For women struggling with fertility, there are multiple treatment options. In-vitro fertilization (or IVF) is one of the more well-known procedures. However, doctors have now introduced a similar, but less intense, procedure called mini-IVF, which is also referred to as micro-IVF.
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IVF vs. Mini-IVF
Mini-IVF is similar to the traditional IVF. All of the important milestones including monitoring, egg retrieval, fertilization, and embryo transfer still exist between the two procedures. However, with mini-IVF, lower doses of medications are used and fewer eggs are produced. This results in the side effects being lessened, and the overall cost per cycle declining.
One primary side effect from IVF is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS. The risk of developing OHSS is substantially lower after a mini-IVF cycle.
IUI vs. Mini-IVF
Only one embryo is transferred at a time with mini-IVF, which means that there is a low chance of multiples. IUI, on the other hand, still poses a high chance of having multiple births. Though IUI is still the most cost-effective option, mini-IVF has a higher success rate.
Success Rates for Mini-IVF
Generally speaking, success rates are lower for mini-IVF than conventional IVF; However, the success rates are higher for mini-IVF than IUI.
According to a study recently done in 564 women, 63% of the women in the conventional IVF group conceived compared to 49% of the mini-IVF group conceived. Despite this, 0% of the women in the mini-IVF group developed OHSS, whereas 5.7% in the conventional group did.
Best Candidates for Mini-IVF
Determining the best fertility treatment is a discussion that must occur between you and your physician. Depending on your health, age, and a variety of different factors, not all options may be available to you. However, mini-IVF is often recommended to those who:
- Cannot afford traditional IVF
- Have low ovarian reserves
- Are at a higher risk of developing OHSS, such as those with PCOS
- Are about to begin cancer treatment
- Are uncomfortable with the risk of multiples
- Are in a rush to start your family as cycles can be done back to back
Cost of Mini-IVF
Whereas traditional IVF can cost anywhere between $10,000-$15,000 per cycle, mini-IVF costs about half that at $5,000 to $7,000. For those who want to undergo a fertility treatment but don’t have a large sum of money, mini-IVF is a more cost effective option.
Risks of Mini-IVF
Conventional IVF is strategically set up to allow error. For example, left over embryos that aren’t used during the transplant are often frozen for future implantation. Several eggs are pulled with IVF to allow patients to have a high chance of some eggs being viable.
With mini-IVF, the same luxuries aren’t available. At the egg retrieval, only 2-3 eggs are taken. There is a possibility that some, or all, of these eggs will not survive long enough to be transferred. This would result in a failed cycle.
Mini-IVF still consists of four primary steps, similarly to conventional IVF. However, some small changes will occur between the two procedures.
As a mini-IVF patient, hormone-based medications will be given. These medications stimulate the ovaries to release a small number of eggs. Most commonly, Clomid is used to stimulate the hormones. This contradicts conventional IVF, where gonadotropin injections, such as Gonal-F and Follistim are used instead.
Some women may prefer a “natural cycle” where no ovulation stimulation drugs are given. This is often not recommended unless there’s a problem with male fertility.
This phase begins 2-4 days into a woman’s cycle, and the woman will be carefully monitored throughout the week. Once the follicles are at an adequate and healthy size, other medications will help stimulate the egg to maturity.
Egg Retrieval & Sperm Collection
The egg retrieval process is done the same way as it is with conventional IVF; However, less eggs will be retrieved. During egg retrieval, a small, hollow needle will be inserted into the ovaries to suction our viable eggs.
Sperm will be collected during the morning of the retrieval.
Fertilization may be done through conventional fertilization or ICSI fertilization. Once it’s fertilized, the embryo will be given the freedom to grow in a space that mimics the fallopian tube.
One to two embryos will be transferred back into the patent through a catheter. If the embryo sticks to the woman’s uterus, pregnancy will occur.
Though mini-IVF is a lesser known procedure, there are some benefits of it. If you have limited funds, low ovarian reserve, or are at a high risk of developing OHSS, it’s a procedure worth looking into.