The More Eggs, The Better

In vitro fertilization (IVF) aims to help couples struggling to get pregnant start or grow a family. However, for successful IVF, the fertility team needs multiple eggs to create embryos. With ovarian stimulation, the patient is given fertility medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. While many women respond well to the drugs, other patients may be deemed poor responders if the medication does not result in a significant number of eggs for use in assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures like IVF. If a patient responds poorly to stimulation, is pregnancy still possible?


Defining poor response

When done correctly, the stimulation process is generally effective. However, some women may respond poorly to the medication. Poor ovarian responders do not produce the expected number of eggs during fertility treatment, if at all. Fewer eggs mean the clinic may be unable to create enough viable embryos. IVF is also a lengthy and sometimes costly process, making a poor response to ovarian stimulation frustrating and disappointing. The first step is to find the underlying cause and work on different treatments to increase the chances of success.

What causes poor ovarian response?

The underlying reason for poor ovarian stimulation is linked to struggles with conceiving naturally. Poor responders are often women with irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal challenges, or a low ovarian reserve. Age also plays a factor as viable eggs decline over time. Additionally, inconsistent medication or poor injection techniques can negatively affect ovarian stimulation. Other causes include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), lifestyle choices, and incompatible medicines. However, insufficient ovarian stimulation is not the end, as there are several interventions fertility clinics can employ to improve the outcomes.

Don’t panic

A report of poor ovarian stimulation can unsettle couples. However, this is a time to remain calm and assess all options. Stress can affect any IVF cycle’s success and may even impact response to medication. Start by practicing mindfulness and other stress-reduction techniques. Consider dietary changes, exercise, and other positive lifestyle techniques for a healthier mind and body. Finally, meet with the reproductive specialist to assess the possible reasons for failed ovarian stimulation and proceed with the necessary changes.

Consider changing medication

Sometimes, the patient may not respond well to initial fertility treatment. The reproductive specialist will recommend changing the medication or dosage. More coaching and guidance on medication adherence and proper use can also help. These changes may sometimes involve canceling the cycle and restarting with the appropriate medication and technique at a later date.

Try natural IVF

Some clinics may also consider natural or mini-IVF for poor responders. Natural IVF has patients go through the assisted reproductive technology process without using fertility medication. Instead, the fertility team extracts the 1-2 eggs naturally available and creates embryos. While there are fewer embryos, natural IVF may help women struggling to respond to the medication.

Donors and surrogacy

In some cases, poor ovarian response to the medication means more help is required. Some women can consider donor eggs. Fertility banks have donor eggs that can improve the chances of pregnancy. Yes, there is no genetic link with the mother, but with IVF, there is still a close connection through pregnancy. Other third-party options include surrogacy and adoption.

Take action after poor ovarian stimulation

In an ideal situation, the woman should produce multiple eggs with stimulation fertility medication. This process should be enough to create and store numerous eggs. However, there are still women who will experience a poor ovarian response. When this happens, the best step is to find the root cause and take action. Sometimes, a simple change in medication can help. If that approach fails, other fertility options are available for a successful pregnancy.

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