Unexplained infertility and IVF options. Diagnostics and treatment process

Explained by: Nadia Caroppo, Dr., Equipo Juana Crespo
Category:
From this video you will find out:
  • What are the different types of IVF failures?
  • What are the results of natural reproduction vs. egg donation?
  • What can be improved in the next treatment?
  • What are the main causes of IVF failure?
  • What is adenomyosis and how it affects IVF?

Is unexplained infertility really unexplained?

Have you been diagnosed with unexplained infertility? Watch this webinar where Dr. Nadia Caroppo, from Equipo Juana Crespo, discusses your IVF options.

Is unexplained infertility really unexplained? - Questions and Answers

How often is adenomyosis or endometriosis the cause of infertility?

How often? That’s a tough question because, in our clinic, 95% of our patients have endometriosis/adenomyosis. The fact is that the younger you are, the less it will affect you if you have endometriosis. If you get pregnant in your mid-20s or early 30s, you may get pregnant by yourself. Maybe the difference between us, our generation is that even if we have endometriosis or adenomyosis, and our mothers or grandmothers got pregnant being very young, and maybe they had endometriosis or adenomyosis. The younger you are when you get pregnant, the better the prognosis. In our clinic, we have a 90-95% incidence of endometriosis and adenomyosis, which’s a cause. When you don’t have any cause, that accounts for 30% of all patients with unexplained sterility, in general.

To which degree do adenomyosis or endometriosis lower my chances of a successful IVF?

As I told you before, it depends on a bunch of things. It depends on how that endometriosis has affected your ovaries. If we see that the ovaries do not have a good follicle count or that the follicles do not have a good regular shape, if we see that the ovaries are very fibrotic – that may account for lower quality eggs and embryos and lower quantity of eggs, too. So that can account for a lower percentage in IVF success. As I told you before, it’s not only the problem of an embryo. It’s a whole problem that has to be evaluated, so if you’re not correctly treated, the chances will get lower and lower. It also depends on age. So there’s not a perfect percentage just to tell you. It depends on a lot of factors, but, yes, it can um diminish your chances to get pregnant.

What vitamins should I take to reduce endometriosis, and for how long should I take them before my round of IVF?

This is a good question. We usually give Coenzyme Q10 600 milligrams per day, Myo-inositol – 4 milligrams per day. We also gave some preparations accounting for multi-vitamin preparations, Omega-3, DHEA. Furthermore, we advise lowering the intake of gluten and lactose for at least four to six weeks before you undergo an IVF. It’s not to reduce endometriosis. It’s to reduce inflammation. Usually, we also give probiotics, and we are finding out that curcumin is also a good anti-inflammatory compound that can increase the quality if I have endometriosis.

What are the main reasons for a missed heartbeat with successful implantation? I recently lost a pregnancy at eight weeks. There was no cardiac activity. I had Asherman’s syndrome and was successfully treated for it in 2019.

First, if you have Asherman’s syndrome, we have to understand that Asherman’s syndrome was provoked because of other miscarriages, D&C, other surgical procedures. If that Asherman’s syndrome is provoked because of adenomyosis, that’s very difficult for us to treat. When embryos implant, there are two waves of implantation. The first wave of implantation is when the embryo attaches to the endometrial lining and starts scratching in. That’s around four to five weeks, and the second wave of implantation is around the sixth to seventh week of pregnancy, and that accounts for the scratching into the uterine muscle. If you have the heartbeat of an embryo stops beating around those weeks, we have to know, first, if it is a normal or an abnormal embryo. Because if you’re miscarrying a normal embryo, probably the reason is because of bad uterine functionality. Maybe the treatment that you received in the past is not sufficient just to have a successful pregnancy. A hard wall. You have to understand that if an embryo finds itself with a concrete wall beneath it, the scratching process can be altered, and the heartbeat can stop. It may also account for other factors, not only adenomyosis. Sometimes thrombophilia has to be ruled out when that happens several times. But you have Asherman’s syndrome – maybe the uterine functionality is not the best one. 

What can I take before my next transfer to promote optimal uterine lining?

