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What Is Ovarian Stimulation in IVF?

Ovarian Stimulation in IVF
There are many aspects of in vitro fertilization (IVF) that help to garner positive results, or in other words, a successful pregnancy. One of these aspects is the ovarian stimulation process, which attempts to induce ovulation before other methods are used. The goal of ovarian stimulation is to increase the chance of a woman becoming pregnant.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the ovarian stimulation process to help you better understand what you and your partner can expect during your IVF treatment.

What Is Ovarian Stimulation?


Ovarian stimulation is intended to mimic the body’s natural ovulatory cycle, where naturally produced hormones stimulate the eggs to mature and be released.

IVF stimulation is done by medications or hormone injections to promote a number of eggs to mature at once for a higher pregnancy probability. Hormone injections for ovarian stimulation also help to improve the quality of the eggs.

As the second part of IVF treatment, ovarian stimulation is commonly used for egg retrieval. These eggs can be used immediately or stored for a later date. This process is mainly used for those diagnosed with a form of ovulatory dysfunction since it helps induce ovulation.

Also Read: 8 IVF Treatment Questions to Ask Your Doctor during Your Consultation

Stages of Ovarian Stimulation in IVF


With ovarian stimulation, there are two main types: the long protocol and the antagonist protocol.

The long protocol is considered the conventional process. It begins approximately one week before the next menstrual period is due to start. The gonadotropin releasing hormone, GnRH-analogue, is administered to stop any natural ovarian function. This is done to prevent the release of the eggs, so they may be retrieved by a medical team. Once the menstrual cycle starts, daily hormone injections begin, and the patient is monitored over the next two weeks at which time the eggs are collected.

The antagonist protocol is started once the menstrual cycle begins with the addition of hormone injections to boost egg maturity, so more are collected at the retrieval stage. This process is common when the long protocol attempt does not work. It is also performed when the woman has polycystic ovaries or a reduced ovarian reserve.

How Does Ovarian Stimulation Work?


Hormonal medications known as follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH) are used during ovarian stimulation to help with the increased production, maturity, and release of eggs. Over a period of two weeks, these hormones are injected to start the process.

For some women, this stage can last longer, depending on the time of growth of the eggs. According to one study in the Journal of In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, women who had a low response to a particular dosage of FSH did have successful results with a higher dose of the hormone in the next cycle.

The purpose of using FSH is to increase estrogen levels and stimulate development of follicles as some naturally die as the body’s FSH levels decrease. It is crucial these levels remain high to promote a larger production of eggs. Estrogen levels need to be high to increase LH as this hormone helps to initiate ovulation. It should be noted that the IVF process requires the eggs to be retrieved before ovulation.

What to Expect


As you can imagine with the use of hormones, timing is an important aspect when it comes to ovarian stimulation. Every step of the process requires care and precise timing. Any small issue or delay can cause the procedure to be restarted.

The physical attributes of the entire process can also be weighing on the mind while giving hope at the same time. There are several factors to be aware of during the ovarian stimulation process. Here are just a few to keep in mind.

Managing your Medications


The hormone injections are just part of the medication treatment of IVF therapy. Most people are required to self-administer the injections along with taking prescribed pills and patches. Again, as with injections, the timing of all medications is vital to ensure your body responds to the treatment.

Along with regular medication, blood tests are important to record hormone levels. These tests allow the practitioner to know when and how to make required adjustments. Ultrasound appointments are also part of the treatment.

Tests and Travelling


Regular testing and appointments may require some people to constantly spend time traveling, especially if the treatment centre is in another city or town. During the IVF treatment, it will likely be easy to keep communication open with the medical team through phone and email, but physical tests need to be done in person.

Stress and Mood Changes


The hormone and medication required during the ovarian stimulation process can have an adverse affect on one’s mood. While it may seem these mood changes may stem from the ovarian stimulation procedure, studies show it does not have a direct link to any adverse effect on this process.

Complications and Side Effects


In addition to stress, concern, and worry, the ovarian stimulation process can have physical side effects due to the medication and hormone injections. Mild conditions can be seen as a rash or swelling at the injection site. Tenderness around the breast area, bloating, and stomach pain have also been reported.

There have been some cases where a patient gives birth to more than one baby, usually triplets or more, as the treatment can cause multiple eggs to be developed at maturity, resulting in more than one egg fertilized. Other issues can be premature births or even miscarriages.

ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo’s IVF Services


ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo provides the best fertility care, treatment, and counselling in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Our state-of-the-art facility houses some of the leading Canadian experts of infertility care. The ONE Fertility team offers an evidence-based medical approach along with compassionate therapy with individual care each step of the way. Our treatment options are adaptable based on your needs. Contact us today to discuss your fertility questions and let us help you find hope in your IVF journey.

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