During this webinar, Dr Roksolana Semchyshyn, PhD, the Head of the IVF department, IVF specialist, and ultrasound diagnostics at Medicover Fertility Ukraine, shared insights on optimizing the thickness and quality of the endometrium and discussed techniques to diagnose and address any potential issues as well as provided practical guidance on identifying the optimal time for embryo transfer, based on individual factors and treatment protocols.
The Role of Endometrium in your success
The endometrium plays a vital part in the success of your attempts, and there is an ongoing debate about who the main player is – the embryo or the endometrium.
Endometrial competence, meaning the ability of the endometrium to successfully implant the embryo, is influenced by various factors. These factors include hormonal influences and our immune system. Understanding these factors is crucial in enhancing the chances of successful implantation. The implantation process involves a complex interaction between the endometrium and the embryo. While we may not see what is going on inside, we recognize the importance of the embryo coordinating with the endometrium for successful implantation.
There is a very hard cooperation between the endometrium and embryo, and sometimes we can’t see what is going on inside, but we understand that the embryo needs to just coordinate with endometrium and has to implant inside.
When considering successful implantation, we must evaluate the endometrium’s structure, thickness, and competence. Ultrasound scanning, especially 3D ultrasound scanning, is the most valuable diagnostic method for this purpose. It provides a comprehensive picture of the endometrium and uterus, aiding in the assessment of their condition.
Importance of Endometrial Thickness
The thickness of the endometrium is a critical factor. It should be between 8 and 14 millimetres, with variations depending on the type of cycle (cryo cycle or medical preparation). Thick or thin endometrium can impact the chances of successful implantation.
Abnormalities such as uterine malformations (e.g., corner sutras, septal uterus) and disorders like polyps can influence endometrial competence and implantation. Screening for and addressing these issues is vital to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Hysteroscopy is an essential tool for evaluating the structure of the endometrium. Office hysteroscopy, performed without general anaesthesia, is a quick and effective procedure. It allows us to diagnose and treat small polyps. Larger polyps and submucosal myomas may require general anaesthesia for surgical removal.
Hysteroscopy is beneficial in cases of negative IVF attempts or when there are indications of abnormalities detected during ultrasound scanning. It can significantly improve success rates within three months after the procedure.
Understanding the role of the endometrium and its impact on successful implantation is crucial for our fertility treatments. By evaluating and addressing factors such as endometrial thickness and abnormalities, we can enhance our chances of achieving successful pregnancies through IVF.
Importance of the Window of Implantation
The window of implantation refers to the time frame when the endometrium is most receptive to blastocyst implantation during a natural cycle. In a cycle lasting up to 28 days, the window of implantation typically occurs between days 6 to 8 after ovulation, with a duration of 48 hours. Sometimes, this window may be disrupted or altered in certain patients.
There are two methods of evaluating the window of implantation: the ERA (Endometrial Receptivity Array) test and electron microscopy. The ERA test assesses gene expression in the endometrium to determine its receptivity to implantation after starting progesterone. On the other hand, electron microscopy evaluation involves endometrial aspiration at specific intervals during progesterone preparation to detect bodies, which play a role in implantation.
It is recommended after two negative IVF attempts with good-quality embryos to investigate if the endometrium receptivity is affecting the success rate. However, the effectiveness of these tests is still a subject of investigation, and not all experts widely recommend them due to varying results and uncertainty about reproducibility.
Role of immune system and thyroid gland in receptivity
The presentation highlights the potential impact of the immune system and thyroid gland on endometrial receptivity. Factors such as higher NK cell activity, HLA compatibility, and the presence of antibodies may affect implantation. While some recommendations support addressing these factors, the overall influence on IVF success is not strongly established.
There are three methods of preparation: the long protocol, modified cycles with estrogens only, and natural cycles. The long protocol is considered the gold standard and involves blocking internal hormones, followed by estrogen and progesterone administration. Ultrasound monitoring is essential during preparation. The choice of protocol depends on medical conditions and individual patient factors. There are three main protocols: the long protocol, modified protocols with estrogens only, and the natural cycle.
Pros and Cons of the Long Protocol
The long protocol is considered the gold standard and is used for patients with endometriosis or irregular cycles. Doctors find it easier to control and plan embryo transfer with this protocol. However, it may lead to complications during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, and could result in bigger babies after birth.
The modified protocol, which uses only estrogens, is employed for patients with thin endometrium or irregular cycles. It allows for follicular growth as the ovaries are not suppressed by agonists. Hormonal and ultrasound monitoring is crucial during this protocol.
The natural cycle protocol is considered patient-friendly as it does not involve additional medications. Patients may use hCG triggering for ovulation. However, the main challenge is that the exact day of ovulation cannot be predicted, leading to potential scheduling issues for embryo transfer.
The protocol depends on the patient’s medical conditions and specific needs. For instance, using the long protocol for patients with thin endometrium may not yield desired results. Patient adherence to medication and timing is essential for successful outcomes. Following the prescribed dosages and scheduling ultrasound scans diligently is crucial. Photos of the endometrium are helpful for doctors to assess its thickness and structure accurately.
Dr Semchyshyn emphasized that believing in successful outcomes is also considered a key factor. Patients are encouraged to have faith in the process. For those who struggle with this belief, psychological support from a psychologist is recommended.
In conclusion, the presentation emphasizes the importance of choosing the appropriate endometrial preparation protocol based on individual patient factors. Patient adherence to medications and follow-up is critical for achieving successful results. Moreover, having a positive outlook and belief in the success of the treatment can contribute significantly to the overall outcome.