In Vitro Fertilization Alternatives: In Vitro Maturation (IVM)

Among the latest range of In Vitro Fertilization alternatives, In vitro maturation or IVM is engaging a lot of attention. Though this fertilization technique first surfaced during the 90s as a cheaper alternative to In Vitro Fertilization, improved IVM techniques have recently emerged as a mainstream Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) option.

Understanding IVM Treatment

In terms of the core approach used for solving infertility, IVM is very similar to IVF. This method too uses the concept of fertilizing the oocytes or the eggs of the female patient outside her uterus, i.e. in an artificial environment. However, the difference lies in the stage at which the oocytes are retrieved and the manner in which they are fertilized.

Unlike IVF that seeks to the give the female patient many hormonal medications (drugs) for stimulating the ovaries into producing numerous and healthier eggs, the IVM treated accesses the natural or the un-stimulated ovaries. This is done under ultrasound guidance and causes minimal discomfort to the patient.

The immature oocytes are then treated in the laboratory with hormones to ensure that their chances of sustaining the fertilization process and the subsequent implantation within the uterine tissue are augmented. This hormonal treatment can last for up to 48 hours.

For the fertilization of the hormone-treated eggs, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injections are used and the resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus of the patient in a manner similar to IVF.

Comparing IVM with IVF: Primary Advantages of IVM

IVF presents a major deterrent due its usage of hormonal treatment of women prior to initiating the actual treatment. It should be noted that women who have a history of hormonal imbalances or those seeking IVF after the recommended age for conceiving are a bit susceptible to developing a greater, hormonal disproportion induced by hormonal supplements prescribed by the IVF clinic.

In most serious cases, the side-effects can translate into Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome or OHSS, which has the potential to turn into a fatal condition. However, IVM eliminates this issue by not using hormonal stimulation. Since the IVF patient is not asked to take any medications, it also presents cost-savings since most of the hormonal supplements are quite expensive. IVF hormonal assistance through gonadotropin injections can be beyond the realm of families with limited financial means.

Thus, women who are already using some form of hormonal supplementation due to medical conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism are more likely to choose IVM over IVF to avoid possible risks of contradictory reactions between various hormones. In terms of the pregnancy rates, IVM statistics present a success rate of about 38% among women who are above the age of 35 years, and this is largely regarded as a reasonable figure.

Other IVM Treatment Benefits

  • IVM is a more undemanding treatment that does not seek repeated egg retrieval from the patient—this reduces chances of uterine and vaginal infections.
  • IVM is a much better option than embryo adoption, since it promises the use of eggs obtained from the biological mother. This is particularly critical for women who don’t respond well to ovarian stimulation used in IVF and cannot produce healthy eggs on their own.
  • Even women who have a history of miscarriages and failed IVF cycles can be treated with IVM.
  • IVM makes artificial reproduction safer for women with a history of cancer or those who have undergone chemotherapy/radiotherapy.