Saturday, October 13, 2012

40 Year Old UK Woman Trying IVF After Implantation Failures: Assisted Hatching & PGD?

dear doctor ramirez, i am so glad to find you on this website and would very much appreciate your help. I will try to give you some background.

i have had 3 failed iui, then found problems with my fallopian tubes which led to bilateral salpingectomy, myomectomy, adhesiolysis and cornual tubal occlusion, left ovarian cystectomy, i also have fitz hugh curtis syndrome.

so then after recovery from the above op i had

one fresh ivf cycle - 18 follicles, 14 eggs collected, 8 fertilised, 3 day transfer of 2 embryos(8 cell, grade 2)on 18/10, started bleeding 30/10

fet - 19/3. 2 embryos transferred (5 cell grade 2 & 7 cell

grade 1-) Negative test 4/4

fet - 9/8. 2 embryos transfered (6 cell grade 3/3 & 3 cell grade 4/4) Negative test 24/8

on each occassion as you can see i had 2 embryos put back (blastacysts on the last fet) and all failed at implantation stage. these were in 2006 & 2007.

now in june 2012 i have started my ivf journey again. so far:

low amh result (i am 40 in october)

2 new fibroids found on ultrasound, advised to proceed anyway

down regulation extended 1 week as lining not thin enough

stim injections all went to plan

15 follicles (2 v large suspected to be cysts)

10 eggs retreived

7 fertilised

7 made it to blast but one left to perish as structure wasnt great.

2 fantastic blasts put back after using embryoscope which i was told had started collapsing which was explained as a very good development.

4 frozen.

so, 2 put back in and progesterone pessaries used one morning & 1 night.

day 5 post transfer sign of period.

evening of day 6 post transfer period definately started with heavy bleeding & clots, continued until today (day 9pt) flow seems to be slowing down.

negative test today 9dpt

clinic advised me to continue with pessaries and re-test on saturday (day 11 pt)
theres the background for you, so here are my questions:

1. why am i failing at implantation stage every time?

doctor says it just nature but i cannot help feeling something else could be wrong and i am running out of time

2. is there any kind of contraception or other medication that i could use to stop producing eggs, thus preserving the small reserve i have left?

3. what tests can i have done to rule out ANY other problems? ie immunology, uterine probs, endometrium probs?

4. fibroids-what should i do have them removed or is there any medication available that may shrink them before my next fet

5. assisted hatching-could this help?

6. pgd (preimplatation genetic diagnosis)?

7. having read my history but you advise i do????

if need be i will pay for any tests that they wont complete at my clinic. i feel if i can rule all other possible problems out then i can admit that yes it is in gods hands and just a matter of keep trying but at the moment i feel what if there is something else that is being overlooked?

many thanks for your help in advance doctor.

as you can see i am getting pretty desperate now!

lisa, uk


Hello Lisa from the U.K.,

The term "Implantation failure" means that the last two steps of the reproductive process did not occur. These last two steps are natural steps and we do not have the technology to make them happen. That is why IVF is not a perfect technology. Once the embryo is placed into the uterus, the embryo has to hatch out of its shell and attach to the endometrial ining. Then the endometrial has to engulf the embryo (implantation). So either of these two steps could have been the source of failure. In addition, it is well know that pregnancy rates will vary from doctor to doctor and clinic to clinic because the transfer technique can play a significant role.

In your previous cycles, your embryo quality was poor. I am not surprised that they failed. In this last cycle, despite having good blastocysts, there is still a potential deficiency that they have. This is because of your age, or what I refer to as the "age related egg factor." We know that as the eggs age, the internal structures of the egg become more debilitated and so less likely to thrive. One of these deficits is the chromosomal structures are more brittle and can lead to chromosomal abnormalities as the cell is dividing. Without doing genetic testing, these cannot be detected. Even chromosomally abnormal embryos can turn into good looking embryos but not necessarily into pregnancies. That is another possible source of failure. IVF helps to overcome this problem by increasing the number of eggs retrieved and therefore, statistically, increases the chances of finding the perfect egg. But that does not occur every time. You will have to keep trying in the hopes of finding the perfect egg eventually. The good thing is that your ovaries are still very responsive (you don't have decreased ovarian reserve and stimulate well), which gives you a good chance.

In terms of your other questions, I would not do anything with the fibroids, any birth control pill can stop your ovaries from going through the ovulatory cycles and hopefully preserve your eggs and I can't think of any other testing. Without thoroughly reviewing your medical record, however, it is difficult for me to give you specific advice.

