eggs/sperm for now but in the event that we need to explore other options, it would be helpful to know if we would be more likely to succeed using donor egg or donor sperm.

My RE has given us the impression that it is more a egg issue but hasn't given us any explanation of why.

Any help with this would be hugely appreciated.

Follow Up Answer #2:

Hello Agian,

There is no way to know what the exact cause of the recurrent miscarriages is. It could be egg or sperm derived since the genetics of the embryo come from both. Considering that you are ONLY 31 years old, I would suspect that it is NOT an egg issue but there is no way to be sure.

It is definitely not related to AMH or low ovarian reserve. The AMH is a measure of follicle availability and low ovarian reserve is a description of ovarian response to stimulation.

Good Luck,

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


  1. Replies
    1. I can be contacted through my website (given above)if this modality is not sufficient.



Related Posts with Thumbnails