In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

Since its invention in 1978 there have been 5 million babies born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). According to the World Health Organization there are about 120 to 160 million couples worldwide struggling with infertility problems.

Assisted reproduction technology (a fancy name for artificial insemination) has been helped a lot by the breakthrough discovery in the US with regard to ultrasound identification of mature follicles in the ovaries. The second technical breakthrough, another ultrasound method done trans-vaginally to recover eggs from the identified mature follicles, has also helped the IVF technology (Ref.1).

When all of the cases of infertility in the United States are broken down into what causes them, the following was found (Ref. 2):

20% of cases of infertility were caused by anovulation, about 35% were due to abnormal semen production in the male, 30% by pelvic disease (fibroids, tubal blockage, polycystic ovaries), and 15% of cases were unexplained.

Process of artificial insemination

There are a number of steps that have to be followed to be successful with IVF.

a) Hormonal stimulation of the ovaries: The first step in getting eggs from a woman who desires IFV is to stimulate her ovaries to produce several mature follicles. This is achieved with gonadotropins, which are hormones that lead to ovarian overstimulation. Over the years this has been fine tuned with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues given first (stimulating release of LH and FSH from the pituitary gland). Subsequently follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is given, which causes the ovaries to produce follicles that can be identified on a TV screen using ultrasound technology. When follicle maturity is established with the ultrasound method, human chorionic gonadotropin can be given to trigger ovulation. However, when this is done and combined with artificial insemination through depositing sperm via a catheter into the uterus, the pregnancy rates judged by today’s standards to be too low (in the order of 15 to 20% per cycle).

b) Harvesting of eggs:

Nowadays the 2 or 3 follicles that have been identified as mature by ultrasound are used for follicular aspiration. With transvaginal sonography and a long needle that comes out from the ultrasound probe, the specialist will be able to harvest the mature eggs from the follicular cysts.

c) In vitro fertilization methods:

There are basically two methods for fertilization. First the standard IVF method is simply to add sperm to the eggs in a Petri dish with growth medium. After spontaneous fertilization the eggs undergo cell division. Compared to this standard IVF the success rates have been found to be higher with a newer method, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In this case a single sperm is injected through a fine needle into the egg. On the 2nd or 3rd day of in vitro culture with either of these methods of fertilization the embryos consist of 6 to 8 cells. The embryos (typically one or two) are now introduced into the uterus of the mother by the specialist.

In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

In Vitro Fertilization As A Last Resort To Get Pregnant

Success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF)

Approximately 10% of all U.S. couples with women of the reproductive age are infertile, approximately more than 7 million women; the incidence of infertility steadily increases in women after the age of 30. Among fertile couples who have sex during the week before ovulation, about 20% achieve a pregnancy.  If regular unprotected sex does not lead to a pregnancy within one year, the couple is considered infertile (that is the medical definition of infertility). With infertile couples using intrauterine insemination there is a pregnancy success rate of about 8 to 9% per cycle. However, IVF has a success rate of 30% per cycle. The chance of a pregnancy after six cycles of IVF is 72% provided the woman is in close contact with the IVF specialist and follows all of the instructions carefully. If the woman does not adhere to the program (this includes some dropouts), the pregnancy rate for IVF is only 51% in 6 months (Ref.2).

In 2010 the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine went to Bob Edwards for his outstanding work on IVF. His work has improved the success rate for pregnancy of infertile couples significantly.

Costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF)

The conventional IVF cost is about 60,000$ to achieve a successful pregnancy; a newer, simplified IVF version costs only 265$, a method which has been developed for development countries. In the simplified version fertility drugs are given as generic tablets. The pregnancy rate for IVF is about 34% in this study from Belgium involving 100 infertile couples so far with the women being under the age of 36.

Gender selection and genetic abnormalities

Gender selection is highly controversial and is not being practiced. However, there are gender specific genetic abnormalities that can be identified in the 2 to 3 day old embryo after a few in vitro cell divisions. If DNA analysis shows an X-linked abnormality, this genetic abnormality would not be implanted into the womb. An embryo with a normal DNA test would be implanted instead (male or female). There are obvious ethical guidelines that have to be followed and these have been in place for a number of years.

The following overview of IVF contains a mini video showing a single sperm injection into an egg (the intracytoplasmic sperm injection method or ICSI). This is the latest in IVF technology, but also the most expensive option.

Complications with in vitro fertilization (IVF)

A review article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in March of 2004 (Ref. 3) compared the complications and outcomes of single baby pregnancies (=singletons) that were either conceived normally (control group of 1.9 million spontaneous singletons) or conceived by IVF (12,283 IVF singletons pooled from 15 studies). Compared to normally conceived babies the group of IVF conceived babies had a perinatal mortality rate, which was 2.2-fold higher, the rate of preterm deliveries was 2.0-fold higher, low birth weight was 1.8-fold higher, a very low birth weight was 2.7-fold more common and the classification of “small for gestational age” based on birth weight was 1.6-fold higher. The medical researchers found a number of reasons for this: compared to normally conceived babies, the rate of IVF conceived babies had a higher rate of placenta previa, early preterm delivery, spontaneous preterm delivery, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and neonatal intensive care admissions were also significantly more common.

