A milder form of IVF treatment that has fewer side effects and is less expensive does not reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy, according to a new study. Research led by Dr Marinus Eijkemans, at Utrecht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, reported that the milder IVF treatment reduced the risk of side effects, generated embryos with fewer genetic defects, and was a less expensive option than conventional IVF treatment. The research was presented at the International Society for Mild Approaches in Assisted Reproduction (ISMAAR) conference in London last week. 'Mild IVF is science-based and patient-centred, and it is going to be the future of fertility treatment' said Dr Geeta Nargund, president of ISMAAR and a consultant at St George's Hospital in London. 'It significantly reduces side effects, and the new data show that it is cheaper.'
IVF treatment involves stopping a woman's menstrual cycle, and stimulating her ovaries to produce and release eggs, using drugs that mimic hormones. The milder IVF treatment requires fewer drugs and at lower doses to stimulate a woman's ovaries to produce eggs, and reduces the side effects associated with the drug treatment, such as menopausal symptoms, kidney failure, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can occasionally cause serious side effects.
The researchers studied 111 IVF patients, who were randomly divided into those who received the mild treatment, and those who received the conventional treatment. The embryos produced using the milder IVF treatment had fewer genetic defects: 55 per cent compared to 73 per cent in embryos produced under the normal intensive treatment. Embryos without genetic defects have more success implanting in the womb and leading to normal pregnancy. Under conventional IVF treatment, two embryos are typically implanted into the womb to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy. This practice can also lead to multiple births if both embryos successfully implant and develop in the womb. The milder form of IVF treatment recommends single embryo transfer because of the higher quality of the embryos produced using this treatment. Researchers showed that both treatments had similar rates of successful pregnancies. The new treatment is not commonly available in the UK, but is frequently used in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Only a quarter of IVF cycles are funded by the NHS in the UK due to the high cost of treatment, according to newspaper reports of the conference. The milder IVF treatment can reduce the cost by up to 30 per cent per cycle, costing £4000 less per pregnancy. The researchers say adopting the milder treatment could save the NHS thousands of pounds, and could make IVF pregnancy more widely available.