IVF Babble

Stimulating my eggs. What does that mean?

We know that a woman is born with all of her eggs…so it can be very confusing when you hear phrases like “IVF helps stimulate the growth of more eggs”. It might make you ask yourself (like we did when we were going through IVF), does it mean IVF can increase the number of my eggs? 

Before we go in to detail, let us get straight to the answer...IVF does not create new eggs but rather stimulates the growth of existing follicles (A follicle is a small sac of fluid in the ovaries that contains a developing egg) within the ovaries in order to retrieve mature eggs for fertilization.

So let us look into this in more detail.

For a woman not facing infertility, this is how it works:

During the menstrual cycle, multiple ovarian follicles start to develop and grow, each containing an immature egg. These follicles produce estrogen, which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for a potential pregnancy. As the cycle progresses, one follicle becomes dominant and continues to grow, while the others start to degenerate. This dominant follicle is the one that will eventually release a mature egg during ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, the remaining follicle (known as the corpus luteum) will start to produce progesterone, which further prepares the uterus for a potential pregnancy.

For a woman facing infertility and having IVF to help her conceive, this is how it works:

IVF drugs, which contain Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), stimulate the ovaries with the aim of producing and obtaining several mature eggs for retrieval and fertilisation, rather than just the one egg that is typically released each month. This increases the chances of successful fertilisation and ultimately, pregnancy. However, the goal of IVF is not to produce multiple dominant eggs, but rather multiple eggs that can potentially be fertilised.

The number of eggs that are stimulated and retrieved during in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can vary from patient to patient and depend on a number of factors, including age, ovarian reserve, and individual response to medications. On average, IVF aims to stimulate the ovaries to produce 8-15 mature eggs for retrieval. However, this number can be higher or lower depending on the individual circumstances.

In order for eggs to be retrieved and classified as mature during IVF, they generally need to reach a certain size. The average size range of mature eggs is between 18-22 milimeters in diameter. However, it’s important to note that there are variations in what is considered a mature egg among different fertility clinics and doctors. Your doctor will be able to provide you with more specific information about how they determine the maturity of your eggs during the IVF process. It’s important to remember that every woman’s body responds differently during the IVF process, and the number and quality of eggs that are retrieved can vary.

Women with a low anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level:

A low anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level is an indicator of a low ovarian reserve, which means that there may be a reduced number of eggs available for retrieval during IVF. However, it is still possible to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs in women with low AMH levels. The chances of retrieving multiple eggs during IVF with a low AMH level can vary depending on the individual, but typically it may be more difficult to retrieve a large number of mature eggs. However, with careful and personalised fertility treatment tailored to the specific needs of each patient, it is possible to optimise the chances of success in women with low AMH levels. It is always best to consult with a fertility specialist to discuss the best treatment options for an individual case.

Here is what just one of our readers with low AMH said:

“I had a very low AMH at 30 years old due to surgery for Endometriomas. A san on 3rd IVF cycle showed 3 follicles and the cycle was very nearly cancelled as I barely met the minimum for collection! However, I had 3 eggs collected, 2 transferred back to me at 3 days and I have boy/girl twins! Absolute miracles they are!”

Take a look through more comments from our readers with low AMH who went on to conceive by clicking here.

Egg quality:

There are several ways to assess the quality of eggs, including:

Visual inspection: During the egg retrieval procedure, the embryologist looks at the eggs under a microscope to assess their size, shape, and overall appearance. Eggs that appear abnormal or have abnormalities in the surrounding cumulus cells may indicate poor quality.

Measuring levels of specific proteins: The presence or absence of certain proteins in the egg’s cytoplasm and surrounding membranes can indicate its overall quality and potential for fertilisation and implantation.

Measuring spindle and chromosomal structure: During the egg retrieval procedure, the embryologist may use certain techniques to visualise the spindle and chromosomal structure of the egg. Abnormalities in these structures can be indicators of poor quality eggs.

Ultimately, the embryologist will assess the overall quality of the eggs retrieved based on a combination of factors, including size, shape, appearance, and the presence of specific proteins and chromosomal abnormalities.

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