Minimal Stimulation IVF Offers More Comfortable Experience

Christine Leach's baby, Ashton Marie, wasn't conceived naturally or by traditional in vitro fertilization.

Instead, Ashton's parents used a new and gentler fertility method called minimal stimulation, which follows a woman's natural cycle. Patients follow a low-dose oral drug regimen instead of the typical rigorous regimen of daily hormone shots.

"You only need one good-quality egg to achieve live birth, and, with minimal stimulation, you make very few eggs but good-quality eggs to achieve pregnancy," said John Zhang, founder and director of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City.

Leach tried traditional IVF unsuccessfully before minimal stimulation.

"I felt like a guinea pig," she said, "and then the medications made me feel very bloated and moody."

The new procedure has drawbacks -- fewer eggs are retrieved than in standard IVF, which means a lower success rate. Traditional IVF typically has a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of resulting in pregnancy. Zhang says his success rate is 5 percent to 10 percent lower but still excellent considering he is transferring fewer embryos.

But the fact that minimal stimulation uses fewer eggs makes it a simpler option than traditional IVF.

"The embryologist doesn't have to try to fertilize 20 eggs -- you don't have to evaluate 20 embryos," said Dr. Sherman Silber, co-director of the New Hope Fertility Center.

Leach says she preferred it because it was closer to her natural cycle.

"My advice would be to do the minimal stimulation IVF. It's just so much more comfortable an experience."

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