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Mini IVF means Minimal Stimulation In Vitro Fertilization. Mini IVF involves the same process of fertilization outside of the womb, and transfer of an embryo or blastocyst back into the uterus. However, there’s less medication involved and less “stimulation” of the ovaries. In a nutshell, that’s how the treatment is different.
What Is Mini IVF – Process, Pros, Cons and Drawbacks
For starters, Mini IVF and conventional IVF treatments differ in one significant way – medications. The Mini IVF treatment includes all of the steps in standard IVF: monitoring, egg retrieval, fertilization, and transfer. During the monitoring phase, fertility doctors monitor the maturity and production of follicles and eggs. Fertility doctors prescribe low-level doses of medication to mature the follicles. Then, just like in standard IVF, an embryologist combines eggs with sperm to encourage fertilization. Once an embryo forms, the fertility doctor carefully transfers it to the uterus.
Some clinics take a cumulative approach and collect eggs over a few months time, until they’ve stored enough eggs to fertilize and transfer. In these cases, clinics freeze the collected eggs until it’s time to thaw and transfer. This process works especially well for older women. The general consensus seems to be that Mini IVF results in better quality embryos, which dramatically increases the chances of success.
The upside of Mini IVF includes the fact that it tends to result in better quality eggs. The downside, however, is that it will almost always result in fewer eggs than conventional IVF treatment.
- Lower cost than standard IVF: The low cost of Mini IVF attracts people who may benefit from a more strategic, careful approach and who also cannot afford to spend very much money. Many couples and women hesitate to spend tens of thousands of dollars on treatment that may not work. Mini IVF treatment provides people with generally the same chances of success, but at a much lower price point.
- Less risk of OHSS: Mini IVF eliminates or greatly reduces the usage of gonadotropins, lessening the risk of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
- Fewer drugs/medications used: With Mini IVF, women do not need to use as many hormones and injections as conventional IVF. However, please note that they will take some fertility drugs. Just not as many.
- Fewer eggs retrieved: With fewer eggs retrieved, specialists must work with what they have and hope for the best. Fewer retrieved means fewer available to freeze, also. That said, some clinics retrieve eggs on a monthly basis using Mini IVF and then, once they’ve stored enough eggs, thaw and fertilize them.
- Success rates are lower: Mini IVF treatments result in lower success rates, but not dramatically lower. For some age groups, such as women over 42, success rates may actually be higher with Mini IVF. It all depends on the clinic and their methods.
- Possibility of no eggs to fertilize: A minimal stimulation treatment could possibly result in very few, or even zero viable eggs.
Mini IVF cost may be an element of ease, but the remaining controversial factors still put the treatment under a great deal of confusion. Some of the critical aspects of Mini IVF are:
– Only a limited number of eggs will be retrieved for fertilization. It may lead to no fertilization at all.
– The standard IVF procedure keeps 8-15 eggs, which increases the odds. Fewer eggs mean fewer chances of pregnancies, also because of the single cycle procedure.
However, even though there are a limited number of eggs retrieved, if the egg is of high quality there is a higher chance of becoming pregnant. The factor of uncertainty is true in both cases, except that with standard IVF you can purchase multiple transfer cycles.
How Is Mini IVF Different From Standard IVF?
Mini IVF does not include as many medications for ovarian stimulation as standard IVF. With standard IVF, doctors prescribe medications that stimulate the ovaries and cause them to produce multiple viable eggs. Doctors do this so that they have the best chance of having a healthy egg to use. Naturally, a woman produces a single egg per cycle. So in order to maximize the potential for success, standard IVF treatment involves causing the ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible – sometimes up to 15 eggs per cycle.
Then, embryologists attempt to fertilize the eggs with sperm. Sometimes, they will freeze a portion of the eggs before fertilization. Other times, they will fertilize first, and then freeze some of the embryos.
With mini IVF treatment, fertility doctors prescribe different medications than in standard IVF. The cost is much less because of this one reason alone. Doctors prescribe only Clomid or a similar drug. Clomid stimulates the ovaries, but not enough to cause them to produce many eggs, usually. Generally, the results in fewer eggs than conventional IVF.
Patients avoid the injectable medications that cause so many eggs to develop. Of course, fewer eggs means that the importance of each egg retrieved increases significantly.
Who Is Mini IVF Right For?
People who are averse to using a lot of medications and chemicals benefit from Mini IVF. Mini IVF involves fewer pre-treatments than standard IVF. As always, the specific drugs prescribed differ by clinic and doctor. Regardless of the clinic, however, the goal is not to over stimulate the ovaries, so the expensive medications typically used to do that are eliminated. With that comes the benefit of reduced side effects.
Women at Risk of OHSS
Mini IVF may also benefit women who are at risk of developing OHSS. OHSS stands for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Certain ovary stimulating medications – particularly injectables – can cause OHSS. The symptoms of OHSS include swelling and pain in the ovaries, nausea or vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, and more. According to the Mayo Clinic, “A small number of women may develop severe OHSS, which can cause rapid weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting and shortness of breath.”
Mini IVF reduces the risk of OHSS, because women undergoing treatment take much less medication. The oral medications like Clomid that she will take are less likely to cause OHSS.
When Odds With IVF Are Already Low Due to Low Ovarian Reserves
Due to its significant cost, conventional IVF doesn’t always make much sense for certain situations. For example, women who have low ovarian reserves do not get as much benefit out of the ovarian stimulation that the injectables provide. Therefore, that treatment is somewhat wasted. Instead of spending the additional money on medication that probably won’t work, Mini IVF provides the opportunity to try IVF at a lower cost. The odds are still the same, but the cost is much lower.
According to The Infertility Center of St. Louis, older women benefit from Mini IVF. The process of collecting and storing quality eggs over several months increases success rates in women over 42 years old. Per the clinic’s website, success comes from a careful approach. “It takes a great deal of patience on the part of the patient to retrieve just a few eggs at a time every month until enough embryos are banked to warrant thawing and transfer,” per the website.
Mini IVF best candidates
Those who qualify for the following are the best candidate for Mini IVF:
– Women who do not wish to go through high amounts of drugs
– Women above 35 years of age who have lost the ability to produce multiple eggs naturally
– Women who may be at a risk of developing OHSS after artificial stimulation
– Women who may be recovering from cancer and cannot take fertility medication
– Women who cannot afford to store embryos
– Women who do not wish to leave their eggs at the clinic after retrieval.
Mini IVF Success Rates
Because of the reduced medications and chemicals, it may be healthier than standard IVF. A randomized study found the following success rates compared to conventional IVF:
|Mini IVF||Conventional IVF|
|49% birth rate||63% birth rate|
|0% OHSS||5.7% OHSS|
|Lower overall per cycle cost due to fewer gonadotropins||Higher overall per cycle costs due to higher usage of gonadotropins|
While the success rates remain lower than conventional IVF, the other benefits may outweigh that downside. For example, women at risk for OHSS benefit a great deal from Mini IVF. For some people, the health benefits exceed the difference in success rate.