Chicago Doctor Produces Nation's First IVF Baby…Without Fertility Drugs

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A new procedure could allow millions of women to undergo IVF without the discomfort, risk and expense of daily hormone injections

A new procedure, called IVM (In Vitro Maturation), is similar to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) but is done without daily hormone injections. It has just been successful in the United States for the first time by Randy Morris M.D., a Chicago reproductive endocrinologist, in his IVF 1 Fertility Clinic.

"We're two for three," says Morris. "We've now tried this three times and achieved two ongoing singleton pregnancies. At the very least, this is going to be an option for young women who are especially sensitive to fertility drug injections. But if we keep having this kind of success it may be an option for any younger woman to have IVF without the expense and discomfort of injecting herself with high doses of fertility drugs."

The country's first successful IVM pregnancy was achieved with 29-year-old Courtney Webb. The Bolingbrook native is now 21 weeks pregnant. "We can't believe it," she says. "We tried to be positive but we always knew this was an experimental procedure and the odds were against us."

Webb had tried in the past to get pregnant with traditional fertility drugs. Unfortunately, she had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which her ovaries were extremely sensitive to traditional egg stimulating hormones. "The hormones made her produce too many eggs," says Dr. Morris. "She was at high risk developing a problem called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). OHSS patients develop severe ovarian enlargement and fluid accumulation. This causes them to have swollen abdomens and to become very ill. In some cases, the condition has been fatal. Because of this problem, Courtney was a poor candidate for traditional IVF, but she could get IVM - which doesn't use fertility drugs."

During In Vitro Maturation, patients have a single ultrasound but receive no daily hormone injections (just a small dose of HCG 36 hours before the egg retrieval). "The technique is challenging because not using hormones means we now have to harvest immature eggs," says Dr. Morris. "The follicles which contain those immature eggs are less than half the size of follicles containing mature eggs. This makes them harder to spot and harder to retrieve. The immature eggs are more delicate than mature eggs. We also have to provide a special nutrient and hormone solution so those eggs can mature in a Petri dish before they're fertilized and implanted into the uterus."

Learning those techniques took Dr. Morris and his team 18 months. Then on June 24, 2008, Webb became the team's first patient. Dr. Morris used a specially designed egg aspiration needle and several modifications to the standard egg retrieval technique to remove 33 immature eggs from Webb's ovaries. The eggs were then incubated outside the body. After 36 hours, 30 eggs successfully matured and were injected with her husband's sperm. Twelve of the mature eggs fertilized from which three were implanted, and one resulted in a pregnancy.

The Webbs' unborn baby is healthy and just this week the couple found out they're having a boy. Webb says, "We know this is new. The egg matures outside the body, so of course we were concerned about birth defects. But I've had level II ultrasound, nuccal translucency, blood tests and everything's been normal."

Dr. Morris predicts initially IVM will be used mostly on women like Webb--women under 30 who are hypersensitive to fertility drugs, often because they have PCOS or other problems which cause them not to ovulate. If successful enough, the procedure could become routine. IVM has several advantages over IVF. IVM saves couples over $5000 by eliminating the need for expensive fertility drugs and blood checks. It also spares women unpleasant hormonal side effects like bloating, swelling, nausea, breast tenderness and weight gain.

"How popular this procedure becomes will depend on its success rate," says Dr. Morris. "The bar is high. In younger women like Courtney, traditional IVF in our program has a 60% success rate. We'd want to do almost as well for this to be a routine alternative. Still, two-for-three is a pretty good start. In any event, most older women trying to conceive will still need traditional IVF. Their ovaries simply can't produce enough eggs to harvest without hormonal stimulation."

The extent to which IVM replaces IVF will probably be decided soon. Dr. Morris's landmark success will now inspire other labs nationwide to test the procedure.

Courtney Webb says, "Being the first just adds to all our joy and excitement. Everyone calls their baby a miracle….but ours really is a miracle baby."

About IVF 1 Fertility Clinics
At their offices located in Chicago and Naperville, Illinois, IVF 1 Fertility Clinics offer In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) programs and much, much more. IVF 1 was founded by Randy S. Morris, M.D., who has been an infertility and reproductive specialist since 1992. For more information about Dr. Morris and IVF 1, please visit http://www.ivf1.com.

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Susan Hooey
IVF 1
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