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32 Year Old With Two Failed IVF Cycles With Positive Beta's: Chemical Pregnancies?

Question: Hi Doctor,

I live in Idaho where we only have 1 IVf (in vitro fertilization) clinic, so I don't have the option of a second opinion and can't decide if it's worth the six plus hour drive to find out if anyone else would do anything different so I really appreciate you reading this.

A quick medical run down is my infertility was both blocked tubes which 3 years ago I had opened, since they've been open I developed endometriosis which I had cleared last September. I am 32 years old with no medical issues. I have had 8 failed IUI's before finding the endo and then 4 failed IUI's since clearing it. I did have one pregnancy with the IUI but they thought it was ectopic and it aborted itself. I have just completed my second failed IVF. By the way DH has all "normal" counts and morphs for his samples. Both protocols for meds were the same I took Doxycycline and Medrol right after ER (empyo retrieval) and started Progesterone vaginal inserts day after ET (empyo transfer) and was on prenatals and baby asprin the whole time. Both transfer's were done with guided ultrasound with no complications.

1st IVF-September 2012. 10 eggs,10 matured, 4 empyo's fertilized (no ICSI) 1-six cell, 3-eight cell all grade 2's. Two empyo's transfered, last 2 died on day 6 before making it to blast. First beta was 9, second 32, then on day 11 I started spotting,cramping and clotting. Day 13 beta was 7.

2nd IVF-November 2012. 21 eggs, 18 matured, 13 fertilized with ICSI, 1-eight cell grade 1, 6-eight cell grade 2, 4-seven cell grade 2, 1-nine cell grade 2, 1-two cell grade 3. Transfered 2 empyo's back (one was hatching) and cryopreserved 6. Beta test 1 was only a 3 and then the second beta nothing improved. I started bleeding day 11 again.

I have not yet met with my RE but I am trying to gather all the info I can before meeting with her. This last fresh cycle will have been the last one that I think I will do just because the stress on my body of being on meds off and on for 3 years now I think is too much. So the 6 frozen are very important to me to use wisely. I read that you said a chemical pregnancy is not an implantation problem so does that mean that you think it would be a problem with the embyo's? My RE felt last time that there was no need for genetic testing and that my endo was not an issue. I'm just lost as to what my next step should be, what to test for or what I should do with my remaining empyo's (gestational carrier or gamble with them). Thank you again for your time, your blog's have been so much help for me while searching for answers. M. from Idaho, U.S.A.


Hello M. from the U.S. (Idaho),

Once you get a positive bHCG, that means that implantation occurred. To be more specific, it means that after the empyo was transferred into the endometrial cavity (the limit of what IVF can do), the empyo progressed in its development, hatched out of its shell, attached to the endometrial lining and the lining grew and enclosed the empyo. These last steps are all natural steps that we do not have the technology to make happen. They have to happen on their own. The take away message from this is the knowledge that you can achieve a pregnancy with IVF. The ensuing problem, of miscarriage, is a pregnancy issue. Whether or not the empyo progresses to developing a successful pregnancy and ultimately a normal and healthy baby is based on the pregnancy alone.

Miscarriage is a more common occurrence than people think. We know that up to 50% of pregnancies can end in a miscarriage, many of which are chemical pregnancies like you had. In most cases of early miscarriage, the reason is because of an abnormal empyo, meaning the empyo had some sort of genetic abnormality. In most of these cases, it is a spontaneous abnormality that occurred at the time of empyo pision and not something that you carry. But just to make sure, you and your husband might want to undergo genetic testing if you have not already done so.

One other thing I noticed is that your empyo quality, based on its external appearance because we don't have the technology to know the internal quality, was not optimal for someone your age. This could be related to an inherent problem with the eggs, sperm or lab conditions. In a woman under the age of 35, I would expect most of the empyos to be 8 cell, grade 1 empyos. Genetic testing in the empyos, PGS, is an option but I too would not have recommended it in your age group. In addition, PGS may do some harm to the empyo thereby reducing your pregnancy chances. You'll need to discuss this further with your doctor.

I don't think that any of this has to do with your endometriosis, which is not an issue with IVF.

Ultimately, because you have achieved chemical pregnancies, you have to keep in mind that the IVF can work. Now it is just a matter or time, or more specifically, a matter of getting the perfect empyo. That will take continuing to try and ultimately I am confident you will be successful. It is unfortunate that you only have one option for an IVF clinic in your area because pregnancy rates vary highly from clinic to clinic. That may be another option i.e. travelling to another clinic. We call that distance IVF where patients travel to another state to have the IVF done. It is easily coordinated and arranged so you don't have to limit yourself to one option only. There is more that can be said or advised, but a thorough review of your medical records would be required.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG

Executive Medical Director

The Fertility and Gynecology Center

Monterey Bay IVF Program

Comment: I was amazed at the timely response and all the information given. I feel confident that the Dr. is giving a knowledgable response as well as very honest without pushing his own clinic which was comforting. Thank you again for your time.

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