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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 00:20 GMT
Cut in fertility drugs urged
Drugs stimulate more egg production
Doctors should consider alternatives to the powerful drugs used to increase a woman's egg production prior to IVF, says a report.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, says that timing IVF treatment to coincide with a woman's natural cycle can yield equally good results.

One in 20 women given the extra hormones to stimulate egg production suffers ovarian hyperstimulation, a potentially dangerous condition.

I hope that IVF units across the world will look at this research very carefully

Dr Geeta Nargund, Kings College Hospital
Natural cycle treatment completely avoids that risk, and also removes the need to wait for long periods between cycles of treatment.

It would also save money, as the cost of the fertility drugs is a significant factor within the high cost of treatment - which in many cases is met entirely by the couple.

Dr Geeta Nargund, from the Assisted Conception Unit at Kings College Hospital in London, looked at a sequence of 181 treatments in 51 women - all based around their natural cycles.

They were found to have the same chance of having a baby after an average of three to four cycles of treatment as women undergoing conventional drug-stimulated treatment - about a third.

This is thought to be the first study demonstrating that natural cycle treatment can be as effective as drug aided treatment.

Erratic cycle

Women with reasonably regular cycles are likely to be the most likely to benefit from this - those with erratic menstrual cycles or who do not ovulate at all are unlikely to be suitable for natural cycle treatment.

Dr Nargund said: "Long drawn-out treatment can sometimes cause unbearable stress to couples, who may find themselves putting their lives on hold as a result."

One of the disadvantages of shunning fertility drug treatment is that ovulation may happen naturally over a weekend, when no one at the clinic is available to retrieve eggs.

However, taking a less powerful drug called indomethacin can delay the rupture of the ovarian follicle.

Dr Nargund said: "We are not saying that there are no advantages to ovarian stimulation, even in those women who could benefit from natural cycles.

"Multiple egg collections do provide spare embryos for freezing and that will be an important consideration to some women.

"However I hope that IVF units across the world will look at this research very carefully."

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