For a woman struggling with infertility, hearing that there might be a way to increase your chances of getting pregnant, without having to inject yourself with drugs, sounds almost too good to be true. Well, that’s exactly the claim made by fertility clinics that perform Natural Cycle IVF.
So, what is Natural IVF? It’s basically In Vitro Fertilization, without utilizing fertility drugs. Instead, Natural IVF monitors the patient’s ovulation cycle through blood tests and ultrasounds, with the goal of retrieving just one egg. In comparison, the goal with traditional IVF is to retrieve multiple eggs. That objective requires the patient to inject various hormone stimulating drugs into their body every day, multiple times a day, for as many as 12 days. With Natural IVF, once the dominant follicle has grown to the right size, a single egg is retrieved. Then, just like traditional IVF, the egg would be fertilized and monitored and possibly tested for a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. At that point, if the embryo is viable it would be either transferred directly into the patients uterus – or frozen for a transfer at a later time. Natural IVF does require a single HCG injection or use of Nafarelin nasal spray to trigger ovulation for egg retrieval. Then, after retrieval the patient needs to take progesterone supplements to support the progression of the uterine lining. Here’s a breakdown of the main Pros and Cons of Natural IVF:
- Eliminates the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). During traditional IVF, ovaries could become extremely enlarged and very painful. Severe cases if OHSS can be life threatening.
- Shorter, safer and less painful procedure – Only one injection per cycle means less pain, bruising and fewer hormone-induced mood swings. Also, the retrieval process is faster and smaller tools can be used since there’s only one egg being removed.
- Small chance of having multiples – pregnancies of twins or more may pose a greater risk for complications- including premature delivery and low birth weight. With only one egg being transferred, the chance of multiples with Natural IVF is rare.
- Less expensive – the cost for Natural IVF medications are typically less than $1000. Whereas medications needed for traditional IVF can cost an average of $3,000 per cycle. The overall cycle costs may also be less expensive with Natural IVF due to less office visits, depending on the physician and clinic.
- Much lower success rate – The numbers vary depending on the clinic. However, the success rate for Natural IVF can be as low a 7% per cycle. New this month- at least one clinic specializing in Natural IVF now offers a money back guarantee program, to offset the lower success rates.
- More rounds may be needed– One egg means only one chance per cycle. So, if the single egg doesn’t develop into a healthy embryo, the entire process, including retrieval, would need to be repeated. It’s common to need 2 or 3 cycles to achieve a viable pregnancy.
So who should consider Natural IVF?
- Women who have a fear of injections or don’t want to use fertility drugs
- Couples with male factor infertility
- Same sex couples
- Women with fallopian tube blockages
- Patients with breast or uterine cancer
- Women who have not had success with traditional IVF
- Women age 40 or older with poor ovarian reserve
- Women who have previously had a poor response to ovarian stimulation
- Women with a FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level greater than 10
- Couples with male factor infertility
- Patients who have personal or religious objections to creating, storing or disposing of multiple embryos
For some, the proposition of Natural Cycle IVF is a non-starter due to the low success rates and a potentially longer timeline. But, for others, it’s an alternative worth investigating. Either way, it’s clear the options for treating infertility are increasing – and there’s a growing demand for a kinder, gentler method of IVF.
Editor’s note: While Natural Cycle IVF is not going to be right for everyone, I do think it’s important to know about the many different options now available in the rapidly evolving field of assisted reproductive technology. I wish I had known this method existed 6 years ago, when I was battling infertility. We’d love to hear about your experience with Natural IVF – what the process was like and if it was successful. Thank you for your feedback and for helping others on their journey!