I would recommend assisted hatching as this has been shown to increase pregnancy rates in older patients. I would also recommend that you scrutinize your clinic, because of all the failures. Pregnancy rates can be very clinic and doctor dependent. You should try to find one that has good pregnancy rates for your age group. I am getting a 57% pregnancy rate in 40 year olds and many of the clinics in the U.S. are getting similar results. I would also recommend that you consider transferring more than two embryos (we allow up to 4 in 40 year olds).

You faith in God will help you through this, and eventually it will happen. You may have to change course at some point and look at a different approach, but your faith will get you to that dream of having a child. When I complete my embryo transfers, I say a prayer with each of my patients and ask God to bless my couple with fruit of the womb and grant their wish for a child. I am confident that he will do so as He wills it.

Good Luck

hi doctor

thank you so very much for your speedy and detailed response, it has set my mind at rest on a lot of points. it is interesting to be told that the quality of the embryos on our cycle a few years ago were of poor quality. although that is sad, at least now i can accept that maybe that is why we failed on those 3 occassions. i had been under the impression that the embryos were good quality, particularly on the first fresh cycle after egg collection.

i have read lots on assisted hatching and am glad you agree this may be a way forward for us.

can i please just take a few more minutes of your time to clarify my point on pgd & other test (point 3&6)

When you mention checking the quality of the eggs/embryos were you suggesting asking our clinic to go ahead with pgd for our next fet?

also what is your opinion on other testing such as Natural Killer cells, immunology, uterine/endo probs? Which of these or any other tests would you suggest i rule out before going ahead with our fet?

also you mention my ovarian reserve being good but i was under the impression that the AMH test i had done suggested i was on the bottom level in terms of my remaining eggs? this has confused me slightly?

thank you in advance.

many many many thanks for you time again. Lisa


Hello Again,

There are pros and cons about using PGS. It can help to identify embryos that are chromosomally abnormal so that you can be more selective in the ones that you transfer. The downside is that there is a decrease in pregnancy rates, probably because of the impact of the biopsy on the embryo.

I check certain immunologic testing on my patients that fail two or more IVF cycles. The tests I choose do not include natural killer cells because I don't believe in that concept as a source of implantation failure. Despite this testing, I also automatically place my patients on low dose aspirin, low dose heparin and medrol, as well as, increase the progesterone supplementation. The latter is the treatment for patients that have endometrial biopsy for beta integrins and find that they are deficient. I figure, why waste money on doing the test and just cover any ways, since increasing the progesterone is the treatment.

Remember that AMH is an "indirect" test for ovarian reserve and does not necessarily predict how you will respond. Your have already shown good response so it is not an issue.

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.


  1. Hi Dr. Edward,

    Bit history about myself: age 28 and my husband 29. Everything is diagnose normal with me. Husband diagnose with low sperm count, morphology, motility and mobility.

    I started down regulation Icsi cycle, from on 17th september with synarel nasal spray 2x day. Gonal F from 28th sep with 125 dosage.  

    I had my u/s on 8th Oct, my estrogen was high,  got 13 eggs on left ovary and 11 on right. ER on 10th Oct, I had mild ohss after ER: got 18 eggs. OHSS symptoms were : 3 days of lower abdominal pain, blotedness and pain while urinating. 

    10 made to embryo and only got one good quality for transfer others were. 
    On 15 Oct I had my frist 5 day embryo transfer, and they didn't used ultrasound for transfer, which i am bit skeptical about. This was my first cycle so didn't know much about how they perform procedure. 

    I had constant lower abdominal pain, lower back pain and bit vaginal discharge on 17-18 oct. From 19 Oct afternoon I didn't had any symptoms, I did household cleaning on 19, I was tired but didnt stop, just to finish everything. Didn't even eat well.  I even lifted 1yr old baby, without feeling any pain. I am worried bcoz I am feeling like i hvnt done any IVF. Can I still get pregnant with no symptoms. And should I limit my activity. How soon can I test at home, I am told to do hpt on 26 and 28 of october. 
    Please advice me.Thanks in advance, really appreciate your help.

    1. Hello,

      It would be much too early for your to be showing symptoms or signs of pregnancy on 19 October, 4 days after your transfer. However, you can detect a blood pregnancy test by Oct 21. HPT would be much later so that 26 October date would make sense. I tell all my patients to restrict themselves to light but normal activity.

      You might want to shop around for a different IVF clinic the next time.

      Good Luck



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