Other observations

If anovulatory cycles are the reason for infertility, clomiphene treatment can often restore regular menstrual cycles, but according to Ref. 2 there is an 8% risk for multiple gestations (twins, triplets) with a higher infant mortality rate.

For women with tubal obstruction IVF is better than attempting to do tubal reconstruction.

Women with unexplained infertility (no cause found despite thorough investigations) are treated by controlled ovarian stimulation as mentioned above and by inserting semen from the husband into the uterine cavity through a small plastic catheter (intrauterine insemination). With this combination pregnancy success rates of 10% per cycle can be achieved and this should be the first approach to cases of unexplained infertility (Ref.2)

Fibroids in the uterus are from estrogen dominance, so are polycystic ovaries. Replacement of missing progesterone with bioidentical progesterone cream will often shrink or melt the fibroids away, cure the ovaries of polycystic disease and restore fertility (this is not taught in medical schools and will not be told to most women attending fertility clinics). There are countless numbers of women attending fertility clinics needlessly; had they only checked their hormone status with saliva hormone tests and corrected the hormone imbalances with bioidentical hormones.

In vitro fertilization with or without ICSI has a pregnancy success rate of 50% per cycle for women less than 30 years of age. Above the age of 30 these numbers are lower and genetic abnormalities are higher necessitating the more expensive ICSI fertilization method. The pregnancy rate is also directly related to how many embryos are transferred into the womb. Usually 1 or 2 embryos are inserted. Twins are not uncommon with IVF.


In 35 years in vitro fertilization has developed into a sophisticated tool that helps women who previously were considered to be permanently infertile to conceive a normal pregnancy. Despite these technical advances we should not lose sight why infertility is such a problem today. Two main factors come to mind: sexually transmitted diseases can scar up the Fallopian tubes making it impossible for the sperm to reach their goal, the fertile egg. Men can also get scarring of their collecting ducts for the sperm (from epididymitis) from Chlamydia and other VD. Secondly, couples are settling into marriage much later in life, often well beyond their 30th birthday. Ideally a woman should have her first pregnancy between 20 and 25, when she is most fertile. If these things don’t fall into place, there is a cost to IVF and there are the associated risks discussed.

More information on infertility:


1. Adam: Grainger & Allison’s Diagnostic Radiology, 5th ed. © 2008 Churchill Livingstone, CHAPTER 53 – Imaging in Obstetrics and Infertility.

2. Lentz: Comprehensive Gynecology, 6th ed. © 2012 Mosby: Treatment of the causes of infertility.

3. Review article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in March of 2004 (March 2004, Volume 103, Issue 3: pages 551-563) examined the complication rates of IVF.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Breast Cancer Due To Stress

The medical profession is of the opinion that breast cancer is multi-factorial, where genetics, body weight, hormonal and other factors play a role in causing it (details see Ref. 1). The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (United States) showed in May 2012 that girls from families of lower socioeconomic status have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life. The study also showed that girls from families with a higher socioeconomic status had a low risk of breast cancer later in life.

The same cohort of women was the subject of another study, which was just published in April of 2013. In this study the question was asked whether stress in career women could cause a higher rate of breast cancer. Using 1957–2011 data showed that 297 of the 3682 White non-Hispanic women of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study developed breast cancer. Details of the study showed that the peak of the age for breast cancer to develop was around 55 to 65. Women working with the lowest job authority had the lowest rate of breast cancer. High job authority, being the “boss”, was associated with a 1.57-fold (range 1.12 – 2.18-fold) increase in breast cancer. There was also a striking difference between the lengths of job stress exposure, 5 years versus 15 years with both groups, high and low job authority. The lowest risk of breast cancer was for the low stress group of women who worked under these conditions only for 5 years, followed by the same group who had worked there for 15 years. Slightly above that latter group was the breast cancer risk for the 5-year employed high job authority. The highest group of breast cancer risk, rising above all other groups, was the group with high job authority, exposed to this for type of stressful situation for 15 years (see Fig. 1 of the above link). The researchers interpreted their data to say that the majority of the breast cancer risk in these groups of women was due to the stress hormone (cortisol). Minor contributions were thought to be due to the carcinogenic effect of estrogens.

Breast Cancer Due To Stress

Breast Cancer Due To Stress


Review of the literature regarding this study

Dr. Lee had been publishing about estrogen dominance for many years (Ref. 2 and 3). When women age, their ovaries do not produce as much progesterone during the luteal phase as in younger years and above the age of 30 to 35 anovulatory cycles are common. During anovulatory cycles ovulation (=release of an egg) does not occur and there is no formation of a corpus luteum that would produce progesterone for 2 weeks. The end result is that there is a lack of progesterone as a woman ages. This has been discussed in detail in Ref. 3. Dr. Lee called this disbalance of estrogen and progesterone “estrogen dominance”. This is one of the important causes of breast cancer as explained in Ref.2. This can be caused by aging, xenoestrogens from exposure to artificial fertilizers, insecticides and cosmetics, but also taking the birth control pill for prolonged periods of time. However, stress by itself can also produce a state of estrogen dominance. Dr. Lee explained (page 180 of Ref. 2) that the cortisol-binding globulin (CBG), which binds both cortisol and progesterone, is a storage form for both of these hormones. As a person is under chronic stress the CBG is increased binding both cortisol and progesterone. This means that less of these hormones are preliminarily available in their free form for body consumption as CBG binding is a storage form for these hormones. The free progesterone, which is the only biologically active progesterone portion, is lowered as a result of stress causing estrogen dominance. If estrogen is not opposed by progesterone, it is cancer causing for breast tissue and the uterine lining, which translates into being at risk for breast and uterine cancer. Only supplementation with bioidentical progesterone cream as described in Ref. 3 will rebalance the hormones (progesterone/estrogen balance) and reduce the cancer risk. The symptoms of estrogen dominance according to Ref. 4 (p. 29) are fatigue, weight gain, less ability to handle stress, headaches, mood swings, loss of sex drive, irregular periods, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, fluid retention (particularly around the ankles), irritability and depression.

Practical recommendations for women in stressful jobs

Above the age of 35 it is wise to have a saliva hormone test done, checking the levels of 5 hormones (cortisol, DHEAS, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). This establishes the baseline values for these hormones. The relationship between the levels of these hormones determines whether they are balanced or not. For instance, if the ratio between progesterone and estrogen (divide the level of progesterone by the level of estrogen) is less than 1 in 200 the patient has estrogen dominance (see Ref. 5). You may need to get a naturopathic physician or an A4M physician who is knowledgeable in interpreting these results and treating the patient with bioidentical hormones. Some women may need to start bioidentical hormone replacement at this point if a hormone deficiency is noticed.

In order to counterbalance stress you need to schedule some time for yourself regularly where you can relax, do yoga exercises, meditation, and/or self-hypnosis. Make sure you get enough sleep. Avoid alcohol, if you can as it interferes with a restful sleep, or reduce alcohol to the absolute minimum. Alcohol causes decreased hormone production of both ovaries. It also weakens the adrenal glands contributing to hormone disbalance. Usually the first hormone to show a decline with stress and aging is progesterone. It has to be measured by the saliva test. Ref. 2 and 3 explain why: progesterone is fat-soluble and is transported through the blood in its free form through red blood cells. However, a progesterone blood test measures the serum progesterone level after the red blood cells have been spun down in the centrifuge, which leads to misleading results; only the saliva test gives reliable results in terms of bio-available progesterone levels. Many conservative physicians blindly insist on blood progesterone levels, which will lead to false results. This is why you need a naturopathic physician or A4M physician to help you with the proper interpretation of the test results.

If saliva progesterone levels are low, progesterone cream (bio-identical, as explained below) is applied daily in a concentration that will normalize the levels. Physicians who have been influenced by drug company representatives may suggest to use Provera (or another progestin, which are synthetic hormone substances) as a “supplement”, but this is known from the Women’s’ Health Initiative to cause breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Do the proper monitoring tests with saliva testing and only substitute what is missing with bioidentical hormone creams. Otherwise a low fat, low refined carbohydrate diet, exercise and other good health habits as I have summarized in this link will be very beneficial to prevent stress as a cause of breast cancer. Ref. 6 is also a useful text written for the layperson explaining what to do when stress leads to adrenal fatigue.


  1. A review of the causes of breast cancer:
  2. Dr. John R. Lee, David Zava, Ph.D. and Virginia Hopkins: “What your doctor may not tell you about breast cancer”. 2002 Hachette Book Group, New York,NY, USA.
  3. Dr. John R. Lee: “Natural Progesterone”.  2nd edition. Jon Carpenter Publishing, 1999 Charlbury, England.
  4. George Gillson, M.D., Ph.D.: “You’ve hit menopause. Now what? 3 simple steps to restoring hormone balance” 2nd edition, 2004, Rocky Mountain Analytical Corp., Calgary, AB, Canada.
  5.  John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins: “Dr. John Lee’s Hormone Balance Made Simple- The Essential How-to Guide to Symptoms, Dosage, Timing, and More”. Wellness Central Hachette Group USA, New York, NY 10017. Published 2006. Page 57 discusses saliva testing and states: “The healthy ratio of progesterone to estradiol is at least 200 to 1 and can go up to 1,000 to 1 in women using transdermal (delivered through the skin with cream, gels, oils) progesterone.”
  6. James L. Wilson, ND, DC, PhD: “Adrenal Fatigue, the 21sty Century Stress Syndrome – what is it and how you can recover”; Second printing 2002 by Smart Publications, Petaluma, Ca, USA

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014