We usually prepare the endometrial lining in natural cycles or substitute cycles, and we usually give oral probiotics just to make sure that the normal microbiome, the normal flora of the uterus, is obtained. We give oral probiotics generally, and you can also have vaginal probiotics. Regarding vitamins, we sometimes use vitamins A and E, but we stop them once we have a positive pregnancy test. It depends on whether the endometrium lining is correctly growing, the thickness – it depends on a lot of things. There’s not one thing we do usually give. We always give probiotics to our patients and vitamins, too. 

Have you heard of Coenzyme Q100 or CoQ30 supplements to improve egg quality?

Thank you for your question. There are a lot of compounds. Studies show that generally, with 600 milligrams, you can improve egg quality. Coenzyme Q10 acts on the mitochondria, which are the engine of the oocyte. You will find preparations in different milligrams, in different dosages. It doesn’t matter if you have six tablets of coenzyme Q100 or Q30, you just need to arrive at 600 milligrams. There are more pure forms of coenzyme Q10. The one that you will get will be the best. The dosage recommended is around 600 milligrams.

What about PCOS and the impact on unexplained infertility?

Good question. PCOS patients tend to have lots of estrogens because they have lots of follicles, and each follicle accounts for an increase in estrogen levels. Sometimes we see lots of patients who have polycystic ovaries, and they have painful periods, and that may account for adenomyosis and bad uterine functionality. But that has to be something that we have to investigate because not all PCOS patients have adenomyosis. We see it a lot in patients who have had surgical procedures before, undergoing IFVs, miscarriages, etc., and also who have painful periods. If you have both, you just remember that adenomyosis and endometriosis are estrogen-dependent diseases. If you have very high levels of estrogens that may, in the long run, undermine uterine functionality. Yes, PCOS may be related to an increased rate of adenomyosis if other things coexist, such as painful periods, etc. 

Is there any benefit of endometrial scratching before IVF?

This is a very controversial topic in assisted reproductive technologies because the results are not conclusive and do not show clear benefits when you perform endometrial scratching. There are a lot of papers that do not show any benefits and other papers that tell that there is a 20% increase in the implantation rate if you do endometrial scratching. Personally, and in the clinic, we do not do endometrial scratching. We do not believe that it improves the implantation rate.

What are your thoughts on endometrial scratching? Some doctors claim that this inflammation helps implantation.

It’s just the question that I’ve already answered. We do believe that inflammation can help implantation, but we do it in another way. We generally do it with hysteroscopy. We work with subendometrium differently. Furthermore, we create inflammation just to make sure that we have new vascularization and new cells arrive at the subendometrium. Superficial endometrial scratching – we have not seen any improvement doing that in the consultation room. We create inflammation when hysteroscopy is needed to restore uterine functionality.

How about EmbryoGlue?

We don’t use it. Some clinics use it. Embryo glue is just a more sticky medium just to make sure that it sticks to the endometrial lining, but that will not account 100% for implantation. There has to be a correct endometrial lining. The embryo has to understand itself within the material lining, and it has to be able to scratch into the subendometrium. So embryo glue may help, yes, but if the crib is not in a super shape, embryo glue will account for nothing.

Can you spell the name of the probiotics you recommend?

In Spain, they are called Dona Plus Flora Intima, and we give that one per day, orally.

I had an ectopic pregnancy 12 months ago with both embryos in the right fallopian tube, and since then, I have experienced right-sided pelvic pain. I don’t seem to have other symptoms, is it likely this could be caused by endometriosis? Would you suggest I explore this, and if yes, in which way?

Ectopic pregnancies and biochemical pregnancies can have the same or two origins. Maybe the embryo just went to the fallopian tube that had more inflammation, maybe because that fallopian tube did not work correctly or was ill from the first time. Or ectopic pregnancies and biochemical pregnancies may account for some embryos who escape from the uterus because the uterus is not correct. The first thing I can recommend you is if you did not have a right salpingectomy is to do a hysterosalpingogram; that it’s a radiograph of the fallopian tubes with injecting a contrast inside just to make sure that the fallopian tube has a normal caliber, it’s permeable and that it’s functioning correctly. If you have had a laparoscopy and your fallopian tube has been removed, probably if endometriosis has been seen, they should have told you something. If not, I would suggest investigating your uterus a little bit more, your uterine functionality. As I told you, the gold standard for endometriosis diagnosis is a laparoscopy; for adenomyosis, you can have a 2D ultrasound, pelvic MRI, and the correct assessment of an expert who can help you with that.

