Fertility can be a confusing and emotional issue for many couples trying to start a family, especially if they’re having trouble conceiving. While going through the decision process, it’s especially important to understand all the different options available. Everyone immediately thinks of IVF (in vitro fertilization), which is a familiar term when it comes to fertility options. And it works well, with millions of babies born. But it’s also expensive, invasive and not right for everyone. But did you know about IVM (in vitro maturation)?

The procedure, which has seen strong result globally and has gained ground in the US, is a good choice for many women who want to take a more natural approach to treating infertility, or who medically can’t handle the intense hormone injections required for IVF.

So which one is right for you? Here are a few of the key differences between the two methods to help as you start your research.

IVF (in vitro fertilization)

How It Works: IVF artificially stimulates a women’s ovulatory process, using hormonal injections to create mature follicles and eggs. Once matured, the eggs are then harvested and fertilized in a petri dish in the lab. These embryos are then implanted back into the body to impregnate the woman.

Why It’s Popular: IVF has good success rates and a proven history. It has been around since 1977 with more than 5 million babies born worldwide.

Why It’s Not: IVF can be pricey, and is not always fully covered by insurance. It can also wreak havoc on your body, requiring a lot of hormone injections, blood tests, and ultrasounds.

Medication Needed: An average of 2-3 injections per day, for a total of 8-12 days.

Doctor Visits Required:

6-10 Ultrasounds

6-10 Blood Tests

Average Costs: $11,400-$15,400 ($8,900 fee plus $2,500-$6,500 medication costs)

Average Success Rates: Success is age-based but can be as high as 46% (according to 2011 SART Data).

IVM (in vitro maturation)

How It Works: Eggs are retrieved from the women’s body before they mature, and are instead matured in a lab setting. Once matured outside the body, they are fertilized then implanted.

Why It’s Popular: Because eggs are not matured inside the body, IVM requires little to no hormone injections. This makes it especially ideal for women who lack ovulation, or have a hormone-sensitive illness such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). As a result, it also requires fewer doctor visits, and has a lower price point overall.

Why It’s Not: IVM is a newer and more complex procedure, so there are fewer doctors in the U.S. today who have the extensive training required to do it successfully. Approximately 5,000 babies have been born worldwide via IVM.

Medication Needed: Little to none.

Doctor Visits Required:

4 Ultrasounds

0-2 Blood Tests

Average Costs: $6,600-7,500 ($6,500 fee plus $100-$1,000 medication costs)

Average Success Rates: 35-40% (higher success rates in women under 35)

When going through the decision process, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Ultimately, the choice of which method is right for you should be made together with your doctor. I recommend both IVF and IVM as solutions to infertility, and there are still other options to consider as well, such as IUI (intrauterine insemination), minimal stimulation IVF, natural cycle IVF, egg freezing, and egg and sperm donors. Do your research, talk to your doctor, and find the solution that’s best for your needs.

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