Standard IVF utilizes a variety of medications to stimulate the growth of multiple eggs and to prevent premature ovulation (release) of those eggs. After an average of 8-10 days of taking these medications, the eggs are retrieved form the ovaries. Subsequently, the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory and then returned to the uterus, as embryos, 3-5 days later.
In contrast, natural IVF is performed without the use of medications. In natural IVF, the body naturally selects 1 egg to grow. The egg is monitored over the first 6-9 days of a woman’s cycle then retrieved from the ovary before spontaneous ovulation occurs. Once the egg is retrieved, it is fertilized in the laboratory then returned to the uterus, as an embryo, 3-5 days later.
Natural IVF is actually the original way that IVF was described in 1979 when the first IVF baby was born. Since that time, medications have been added to improve upon the efficiency of the process. For example, by using medication, some women may produce 20 or more eggs with a single cycle. Additionally, if medication to prevent ovulation is not used, up to 50% of cycles are canceled due to premature spontaneous ovulation. For these reasons a significant percentage of natural IVF cycles end without obtaining an egg. However if an egg is obtained, some experts will argue that because it has been selected by the body, it may be a more “healthy” egg.
There are 3 types of patients who are usually interested in natural IVF;
- Patients who are ideologically opposed to IVF with medication. This group includes people who do not want to use exogenous hormones, as well as people who are religiously opposed to creating more than one embryo.
- Patients who are interested in saving money. Considering that medication for IVF can total many thousands of dollars, many people fall into this category.
- Patients who do not respond well, or have a medical contraindication to medication. Some patients who take full doses of medication only produce 1 or 2 eggs. In these patients, it makes sense to forgo the medication if the outcome is the same without it. Additionally, patients with malignancies for example, cannot take IVF medications.
Mini IVF represents an approach that fits neatly between natural IVF and standard IVF. During mini IVF, small doses of medication are used to gently try and coax a few extra eggs to grow. In contrast to standard IVF, where all of the eggs are stimulated, mini IVF strives to only get a few eggs to grow. The eggs are monitored, retrieved and fertilized as in any other IVF, but the stimulation is gentler. The advantage over natural IVF, is that the chance of getting at least one egg is somewhat higher. Mini IVF appeals to the same type of people as natural IVF.
At the Center for Fertility and Gynecology, we believe in individualized care. We understand that each of our patients have their own unique medical, ideological, financial and emotional characteristics. We believe that it is our job to honor these characteristics when crafting a treatment plan. If you would like to find out if Natural or mini IVF is right for you, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss these or any other fertility questions you may have.