What if you are on drugs for an IVF cycle and there is a low number of follicles? Should you do cancel and have an iui (provided there is sperm and at least one tube is open) or should you have the retrieval?

The number of eggs is less important the younger you are. So at age 31, 4 eggs still results in an excellent pregnancy rate. At age 41, 3 eggs is much worse than having 10. So is there a “cutoff” number? Not really, and if there is it will vary from program to program. There are no strict guidelines for who should be retrieved and who should not. In most cases, when there are 1-4 eggs developing, the doctor will say that the odds with IVF become so low that it’s not worth the cost and effort of the IVF, so the better thing to do is the iui.

There was a very interesting paper presented at the last meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. One IVF center compared the pregnancy rates for women who decided to cancel to iui vs. those who decided to have the retrieval, when 1-2 eggs were present. Those women who continued on and had their retrieval had a higher pregnancy rate than those who had the iui. Now the rates for IVF were still in the single digits, but the rates were better than the iui numbers. So IVF is better than cancelling to IVF, but the odds of getting pregnant from that retrieval is quite low. Would you have a retrieval if your odds were 2% with iui but 5% with IVF? Some patients would, some would not.

I have mentioned before that we all know or suspect that there are IVF programs who cancel the 3 eggers because they are worried about lowering their statistics. I think there is less of that going on. I see patients being informed of their odds and then be allowed to make the decision. And the threshold may be different depending on your perceived potential. If it’s your first try and the doctor really thinks that a different protocol will do you better, cancelling makes more sense. If you have been cancelled for 3 follicles, and after protocol changes you make 3 again, well you make 3 and that’s it, so retrieve away.

What about multiple egg issues at the same time?
For example there are some women who make a large percentage if immature eggs, have low fertilization rates and have low embryo quality. Others have different mixes such as high rates of polyspermy, low rates of normal fertilization and poor embryo development. Others have mature eggs that do not fertilize without ICSI despite normal sperm, and then poor embryo quality. Is there one basic problem with the eggs that is leading to a completely bad scenario? This may be, but we don’t know what it is. The reality is that most women with a large percentage of immature eggs do pretty well with the ones that are mature. And women who have polyspermy, do pretty well with the eggs that fertilized normally. But for some of you, everything seems to be wrong despite protocol changes and changes with icsi, in hcg timing and day of transfer. Yes there may be a missing link resulting in multiple problems at once. It’s a matter of trying a few times and keeping all of your options open.

Persistently elevated prolactin levels need a full workup, which usually means an MRI of the pituitary.

What if your FSH is a little high and your AMH is a little low, but you have a good number of resting follicles and make a good number of eggs for IVF?
Those hormone tests are more about predicting egg number than quality. I believe the numbers have less of an effect on egg quality. Others may disagree, ask your doctor.

What if you suffer from autoimmune disorders and are having trouble conceiving? Is there a relationship?
Overall women with autoimmune disorders seem to be as fertile as anyone else. High risk OB practices are busy dealing with pregnancy complications of Lupus, RA and others. However, there are so many unknown factors related to fertility and the immune system, it does make one think that there may be a relationship when pregnancy is not occurring. I have seen a few cases of relatively young women with autoimmune disease who are very poor responders. I think there is a relationship between their disease and antibodies to their ovaries. Unfortunately there is still no good test to measure ovarian antibodies. There are good tests for thyroid antibodies, adrenal gland antibodies, but not yet for the ovary.

Here are a couple sperm questions.
Sperm counts that go from 100 million to zero then up again? He needs to be evaluated for intermittent obstruction: a blockage somewhere that occurs some of the time. Also could be intermittent retrograde ejaculation. Send him to a reproductive endocrinologist.

What if the urologist finds low counts and motility and does a thorough workup and tells you the numbers are what they are, can’t be increased and recommends IVF. You are always welcome to get another opinion, but it sounds like this guy is honest and he is telling you what most men are told. I believe in seeing a urologist because sometimes surprises are identified, but in most cases of very low counts and or motility, nothing is found and the only answer is IVF.

Yes ovarian hyperstimulation and ovarian torsion are related.
Torsion becomes more likely as the ovaries enlarge and become heavier. This increases the chances of the ovary rolling over and twisting on its stalk. Torsion with clomid can happen, but it’s much rarer because the ovaries have fewer follies and are smaller and stay lighter.

Thanks again for reading and please read disclaimer 5/17/06.
Dr. Licciardi