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Woman With Endometriosis Failed IVF Cycle: Poor Egg Quality? Age Issue? PGS?

I am 38 years old from Los Angeles. I just had a failed IVF cycle because my six embryos arrested on Day 5. On Day 3, five were Grade A and one was Grade B. They were 10, 8 and 6 cell. Doctor blames my age for the embryos arresting and basically said my eggs are poor quality. I find this confusing, since they were top ranked on Day 3. I've done one previous failed IVF last year at a different clinic (and still have a frozen Grade B blastocyst from that), but the doctor never blamed my egg quality. My AMH is 2 and other hormone numbers are normal. First IVF, they retrieved 27 eggs. This IVF, they retrieved 16 eggs.

I don't know my fertilization rate  for my most recent IVF because my doctor never told me how many of my eggs were immature, only answering that some of them were. For my first IVF about half the eggs were immature, and I had about a 50 percent fertilization rate. I have endometriosis, which has never been treated. It was discovered 2 1/2 years when I was having a myomectomy, but the doctor didn't remove it, only noting that I had significant ovarian endometriosis but no endometriomas. I've read that endo can affect egg quality or do you think the only issue here is my age, and I should just give up on IVF? My next step is to have a laparoscopy to remove the endometriosis.

Thanks for your time. N2N from California.


Hello N2N from California USA,

I think that age has a significant effect on egg quality and that is the issue with age.  More and more eggs become less and less fertile.  There was a study recently that looked at IVF patients that were 37 years old and underwent PGS. PGS, or preimplantation genetic screening, is the proper term for testing for overall chromosomal normalcy in embryos. This involves removing a cell from an IVF embryo to test it for chromosomal abnormalities before transferring the embryo to the uterus.  Only 2 out of every 10 embryos were genetically normal.  So, even if they make it to blastocyst, there is still a chance that the treatment would fail because of abnormal embryos.  In general, there is debate as to whether endometriosis needs to be removed prior to IVF because of a potential effect on pregnancy rates, but there is no clear indication that endometriosis absolutely affects eggs unless there is an endometrioma present and/or the endometriotic fluid contaminates the fluid at retrieval.  If you want to be sure that it is not a factor, a laparoscopy followed by three months of Lupron should take care of that issue, but I'm not sure I would have you do it if you were my patient.  I think you are battling an age issue.

It is not unusual for good looking day #3 embryos to not make it to blastocyst.  In one of my patients recently, we had 12 embryos that were good quality (grade 1 or 2, 6-8 cells) on Day #3.  We cultured all of them and only 6 made it to blastocyst.  The rest arrested before Day #5.  So, your doctor is probably correct that this failure was due to egg quality.  That is what you are battling.  The bottom line is that IVF is trying to help you find the one or two good eggs that are still remaining in the ovary and it will just take time.  If you want it to go faster, then you need to move to donor eggs to improve the egg quality, but if you want a genetic child, then you need to resolve that it may take several attempts.  Unfortunately, there are no technologies yet, that can improve egg quality.  Only repetition is the option.  As long as your ovaries still respond well to stimulation, so that we can get a lot of eggs at retrieval, then you have a good chance of being successful if you hang in there.

Good Luck,

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

Executive Medical Director

The Fertility and Gynecology Center

Monterey Bay IVF Program 

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

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