What Is Mini IVF? Process,Costs,Success Rates,Pros and Cons

Mini IVF means Minimal Stimulation In Vitro Fertilization. In 2014, a fertility clinic called New Hope Fertility Center trademarked the phrase and began offering the procedure to patients; however, the Kato Ladies Clinic in Japan came up with the practice. 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. So, what is Mini IVF? Read on to find out more.

What Is Mini IVF – The Process and Procedures

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.

According to New Hope Fertility Center, Mini IVF success rates are comparable to standard IVF. Because of the reduced medications and chemicals, Mini IVF may be healthier than standard IVF.

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.

That said, what is mini IVF and how is it different? With mini IVF treatment, fertility doctors prescribe different medications than in standard IVF. The cost is much less because of this one reason alone. With mini IVF, doctors prescribe only Clomid or a similar drug. Clomid stimulates the ovaries, but not enough to cause them to produce many eggs, usually. Generally, Mini IVF results in fewer eggs than conventional IVF.

With Mini 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.

The cost difference between standard IVF and Mini IVF is between $3,000 and $5,000, which makes Mini IVF much less expensive than standard IVF. The difference is in the cost of the medication.

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, with Mini IVF, 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 Mini IVF take much less medication. The oral medications like Clomid that she will take with Mini IVF 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.

Older Women

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.

People Who Can’t Afford IVF

While a conventional or standard round of IVF costs around $15,000, mini IVF costs between $5,000 to $7,000 per cycle, according to Verywell.com. Considering that many people require more than one round, mini IVF saves thousands of dollars. Because of that, more couples and women can take advantage of IVF treatment through Mini IVF than otherwise. Mini IVF opens the door to IVF for people who had no possible way to afford it.

Costs of Mini IVF

As stated earlier, on average, Mini IVF costs between $5,000 and $7,000. The costs could be higher or lower depending on the medications. Some clinics go to great lengths to keep the costs of Mini IVF low. Due to Mini IVF’s somewhat experimental nature, some clinics are willing to work with patients to keep costs reasonable and affordable.

Success Rates

A randomized study found the following success rates for Mini IVF compared to conventional IVF:

What Is Mini IVF?

Success Rates of Mini IVF vs Conventional IVF

Mini IVFConventional IVF
49% birth rate63% birth rate
0% OHSS5.7% OHSS
Lower overall per cycle cost due to fewer gonadotropinsHigher overall per cycle costs due to higher usage of gonadotropins

 

While the success rates for Mini IVF 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.

What Is Mini IVF – Pros and Cons

Mini IVF isn’t the best choice for everyone, and there are pros and cons to consider. Overall, Mini IVF works well in very particular cases. Success rates for Mini IVF fall short of conventional IVF, so that is also something to consider. While the costs remain lower, so does the probability of success.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.