IVF in your lunch hour – if only….

IMac_at_Lunch_timeYou may have read today about a new form of IVF, apparently so quick and speedy that you can have it in your lunch hour.  I don’t like to be a killjoy, but I’m afraid to tell you that you can’t.

The technique, known as ‘mini-IVF’ is actually a form of ‘mild IVF’ – a type of treatment which gets a huge amount of press coverage due to some very good PR.  Despite the headlines, ‘mini-IVF’ is not something you decide you’d like to do one morning, give the doctor a call, zip off to the clinic at lunchtime and come back pregnant – if only…

It uses Clomid rather than the usual stimulating drugs prescribed for IVF, which makes it cheaper, and the resulting embryos are often frozen rather than put back right away – so we are talking many weeks of treatment here, rather than a quick lunchtime trip to the clinic.

Reducing the level of drugs used in IVF treatment is a welcome idea, but this does have to be tied to good success rates too – there’s no point in doing it if you end up needing far more treatment cycles as it won’t be “cheaper” at all.  And there are still many questions about that, despite the headlines. In a recent piece of published research on this particular process, those using it say that it is easier and less expensive, but go on to ask whether it has an adequate success rate.  Their own conclusion is that the only way to answer that question definitively would be to carry out a proper research study – a randomised controlled trial – which they admit that their own research is not. So the jury’s still out on that.

The other claim made in one – but not all – of the newspaper articles about this treatment is that it offers women in their forties the same chance of success as women in their twenties.  As the success rate quoted for women of 43 is 13%, that would suggest the technique has worryingly low success for anyone in their twenties.  Elsewhere, however, the researchers quote average live birth rates of 38% and suggest that this method should replace conventional IVF – so there is clearly some fuzziness around the figures.

It’s yet another example of why it’s so difficult to be a fertility patient in the face of these endlessly hyped headlines – but perhaps we should ask whether anyone who needs to make extravagent claims for their own techniques has our best interests at heart.

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