What is Mini-IVF?
When asked this question, many fertility specialists start by that saying that defining “mini-IVF” is impossibly complicated because it can mean so many things. But, in reality, that’s not really true.
The concept of mini-IVF is simple. It’s short for minimal IVF, which means that the medications and the procedures that are used are reduced, are less complicated than those used in routine IVF. And in the U.S., where massive, completely unnecessary, dosages of medications are routinely used, mini-IVF can be much more friendly to a woman’s health and her pocketbook than standard IVF. Although there are different specific definitions, in general, mini-IVF involves using no more than 150 IU of injectable fertility medications per day. That’s in contrast to the 450-600 IU of injectable fertility medications per day used routinely for “regular” IVF. Now, the vast majority of mini-IVF cycles involve far less medication than even 150 IU/day. In fact, in some cases, no medications or only tablets are used, meaning there are no injections at all. At Gen 5 Fertility, we use several different protocols and only rarely use more than 150 IU every other day, beginning a few days after starting oral medications.
What happens when you do mini-IVF? Do you get fewer eggs? Are the eggs higher quality? The answer is that it depends on how many eggs you are able to make. With “normal responders,” usually younger women who make a substantial number of eggs, doing mini-IVF will result in fewer eggs and a lower total pregnancy rate. For “low responders,” those that are able to make only a few eggs because of their age or their low “ovarian reserve,” the number of eggs made is the same no matter what kind of IVF is done. The question is: are those eggs higher quality if obtained following mini-IVF? The answer is that it appears that that is true. We believe that virtually all women 43 and over should do mini-IVF. It’s much gentler on them and quite likely will produce better eggs, increasing the chance of success.
Here are just some of the reasons that mini-IVF may still be right for you, even if you know you can make a good number of eggs. Mini-IVF is less expensive, not only because there are few eggs to deal with, but also because total medication cost is lower. Discomfort during the cycle is reduced as is the chance of having pain or another complication after the eggs are removed. In some cases, you may choose not to use anesthesia during the procedure, and, if you do, smaller needles are commonly used to minimize discomfort during the egg retrieval. For women who want only one child, there may be no need at all to create many embryos.
Is mini-IVF right for you? If you have that question, then maybe it’s time to have a talk with your fertility specialist.