Which vitamins with folate, not folic acid should my surrogate take? Likewise, which probiotics? Vitamin D? Doses of each? What about organic flaxseed oils during pregnancy? Should she stay away from fish oils?

Fish oils are given in pregnancy. Folate – there are a lot of compounds. There’s an active compound of the folic acid or folate called a metaphor that is the already metabolized folic acid that does not saturate the receptors of folate – so that’s an option. Nearly all pregnancy vitamins have folates. The dosage we recommend is 4 milligrams of that. Probiotics – there are a lot of probiotics: Lactobacillus are very important, so you have lots of lactobacilli, osmosis, there are a lot of them. Depending on where you live, sometimes you can find that in one preparation. Vitamin D – if you have correct levels of vitamin D, that being 30 micrograms, above 30 micrograms, you do not have to have another intake. It depends on if you have a very severe deficit or just a medium deficit of vitamin D, we give different dosages of vitamin D. It depends. There are a lot of schemes that your doctors will just manage regularly. Organic flaxseed oils – I don’t know if you have to get them in pregnancies because we don’t use them. We are not keen on using that.

I didn’t have the tubes removed. I had HyCoSy and the die did come out via both tubes but was not visible in the right tube?

First, HyCoSy is just injecting water and seeing with an ultrasound if the water is drained from the tubes. It’s different from a hysterosalpingogram. It’s different. A HyCoSy does not permit you to see whether the tubes are dilated or not. If the liquid was not visible in the right tube, maybe you have a blockage of that right tube, and maybe that right tube is ill. Maybe, it should be removed. My advice is for you to do a hysterosalpingogram even if you did the HyCoSy – one of the things does not account for it. They are not the same type of tests.

I’ve had five donor cycles, one implementation but miscarriage at 6 weeks. I’ve had an ERA map, a period blood test for bacteria, a course of antibiotics, EMMA and ALICE tests test, and an ERA mapping receptivity test. Presumed immune issues. I’ve had two cycles on prednisolone, aspirin, clexane, tacrolimus, granulocyte, intralipids. Do you recommend any other treatment or tests? I also had KIR, and the endometrial thickness is around 8 mm in all transfers.

You have a very strong story on your back. I think if you have failed with five donor cycles, and you had a miscarriage at six weeks, even if you have the ER map all the other things done, there’s something else that is wrong. I believe that you have to search for some help just to study your uterus from another point of view. Because, eventually, your endometrial lining is perfect because of the thickness, your ERA map is receptive, the EMMA and ALICE tests are good. You had immunological issues that were treated regardless of the KIR, the intralipids, you got lots of things. I think that you have to be assessed from another point of view. If you never got hysterosalpingography, just go ahead and do it. If you have the chance to do the pelvic MRI during your post-ovulatory phase, just do it because it’s very important to know if you have something else going on if your uterus is that receptive or not. I think that we are talking about a hard uterus here, we are talking here probably about adenomyosis.

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of PRP therapy to improve endometrium lining?

Now there are a lot of studies going on with PRP. There are no conclusive recommendations. What it means is just taking the growth factors that are produced by the plasma rich platelets. There are several ways of using that; just making an infusion inside the uterus or injecting it in the uterus. But we do not know the implications yet. We have done some studies ourselves. We have used it, and in some patients, it has worked, and in some other patients, it has not worked. Furthermore, we don’t know what the indications are to do it or not. There are some studies also going on to try to rejuvenate the ovaries with PRP and make them more functional, but the results are not conclusive. I cannot tell you about the advantages and disadvantages. It’s not a very difficult process to do: it’s just having your blood sample, processed and just infused back at a certain time during your preparation. It may or may not help, so I cannot enlighten you with a correct answer for that because it’s all understudy right now.

How long should one use Prednisolone before and after IVF?

It depends on the timing. We usually, give it if needed during the endometrial preparation, just when we start the endometrial preparation. If we have a positive pregnancy test, we continue it until we see a heartbeat, and then we just start lowering the doses of Prednisone. So if you start taking it just when you are under preparation, it would be OK. We generally use 15 milligrams of Prednisone per day when we start doing the endometrial preparation.

