Many of my patients are in the process of going through their first (or one of many IVF procedures) and have been asking me what can cause IVF failure. I have put together 3 of the main causes that I frequently see in clinic. By understanding the main causes for IVF failure and how you can prevent them is a motivating way to begin another cycle.
The 3 main causes of IVF failure:
The Quality of an Embryo
Embryo quality is dependent on 2 factors: sperm and egg. Both partners need to be in optimal health months before the IVF cycle to create the best quality embryo possible. It takes up to 90 days for men to produce mature sperm. Anything they do during this time can negatively or positively impact their sperm. Hot tubs, bike riding, alcohol and smoking will all negatively impact the sperm. Healthy diet high in alkaline foods and antioxidants can improve sperm parameters. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be very useful during these 90 days.
Although we are not able to change the genetics of a woman, egg quality can be improved by creating the healthiest environment possible. Eggs go through a recruitment process that takes months before they will be ready for ovulation. Making sure you are at the top of your health will help make sure the egg's genetic potential is reached. Diet, lifestyle and acupuncture can all play a vital role in this process.
Poor Ovarian Response
A healthy woman should produce many eggs during the stimulation phase of an IVF. Unfortunately many women may not respond well to IVF medications producing minimal (or in some cases) no eggs. This is labeled as poor ovarian response. This is very common in women who have high FSH levels or low Antral Follicle Counts. The best way to help the ovaries respond to IVF medications is similar to that of creating healthy embryos: create a healthy, fertile environment. Specific vitamin deficiencies such as Vitamin D can greatly diminish fertility. By optimizing the body and giving it time to respond to these changes can create dramatic results. I have seen success in women who had multiple failed IVF cycles go on to have success resulting in healthy children.
This is the last stage of achieving a pregnancy. This is when a healthy egg is retrieved and the sperm and egg are introduced to create an embryo which is then transferred into the uterus. Now only implantation needs to happen. Unfortunately poor implantation may be one of the most common factors causing IVF failure. Polyps, cysts, poor blood flow and thin lining may all contribute to an embryo not implanting after an IVF transfer. The good news is that acupuncture has a great track record of improving uterine blood flow and implantation rates. A large study has shown that just doing acupuncture on the day of transfer increases implantation rates by 15%. More studies have also shown how regular acupuncture leading up to your retrieval day increases blood flow as well as helps when there is a thin uterine lining.