Details of the cycle
Once a woman decides to undergo IVF, the first step is to start fertility medication. The medication must be taken exactly as directed to be most effective. A woman usually produces a single egg during a normal, non-medicated cycle. However, with IVF, the goal is to produce multiple mature follicles in a single cycle. The egg retrieval is scheduled once the follicles are at an acceptable size. Any eggs obtained are then combined with sperm in the lab to create an embryo that will be transferred into the uterus.
Give me the numbers
Each patient is unique, but in most cases, a fertility doctor will want to retrieve at least 10 eggs during a medicated cycle for the best chances of success. Older women may require more eggs, while people who have previously retrieved and stored eggs or embryos may need less. Ultimately, the fertility doctor will decide if the cycle was successful or if a patient was deemed to have poor ovarian follicle response.
Try, try, try again?
If an IVF cycle does not produce enough eggs, the first question many patients ask is when to try again. For some people, the emotional and financial costs are too high and quitting makes sense. For many others, trying again is a viable option. Any errors that were made during the first cycle can be corrected. Sometimes, the doctor may even change the fertility medication protocol to encourage more egg growth. Women who try again should know that the same outcome could happen again, and another cycle may need to be canceled. However, another round could be the golden ticket to a healthy pregnancy.
Can a donor help?
Sometimes, the doctor may suggest moving straight to an egg donor after a failed retrieval. This is more likely to happen if the patient is older or has a poor ovarian follicle response history. In this scenario, the patient can select from a pool of potential donors to find a person who has similar physical characteristics. The donor egg is then combined with the sperm of the male partner to create an embryo. In many cases, the patient can carry the pregnancy. Less commonly, a gestational surrogate may be required.
Never give up
When a cycle is canceled, many patients find moving on difficult. Having invested so much time, money, and emotions into the first round, starting over can feel daunting. However, a second retrieval with a modified treatment protocol can be successful in many cases. The fertility doctor can recommend next steps depending on the number of eggs retrieved, age and health and history of infertility.