The clinical significance of the retrieval of a low number of oocytes following mild ovarian stimulation for IVF: A meta-analysis
Background: Milder ovarian stimulation protocols for in vitro fertilization (IVF) are being developed to minimize adverse effects. Mild stimulation regimens result in a decreased number of oocytes at retrieval. After conventional ovarian stimulation for IVF, a low number of oocytes are believed to represent poor ovarian reserve resulting in reduced success rates. Recent studies suggest that a similar response following mild stimulation is associated with better outcomes. Methods: This review investigates whether the retrieval of a low number of oocytes following mild ovarian stimulation is associated with impaired implantation rates. Three randomized controlled trials comparing the efficacy of the mild ovarian stimulation regimen (involving midfollicular phase initiation of FSH and GnRH co-treatment) for IVF with a conventional long GnRH agonist co-treatment stimulation protocol could be identified by means of a systematic literature search. Results: These studies comprised a total of 592 first treatment cycles.Individual patient data analysis showed that the mild stimulation protocol results in a significant reduction of retrieved oocytes compared with conventional ovarian stimulation (median 6 versus 9, respectively, P < 0.001). Optimal embryo implantation rates were observed with 5 oocytes retrieved following mild stimulation (31%) versus 10 oocytes following conventional stimulation (29%) (P = 0.045). Conclusions: The optimal number of retrieved oocytes depends on the ovarian stimulation regimen. After mild ovarian stimulation, a modest number of oocytes is associated with optimal implantation rates and does not reflect a poor ovarian response. Therefore, the fear of reducing the number of oocytes retrieved following mild ovarian stimulation appears to be unjustified.