Ovarian Stimulation Is A Crucial Part Of IVF
For infertile women, men, or same-sex couples, in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help with finally becoming pregnant and starting a family. IVF is a long, complex process. Ovarian stimulation is the second step in IVF fertility treatment. Toward the end of this stage, the doctor or fertility clinic aims to harvest as many mature eggs as possible from the woman’s ovaries. The more eggs acquired, the better the chances of having an egg that will be fertilized. To do so, the clinic must stimulate the ovaries to overproduce eggs.
Before advancing to ovarian stimulation, fertility testing is critical. Testing is the first step of IVF treatment. Fertility testing, or ovarian reserve testing to be specific, determines the baseline levels of hormones. For this test, the healthcare provider will obtain a blood sample. The blood is tested to determine the patient’s follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, levels. This gives the doctor vital information, such as the size and quality of the eggs. The doctor will then recommend the proper treatment for ovarian stimulation.
Getting more FSH and LH
In short, ovarian stimulation is the process of supercharging the ovaries to produce more eggs using medication. To stimulate the ovaries, the hopeful mother will need to inject fertility drugs into the body for 8-14 days. The injected fertility drugs increase 2 natural hormones. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the development of follicles during the menstrual cycle. When kept at high levels, which fertility drugs do, the ovaries produce more mature eggs. On the other hand, increasing luteinizing hormones or LH causes ovulation.
Your ovarian stimulation kit
During the ovarian stimulation process, the patient receives a kit that contains the drugs for the period. There are different hormone medications in this regimen, each working to create the perfect conditions for extracting eggs:
- Gonadotropins increase the development of eggs, follicles, and estrogen levels before ovulation.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) triggers the release of a mature egg(s) after the follicles have developed.
- FSH injections boost the development and growth of eggs in the ovaries.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs prevent premature ovulation from increasing the chance of producing fertile eggs and from hindering release before the egg retrieval process.
Risks and side effects
Each fertility drug has its potential side effects. The biggest risk when taking those medications is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome or OHSS. When the ovaries are overly stimulated, the hormones can cause more severe side effects. Cases of OHSS are often mild, but some people experience a more severe reaction. For symptoms of OHSS, contact the doctor immediately. Other potential side effects are:
- Mood swings and depression
- Tenderness of breasts, swelling, or rash on the injected area
- Increased chances of miscarriage and premature delivery
- Chances of multiple births
Monitoring your progress
Ovulation stimulation has an important secondary function in IVF. The medication helps prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. During ovarian stimulation, the patient has several visits to the doctor. The doctor will perform transvaginal ultrasounds to check the progress of the uterine lining. Blood tests will also measure the success rate of the hormone medication. These tests also help to protect against ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Make sure to follow the hormone injection regimen.
Make the best of your ovarian stimulation
Ovarian stimulation could be very challenging. However, taking the medication consistently and on time helps egg production. Missing doses can slow down the process. Ovarian stimulation increases the chances of a successful pregnancy during IVF. Make sure to speak with a doctor for advice.