Natural Cycle

Natural Cycle IVF

At a glance:

  • Natural cycle IVF uses the same process as conventional in vitro fertilization except without the use of ovarian stimulation hormones; thus in natural cycle IVF, the doctor will typically retrieve the one egg naturally produced during a woman's menstrual cycle.
  • In vitro maturation (IVM) is a procedure that incorporates retrieving immature eggs from the ovaries, then maturing the eggs in a lab for the typical IVF fertilization and embryo implantation process.
  • Natural cycle IVF may be used in combination with IVM to produce a less stressful, hormone-free treatment that allows the doctor to retrieve the one egg in the dominant follicle, in addition to several other immature eggs.

What is natural cycle IVF/IVM?

Natural cycle IVF is performed in conjunction with a woman's normal menstrual cycle, allowing the doctor to retrieve the one egg naturally produced in a woman's ovary each month. IVM is also performed in conjunction with a woman's normal cycle to harvest several immature eggs along with the egg within the dominant follicle.

Unlike conventional IVF, no hormones are used to stimulate the woman’s ovaries during natural cycle IVF. The eggs removed through the IVM technique will be matured in the clinic’s lab, then fertilized, usually by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), then cultured and allowed to develop into embryos over several days. The resulting embryos are then implanted in the woman’s uterus or if available frozen for later usage.

When is natural cycle IVF/IVM recommended?

Natural cycle IVF with IVM is an option for women who do not want to have hormone injections to stimulate egg production or who have had poor response or side effects from previous hormonal treatments. Women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are at high risk for severe reactions to hormone therapy using conventional IVF, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). PCOS patients may benefit from natural cycle IVF, especially using the IVM process to gather more eggs.

Couples where male factor is the sole reason for infertility, natural cycle IVF with IVM is a very good option, because it limits the expense and side effects associated with hormone-stimulating medication.

Women diagnosed with cancer who are pursuing fertility treatment may be advised to avoid hormones that may stimulate tumor growth, so natural cycle IVF with IVM may be the best form of treatment. Additionally, women with cancer or other disease processes who should not or do not have adequate time for ovulation induction are also good candidates for the IVM Process.

Benefits of natural cycle IVF/M include:

  • Simplified treatment
  • Reduced cycle costs
  • A sense of control of over your body and the cycle process

This procedure is still considered experimental by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Risks of natural cycle IVF/IVM

Lower success rate compared to traditional IVF, with the possibility of repeated cycles, is the main risk of natural cycle IVF with IVM. That risk may be mitigated, however, by the higher number of eggs produced by natural cycle IVF with IVM. Also, natural cycle IVF with IVM can be conducted in consecutive monthly cycles, whereas conventional IVF, with hormone stimulation of ovaries, often have one to three months breaks between egg retrievals. IVF with IVM is still considered experimental by the ASRM and should be discussed with your doctor prior to starting this treatment.