What happens in the uterus if the progesterone does not increase after transfer? What is a good value of progesterone after the embryo transfer?

Prednisone levels should be above 10 picograms – that’s the rule. Under that value, we see difficulties in getting pregnant. Some women get pregnant .with lower levels, but that’s not the rule. If you do not get a good impregnation with progesterone, you are not collaborating with the changes that the endometrial lining has to have to help the embryos attach and eventually implant. It’s good if you have to test for progesterone, just test it 1-2 days before the embryo transfer just to make sure that the levels are above 10. 

In what way can we improve the endometrium lining when it is too thin?

It’s difficult. We call it a refractory uterus – they are difficult to treat. Sometimes we give vitamin E, 400 units per day. We can give Viagra, also just to make sure that you have correct blood reception in the sub endometrium. We use pentoxifylline 600 milligrams every 12 hours. Not only that, but we also look inside the cavity to rule out that there is no Asherman syndrome and see even if you have a very thin endometrial lining. If the quality of that endometrial lining is good. Some women get pregnant even with five millimeters of endometrial lining if the endometrial lining is good. It’s very difficult. Sometimes we have to also do a hysteroscopy, not only to see the endometrial lining but to work on the subendometrium just to create inflammation, new vascularization and make sure that the endometrium starts working again. It’s very. It depends on what you have done before just to know where we have to go afterwards.

How long should one take Prednisone after the transfer, and is there better progesterone?

After transfer, if we have a positive pregnancy test, we continue with the prednisone until week six or seven. After that, we diminish doses weekly. Progesterone – we tend to use vaginal pessaries of micronized progesterone, the natural progesterone, and we use intramuscular progesterone or subcutaneous progesterone to associate it with vaginal pessaries whether you are on a natural cycle, we use 400 milligrams per day pessaries, if you are in a substitute cycle with estrogen, we use 800 milligrams pessaries per day plus injected progesterone that being daily subcutaneous injections or intramuscular injections on alternate days.

I have read a study that PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) supplement works similarly to Coenzyme Q10. I’m interested to know if you recommend it.

If it’s similar, I didn’t know about that because we managed very well with Coenzyme Q10. If the results are the same, yes, go on to take it. There’s no point in not taking it. You can use it, but studies are recommending Coenzyme Q10, 600 milligrams dosage up to now.

Coenzyme Q10 is 600 before retrieval or transfer?

Before retrieval.

I have unexplained infertility. We’ve had one failed IVF attempt transferring, two grade 5AA embryos. We have some frozen embryos. Our clinic is recommending a frozen transfer, but they won’t do any additional testing or suggest a different process. What do you think we should try?

I would study you a little more. Usually, what we do is we see patients prepared for the failure, for example, if they prepared you in a substitute cycle which is preparing you the same way as you were transferred, just to understand how the uterus was working on that day and understanding if we have to do anything else. I would recommend studying your uterus and tubes a little better and see if there are other causes, maybe endometritis or some other factors that are altering those results and giving you a negative result with very good embryos. If you get together in the biology lab and nothing is happening in your uterus, I have to think that something is happening in your in vivo lab, that it’s your uterus and your fallopian tubes. Uterus meaning endometrial lining and uterus itself and the fallopian tubes, so I suggest investigating a little more. 

Can we get a personal online consultation?

Yes, of course. You can contact us here. We can give you all the information you need. We do online Skype consultations, we can give you some feedback on your case. You can contact us, and we will give you everything you need and offer an appointment. 

Authors
Nadia Caroppo, Dr.

Nadia Caroppo, Dr.

Dr. Nadia Caroppo is a gynecologist and the Head of the International Medical Team at Equipo Juana Crespo, an IVF clinic from Valencia, Spain. Dr. Caroppo has 8 years of experience and speaks Spanish, English, Italian, and French.
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Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is an International Patient Coordinator who has been supporting IVF patients for over 2 years. Always eager to help and provide comprehensive information based on her thorough knowledge and experience whether you are just starting or are in the middle of your IVF journey. She’s a customer care specialist with +10 years of experience, worked also in the tourism industry and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. When she’s not taking care of her customers and patients, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things or spending time outdoors.

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