This is a very new assisted conception technique which is only available in selected clinics.
It is very much like IVF. In IVF, mature eggs are collected from the ovary, usually after using drugs to artificially stimulate the ovaries. Many eggs can be collected in this way. Unfortunately, over stimulation of the ovaries can lead to a potentially serious condition known as Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).
In Vitro Maturation (IVM) is a method where eggs are harvested from the ovaries at a much earlier stage compared with standard IVF. The eggs are therefore immature.
IN VITRO MATURATION IN DETAIL
In Vitro Maturation uses relatively immature eggs collected at an earlier stage of their development from the ovaries. Generally speaking, fewer drugs to stimulate the ovaries are required and therefore the chances of developing ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome are reduced. It is also possible that no drugs at all are used in this process.
These immature eggs are incubated in the laboratory for 1-2 days so that the maturation process can be completed. The partner's or donor's sperm is then used to fertilise the eggs in the usual way. Embryos can then be transferred to the womb as with standard IVF.
Why use IVM?
IVM is an alternative to IVF and is useful if:
- the woman has polycystic ovaries and is therefore more susceptible to OHSS,
- the woman has previously had OHSS,
- the woman can not tolerate fertility drugs for other reasons,
- the cause for infertility is related to the male partner.
The main disadvantage of using IVM is that fewer eggs can generally be collected from a cycle of IVM compared with standard IVF. There is also a risk that not all the immature eggs collected will mature satisfactorily such that fertilisation can successfully take place.
IVM is a new technique and therefore the long term affects of this on the health of children being born using this technique are still unknown.