60-Second Science

Oral Contraceptives As Part of IVF

Using oral contraceptives before attempting IVF can allow women and their physicians to better know the timing of ovulation. Cynthia Graber reports.

Podcast Transcript: In vitro fertilization efforts can be helped by, oddly enough, oral contraceptives.  That’s the finding from Tel Aviv University, site of the largest study on using birth control to help IVF.
One of the challenges to IVF is timing. Current hormone treatments to stimulate ovulation have to coincide with a particular moment in the woman’s cycle. Not knowing the exact timing for scheduling the egg retrieval and fertilization can be stressful, which can lower the odds of success. In the Tel Aviv study, researchers looked at women who underwent a 12 to 17 day treatment of oral contraception. The women were checked to make sure there was absolutely no activity in their ovaries or uterus. Then they began stimulation hormones to start the clock. Women who went through this protocol had similar numbers of pregnancies to a control group that didn’t use birth control.  Which means that oral contraception didn’t harm their ability to conceive.

The researchers say that this treatment demands a slightly longer cycle and higher levels of ovulation-inducing hormones. But they also say it could allow couples to more accurately plan for procedures, which might be give couples more peace of mind.

—Cynthia Graber

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