Tuesday, May 8, 2012

IVF Protocol For High FSH


Dear Dr. Ramirez,
I am 39 years old in 2 weeks and about to undergo my first ivf (in vitro fertilization). I have only one fallopian tube, which an hsg has shown to be blocked, probably by adhesions (my other tube was removed due to damage from extensive adhesions - a reaction to previous surgery to remove a dermoid cyst on my left ovary).

My FSH level was 14 in March. Two weeks ago my FSH dropped to 8 and my AMH level was 7.42. An ultrasound scan and follicle count showed 9 follicles on my right ovary and 3 on my left (the ovary which the cyst was removed from).

My consultant has suggested the long protocol, as he thinks I will respond ok. I have read much about the short protocol being better for my age group, and if fsh has been high. I am anxious to get the correct protocol from the outset. What do you think my response might be, based on my levels? Do you think a short protocol would be better in my case? Many thanks, R. from the U.K.


Hello R. from the U.K.,

The worst thing you can do is try to second guess your doctor, especially with information that you read on the internet. You are not an expert and don't have sufficient knowledge to make a proper decision. However, it is good to be educated regarding what you will be going through, and certainly, I have the knowledge to answer questions, so you can trust my input. But, given that you are not my patient, I don't have all your medical information and am not doing the procedure, the answers I give you have to be generalities and cannot be specific.

I personally don't criticize "protocol" questions because there is not one way or best way to do IVF. There are many different protocols and usually the specific protocol is based on the training and experience of your doctor. They all have the possibility to work. Some doctors stimulate less, some more, some use only pure FSh, some use mixed protocols, some use the long Lupron protocol, some use the antagonist protocol and some use the micro-dose flare protocol. There is not way to predict how any one will respond to any given protocol. But studies have shown no benefit to the micro-dose flare protocol (short protocol) in comparison to any other protocol, just as there is no study that shows that the long protocol is better than the antagonist protocol. I prefer the antagonist protocol because there are less injections in comparison to the long protocol.

Because you have had an elevated FSh level, despite it being lower more recently, you would still be considered a poor responder (or at least have the potential of being a low responder). For that reason, my preference would be to NOT inhibit your ovaries with Lupron in the stimulation phase, and only begin ovarian suppression once the lead follicles are at least 16 mms. This is the technique used in the antagonist protocol. With the long protocol, your ovaries are suppressed by the lupron starting from the previous cycles and may not respond as well. Before the antagonist protocol was developed, the micro-dose protocol was developed to reduce that suppression phase. Without criticizing your doctor's choice of protocols, my personal choice would have been different. But that is what makes Infertility doctors and clinics different and gives them different pregnancy rates.

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


  1. Dear Dr. Ramirez,

    I followed a short protocol using Gonal-F and Pergoveris. I had 7 ovules, the best four ovules was on the left ovary. My problem was that my left ovary can't be accessed because I have a fibrome. In order to do something Doctor accepted to do Artificial Insemination, but my husband had just 600,000 movile spermes. I have more than 40 years. It seems that the only think to do is to try another new insemination..
    Could you suggest us a protocol to follow for improving our chances?

    Thanks a lot.. best regards

  2. Hello Anonymous,

    I can't suggest a protocol without more specific medical information and review of your medical record, such as how much medication was used to stimulate the ovary. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that each and every cycle is a unique cycle with unique potential. So even if the right ovary did not respond well in this cycle, it may do much better in the next.

    It is unfortunate that the retrieval could not be done. You might want to consider having the fibroid removed prior to any more IVF cycles (although I have yet to have an ovary, even with large fibroids, that I could not retrieve from. It took a lot of pushing on the ovary to get them in the right position at the time of retrieval but I was successful). I would not recommend IUI for two reasons. First, your husband's sperm count is severely decreased and unlikely to be able to get to the tube or fertilize an egg. Second, your age gives you a 1-2% chance of success with IUI per month. IVF is the way to go.

    Good Luck



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