This week saw the news that the world's first baby had been born following the use of a naturally occurring hormone called kisspeptin. This hormone helps to induce egg development allowing women to avoid using the traditional IVF drugs. Having become an advocate for 'softer' and more natural approaches to IVF through my medical practice, scientific research and experience of talking with patients, I believe that developments, such as this, should be welcomed for two reasons.
My first point is that this new scientific development appears to reduce the need to use traditional IVF drugs, which can trigger Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) amongst some women. OHSS is a serious medical condition caused by excessive stimulation of the ovaries which particularly affects women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If this new drug is effective in avoiding OHSS without affecting success it could be of tremendous benefit to women seeking fertility treatment.
As mentioned in the Huffington Post's 'A More Natural Version of IVF Proves a Success', there is a move to 'make IVF even safer'. This has been my personal goal for many years and I have gathered together a team of international scientists and doctors who are also committed to this ethical cause. I believe that fertility treatment and especially IVF techniques should prioritise the health and welfare of the mother as well as the baby. Earlier this year I published a paper, with my Scientific Director RC Chian titled 'ISMAAR: Leading the global agenda for a more physiological, patient-centred, accessible and safer approaches in ART'. In the paper, we set out the evidence that shows that OHSS seldom occurs with Mild IVF, an existing approach that uses less of the drugs associated with traditional IVF and which we have demonstrated is equally successful. So although kisspeptin may be a step forward there are already a number of different IVF options available to women at this moment which can be used to avoid this serious complication.
This brings me on to my second point. I believe that having information about the different fertility treatments available is crucial and that new developments - such as the news this week - will help to get people talking, and thinking, about the different options that may be available to them. As outlined in a previous blog, I think we should do more to raise awareness of more natural approaches to IVF and how women can best take care of their health and welfare on their journey towards creating a family.
This week's news could be a potentially exciting development, adding to the options available to women. However this is a new treatment and any potential side-effects and risks will, of course, need to be investigated in detail. There are currently other ways of avoiding OHSS such as drug free in vitro maturation (IVM) or Mild IVF with GnRH agonist as an ovulation trigger. Using these methods it is possible to avoid OHSS altogether. It is important for women who are contemplating fertility treatment to realise this and that the misery associated with ovarian downregulation (which causes menopausal symptoms) and high stimulation (which causes nausea and bloatedness) is avoidable.
A lot of women presently undergoing IVF treatment are not infertile so it must be especially frustrating for them to endure these symptoms when it is not necessary. This group consists of women who have a partner with sperm problems, those who are single or in same sex relationship and also those who want to freeze their eggs for future treatment. With advances in the last decade, we can offer safe and successful treatment to all women. Why should women be made to suffer health risks by treatments considered, by some, to be expensive, out of date and unphysiological?
Professor Dr. Geeta Nargund is a global pioneer of Natural and Mild IVF and Advanced Ultrasound Technology in Reproductive Medicine and the Medical Director of Create Health.