Even though 6.5 million IVF-conceived babies have been born around the world, the first so-called “test-tube baby” was created in 1978 without injecting fertility drugs. Now, it’s standard for most women undergoing the IVF process to inject fertility drugs for ovarian stimulation over the course of 8-14 days. Evidently, this procedure is painful and inconvenient for women who are already burdened with the task of trying to get pregnant. To top it off, if an ultrasound determines that you have a sufficient number of large enough follicles (which release an egg from the ovary) and your estrogen level is up to par, you’ll receive a “trigger shot” of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) or other medication to cause an egg to release. Over 40 years, not much has changed about the invasiveness of this process—until now.
What Is Needle-Free IVF?
Led by founder and medical director Dr. John Zhang and Director of Research and Development, Dr. Zaher Merhi, New Hope Fertility Center is the first provider to offer Needle-Free IVF, which promises no shots or blood draws. This revolutionary procedure uses pills, nasal spray, and vaginal suppositories to gently stimulate egg production.
“The nasal trigger medication is called leuprolide; it is equivalent to an injectable version. This medication starts the ovulation process and prepares the patient for retrieval,” explains Dr. Lipkin MD, FACOG, Board Certified American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at New Hope. Aside from its less painful approach, it’s considered a more optimal procedure than traditional IVF for women over 35, who have less ovarian reserve. Additionally, women at risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can benefit because they naturally produce more eggs to begin with and the process has fewer side effects.
Fewer Eggs, Higher Quality
Studies show that minimal ovarian stimulation may result in fewer eggs retrieved, but they’ll be higher quality. However, as it’s a controversial topic, people also believe minimal stimulation decreases birth rates. Still, according to Dr. Zhang, both conventional and needle-free IVF have equally effective success rates. “Despite using less medication, producing fewer eggs and transferring a single embryo, the minimal stimulation protocol has success rates that rival that of traditional IVF treatment,” says the clinic’s website. Plus, it’s less expensive than conventional IVF.
Urine and Saliva Tests to Monitor Pregnancy Hormones
Instead of monitoring pregnancy hormone levels (follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, and progesterone) with blood work, New Hope doctors use urine and saliva tests, which they explain are equally effective.
Their revolutionary At-Home IVF approach to getting pregnant allows women to produce eggs at home through a kit delivered to their door. Women are able to pick up a kit at New Hope’s office, or they ship globally. The package includes all the necessary items and medications that are needed for an IVF cycle. The medications inside the kit include oral and vaginal medications, as well as a nasal spray to stimulate your ovaries for egg production. Beyond zero injections, women only need to come to the IVF center once, on the day of their egg retrieval. With a lower cost treatment and less time having to miss work for treatments, many users will find this option hassle-free compared to conventional IVF. With their innovative technology, New Hope is certainly pushing the needle in the right direction—one less needle at a time.
Although the concept may work well for some patients, it is not yet known if the outcomes of needle-free IVF compare favorably with those of traditional IVF as the two approaches have not been rigorously compared. It is also unknown which patients might benefit the most from this new treatment, nor is it known if pregnancy rates might be compromised in some women because of the expected lower egg yield.