A new form of IVF could revolutionise fertility treatment by cutting down on the need for high doses of potentially harmful hormones. Instead of stimulating the ovaries to super-produce eggs, in vitro maturation involves harvesting immature eggs and growing them in a Petri dish. The procedure has led to 400 births in Denmark and has won the backing of Dr Robert Edwards, who produced the world’s first test-tube baby. Danish scientists say that for some women its success rate is higher than that of normal conception.
In the early days of IVF, fewer drugs were used. Today’s higher doses can produce more eggs and shorter treatment times, but at a cost. About 5% of women experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be quite uncomfortable, and in a handful cases has killed them. The other benefit of IVM is a reduction in the bill for fertility drugs. In Denmark, the cost has fallen from ?1,400 to 140 per cycle, says Professor Svend Lindenberg, of the Nordic Fertility Centre in Copenhagen.
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