Should You Go Low?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves multiple steps, the most important being fertility medication at specific times and doses. Over time, there has been a rise in alternative options like low stimulation in vitro fertilization. Low stimulation or mini-IVF may seem like a better option for many couples. This approach offers fewer interventions, lower costs, and less discomfort for women undergoing treatment. However, while a less is more approach may appeal to some, mini-IVF may not benefit older patients.

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What is low stimulation IVF?

When a woman undergoes low stimulation IVF, a lower dose of fertility drugs is used to stimulate the production of eggs. The simplified stimulation protocol minimizes complications such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and multiples. The process begins the same way as a standard IVF cycle by using medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. However, the dose and duration of the medicines are significantly lower in mini-IVF cycles. As a result, fewer mature eggs are produced.

Mini vs regular IVF

There are a few ways mini-IVF differs from traditional IVF. Women undergoing regular IVF typically get 8-12 eggs during a retrieval, while mini-IVF usually produces close to 1-2 eggs. The success rate of mini-IVF is about 49%, while traditional IVF is over 60%, as the fertility team has fewer healthy embryos to choose from. Low-stimulation IVF is associated with less discomfort since there are fewer injections and less time spent at the fertility clinic. Moreover, the cost of a mini-IVF cycle is typically less since fewer prescription medications are needed. However, because fewer eggs are retrieved with low stimulation, patients may require additional cycles to retrieve enough embryos, increasing the total costs over time.

Who should consider mini-IVF?

Standard IVF is generally recommended for women under 35 who have healthy eggs and healthy sperm from the male partner. Women with mild ovarian dysfunction, a family history of early menopause, and irregular menstrual cycles are good candidates for mini-IVF. Women over 40 at risk of age-related infertility and those with poor egg quality are also candidates for mini-IVF.

The mini approach

While some patients may prefer a more natural approach, mini-IVF is less frequently recommended because of the lower success rates. The patient may need multiple cycles to get enough eggs, which can be stressful. However, mini-IVF is a reasonably effective treatment for women with mild fertility issues who are over the age of 40. The procedure requires less medication and is not as expensive as regular IVF. To determine the best treatment approach, the couple should consult a fertility doctor.

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