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What Is In Vitro Maturation?

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In vitro maturation (IVM) was first developed in the early 1990s to provide a safer and cheaper alternative to in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVM techniques are improving, and many fertility clinics throughout the United States are beginning to offer it.

How Does IVM Work?

The ovaries are minimally stimulated (meaning less fertility medications are used to make the ovaries produce eggs). Unlike traditional IVF where eggs are retrieved as close to ovulation as possible, IVM captures the eggs much sooner when they are still “immature.” The eggs are “matured” in the laboratory for about 24 to 48 hours using a culture medium containing small amounts of hormones. Once mature, the eggs are fertilized using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) — a very tiny needle containing one sperm is directly injected into the egg. The resulting embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus.

Who Is a Good Candidate for IVM?

As with all fertility treatments, IVM is not considered appropriate for all women. Women who typically benefit the most from IVM include:

  • Women who are at higher risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), including women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
  • Women who are younger and have normal menstrual cycles.
  • IVM can also be used with regular IVF cycles when the stimulation protocol allows for many immature eggs to be obtained as well.

Advantages of IVM

Since IVM requires less fertility medication, this significantly lessens the risk for OHSS, a rare, but potentially serious complication.

IVM is less expensive because it does not involve costly gonadotropin injections and requires less monitoring. On average, an IVM cycle costs about $5,000 to $7,000 compared to $15,000 to $20,000 for traditional IVF.

IVM involves a shorter treatment regimen compared to IVF, meaning a cycle of IVM takes less time than IVF.

What Are the Disadvantages of IVM?

IVM is still relatively new, and the overall success rates and long-term outcomes of IVM are unclear. Because the eggs collected via IVM are extremely sensitive, they need to be handled very carefully in the lab or risk losing them. Also, the outer part of these eggs can become tough for sperm to penetrate making ICSI required.