There are some in vitro fertilization clinics in the US that market aggressively for mini-IVF or micro IVF (also called mild or minimal stimulation in vitro fertilization). Some claims regarding the benefits of mini-IVF are exaggerated or completely untrue. This post clarifies some issues regarding standard vs. mini IVF.
Mild IVF (or micro, or mini IVF) seems to be slowly growing in popularity over the last few years. Is it a good fertility treatment?
- The basic concept is to do in vitro fertilization after a low level of ovarian stimulation with oral medications (possibly with some “low dose” injectables as well).
- This is in contrast to the usual method of ovarian stimulation for IVF which involves more aggressive stimulation of the ovaries with multiple injections over about 8 to 15 days.
- The standard method of stimulating is done in order to try to get about 10 or more eggs to work with for in vitro fertilization.
- The IVF cycle cost for mild IVF (including medications and everything) should be less than the total cost for standard in vitro fertilization
- However, the success rates for standard IVF are much higher
- Success rates with mild in vitro fertilization are much lower – often in the range of about 5% to 15% per attempt, depending greatly on the age of the female
Why do we try to get so many eggs for “standard” IVF?
IVF success rates are much higher with a “good” number of eggs due to the substantial drop-off that is seen in early embryo development.
The chart below shows the average number of eggs, mature eggs, fertilized embryos, “good” embryos on day 3, blastocyst embryos on day 5, etc. in three age groups of women at our clinic.
- If there are extra embryos available for freezing, we freeze on day 5 and day 6 (possible freezing shown by purple arrow going up).
As shown in the chart, in the average case there is progressive drop-off over time with in vitro fertilization. Human reproduction is not extremely efficient – if we were mice or cows we would be efficient reproducers. Alas, we are not so lucky – we are stuck being human…
Richard Sherbahn, MD is a fertility doctor practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area.
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