Is low-cost IVF actually cheaper?

The number of babies conceived through IVF continues to grow, with ASRM recently reporting that 1.5% of all 2012 births were results of IVF. Mixed in with reports of the growing popularity of the procedure are discussions surrounding its high costs and the alternatives available.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal takes a look at a less-expensive, milder form of IVF (often called mini-IVF) that some doctors and patients are turning to as a solution to alleviate the higher costs of traditional IVF.

Minimal-stimulation IVF uses smaller and milder doses of fertility drugs than traditional IVF, which can reduce the medication costs and costs associated with monitoring of ovarian stimulation, making the procedure more affordable. This milder form of IVF can also reduce the fertility treatment’s physical demand on a woman’s body, particularly for women who are at high risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

However, the success rates for mini-IVF are a concerning factor for some. Mini-IVF aims to retrieve fewer eggs per cycle than traditional IVF. Consequently, many women end up having to repeat the procedure incurring the treatment cost repeatedly, ultimately matching or exceeding the costs of traditional IVF.

CHR’s Medical Director and Chief Scientist, Norbert Gleicher, MD, was quoted in the article about the success rates of mini-IVF. Dr. Gleicher authored a study on the topic (published in Reprod BioMed Online in 2012) that compared 14 women under age 38, with normal ovarian function, who underwent low-intensity IVF to 14 who used regular IVF. The study found that the low-intensity IVF “reduced pregnancy chances without demonstrating cost advantages.”

For some time now, CHR has been vocal about the often-undisclosed disadvantages of mini-IVF in peer reviewed publications as well as in newsletters. CHR does offer a low-intensity IVF treatment called ECO-IVF, but recommends that interested patients discuss their individual case with a CHR physician to see if they are a good candidate for the procedure.

Dr. Gleicher discusses the pros and cons of EcoIVF: