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Second IVF Fails Despite Implantation: Thin Lining? Embryo Issue?

Posted Dec 10 2012 9:04am

Question: Dear Dr. Ramirez,

I am here to seek your advice once again. I just found out my second IVF (in vitro fertilization) attempt finished with a chemical pregnancy. I tested HCG levels at 11dp2dt and it was 19,2 miu/ml (pretty low), and 48h later it was already 4,7 miu/ml.

I am nearly 37yo, have high FSH levels and my antral follicle count was 12 for this past cycle, 8 follicles grew, 6 were collected and 4 eggs retrieved. We got 100% fertilization and we transferred two 8-cell embryos with perfect morphology and no fragmentation.
I think my biggest problem is my endometrium. It is usually very thin. Although I still have 2 frozen embryos from my first IFV, two transfer cycles were cancelled due to thin lining that would never pass 6.9mm. I tried estradiol patches, vaginal estradiol (creme and pills) which resulted in poor endometrial growth (estradiol levels reached 3500pg/ml in one cycle) even after 3 weeks of use. I also tried vaginal viagra, vitamin E, baby aspirin, prednisone, and nothing worked... the endometrium would grow up to 5.5 to 6mm in the first 8-9 days of the cycle and then would take 14-21 days to reach 6.9mm. In one of the cycles it even decreased 1mm in one week.
Before my first IVF I did a hysteroscopy and everything looked fine. I have a couple small intramural fibroids, none projecting into the uterine cavity. I had a big fibroid removed 4 years ago, but it was intramural and the endometrium was not touched during surgery.

So, in my last IVF that turned out as a chemical pregnancy, my endometrium was 7.1mm at the 6th day of stimulation with FSH (Bravelle), which was really encouraging. However, 2.5 days later, it decreased to 6.4mm... Because at that time I already had bid leading follicles, my doctor wanted to triger that night. He then injected into the uterine cavity, using a catheter, 300 ug of filgrastim (G-CSF), since there are two papers from Dr. Gletcher that mention it as a possible treatment for thin lining. My RE explained to me it was experimental and I agreed to try it.

48h latter and on the time of egg retrieval, my endometrium was 7.6mm. Still not ideal, of course, but the best I got in a long time, so my RE advised us to carry on with the transfer (2 beautiful 8-cell embryos).

So my questions are
1)What is more likely to be the cause of the chemical pregnancy: genetically abnormal embryo or my thin lining? I know my age is a factor, but I have been taking Coq10 for nearly a year now. My embryos always look good and I have 100% fertilization rate.

2) Also, I wanted to know if it is normal to have a 8-cell embryo at the end of day 2 (I collected the eggs on Mon 9am and the embryos were transferred Wed 6pm).

3) Is it normal for the endometrium decrease during stimulation phase? What could have caused mine to go from 7.1 to 6.4mm in a little over 60h?
3) Do you think I should try filgrastim on my next transfer cycle? I don´t think my body likes synthetic estradiol though, it never responded well... so maybe a natural cycle (in which I usually reach 7mm) with filgrastim could work?
Taking my history into account, what would you recommend for my next FET in order to be suscessful in overcoming thin lining? Should I start to look into surrogacy?

As always, I really appreciate your time and expertise, and most of all the beautiful work you do here at your blog (for which I am a subscriber :)  C. From Brazil

Hello C. from Brazil, Thank you for your kind words and for following my blog! Let me answer your questions in sequence to make it easier.

1. If endometrial thickness were the problem, implantation would not have occurred. Technically, the minimum endometrial thickness required is 6.5 mms so your lining was adequate for implantation to occur, which did happen. The miscarriage was most likely a genetic issue considering your age. Unfortunately, we do not have a technology to evaluate internal egg quality nor change the quality. Keep in mind that the CoQ 10 study was in mice and not humans so we don't know if that will work or not.

2. An 8-cell embryo on D#2 is not normal. That is a rapidly dividing embryo and may indicate that it is genetically abnormal, as has been found on preimplantation genetic studies in the past. Division rate is one of the criteria I use to evaluate embryos, in addition to the external quality.

3. The endometrium does not decrease. The difference in widths are variations in ultrasound measurements. Because we are dealing with mms, the difference between 7.1 and 6.4 (0.6) is within the margin of error and not significant.

4. I cannot comment regarding the "filgrastim" as I am not familiar with this medication or its usage. I would recommend that you consider the frozen embryo transfer in a natural, unmedicated cycle, but I would follow a natural cycle without transfer first to evaluate if your body growth the endometrium to adequate width. Then if it does, I would schedule to make do the transfer in the next cycle. I would still use supplemental hormones after the transfer, namely progesterone to help support implantation and the early pregnancy.

5. If the FET fails, despite everything that has been done, the only other recommendation I could make, if you are still going to try your own eggs, is to have preimplantation genetic screening done (trophectoderm biopsy) on a Day #5 embryo. Some studies have shown increased pregnancy rates in older patients when embryos are screened for normal genetics. That will at least give you an indication on the genetic health of the embryos you are making and whether or not you should consider donor eggs. I would only recommend surrogacy if you are absolutely sure that you cannot get implantation and in your case, you've had implantation. I think it might be more of an embryo issue.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.

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