The number of babies born using in-vitro fertilization has reached an all time high. Experts say the technology for helping couples become parents through this procedure is always improving. Now, some doctors are offering patients an alternative to traditional IVF. It uses less medication at a lower cost.
When Neeburbunn Lewis used IVF to get pregnant with her daughter, the fertility medications caused physical complications that landed her in the hospital. So, when she and her husband wanted to try for a second child they had to consider something different.
"Traditional IVF wasn't an option for me personally because I did not want to risk going through over-stimulation again," says Lewis.
Freddi Baranoff also tried IVF, but found it difficult emotionally and physically so when it came time to try again she wasn't interested in the entire process.
"I absolutely did not want to do injectable fertility meds," says Baranoff.
So, both women opted for a newer procedure: minimal stimulation IV or Mini-IVF. It uses less medication to stimulate the production of eggs for fertilization.
"What mini IVF is talking about is using less medicine, a more mild stimulation in hopes of getting good eggs but a lower number," says Dr. Kurt Barnhart.
Barnhart is the president of the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He says less medicine can significantly lower the price, and mean fewer side effects.
"The Mini-IVF was more gentle on my body for sure. And, and not a huge financial burden compared to before," says Lewis.
Dr. Lyndon Chang performs Mini-IVF, and says the interest he's seeing in alternatives to traditional IVF is huge.
"We are just seeing the demand grow daily. The technology in IVF is always evolving, its always improving," says Chang.
But, with fewer eggs to work with, some experts are concerned minimal stimulation might not be as effective. Dr. Kurt Barnhart isn't convinced it's a better alternative to conventional IVF.
"If you're working with fewer eggs you might actually result in a lower chance of getting pregnant. Right now the concern is it might be less expensive and less effective," says Barnhart.
Studies comparing both procedures are limited, but Dr. John Zhang of the new hope fertility center says he's had a lot of success with minimal stimulation. He points out, if you're considering mini IVF, it's important to choose skilled doctors since they'll have fewer eggs to fertilize.
"You don't have so many materials to work with and there's no room for error," says Barnhart.
As for Lewis, after one round of Mini-IVF she is expecting her second baby. Freddi had success on her third try, and now has identical twin girls. Both women are grateful they learned of the procedure.
"I think it is extremely important for women to know that there is another option out there for them,"says Barnhart.
Zhang recommends Mini-IVF for younger patients, who are good candidates to produce high quality eggs, and also older women who may not produce many eggs even with high stimulation.