Study reveals shorter drugs protocol could work better for frozen IVF cycles

In a bid to improve patient experience, researchers at Oxford Fertility have taken a closer look at frozen embryo transfer cycles

Researchers have said IVF requires patients to administer medicines over a number of weeks, adding to the emotional toll of IVF. For the rapidly  growing number of patients using frozen embryos, an additional set of medicine is needed.

They compared GnRH agonist (long cycle), the most commonly used method that lasts around six weeks and has side effects similar to the menopause, with GnRH antagonist (short cycle), which lasts around three weeks and avoids menopausal side effects.

The study found both approaches achieve similar pregnancy, miscarriage and live birth rates. This means with a short cycle frozen embryo transfer, patients can reduce the number of weeks they take medicine by three, avoid menopause symptoms, such as headaches and hot flushes, and still achieve the same birth rate.

The short cycle is also 15.5 per cent cheaper, cuts the number of clinic visits from three to two and reduces the number of scans needed from two to one

The clinic looked at 578 patients over a two-year period, split across two groups – one undergoing long cycle frozen embryo transfer and the other undergoing short cycle frozen embryo transfer. Both groups shared similar characteristics, such age, the number of embryos transferred and BMI. They noted each patient’s experience, analysing the pregnancy, miscarriage and live birth rates, plus the number of clinic visits and scans.

Commenting on the research, Professor Tim Child, medical director at Oxford Fertility said: “With more than 21,000 frozen embryo transfers each year in the UK, if all clinics adopt short cycle frozen embryo transfer, thousands of women could reduce the number of days they take medicine and avoid unpleasant side effects whilst achieving the same success rates.”

Only about ten per cent of clinics today report using GnRH antagonists in frozen embryo transfer cycles.

Oxford Fertility is sharing its findings at Fertility 2019, which began on January 3, with the aim to reassure and encourage clinics to consider adopting the short protocol approach.

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