Couples desperate to conceive will soon be offered an “exciting” alternative to IVF.
Every year, thousands of women undergo fertility treatments in hopes of having a baby.
IVF is the preferred method, although a cycle costs up to £5,000 privately.
But experts say that training in vitro maturation, or CAPA-IVM, is cheaper and theoretically safer because it involves giving women fewer hormones.
Currently, only six hospitals worldwide offer this treatment, which is still in its early stages and so little understood.
With traditional IVM, eggs outside the human body mature quickly, even if they are not ready to do so yet. CAPA-IVM stops the process for 24 hours, allowing it to grow more slowly. An Australian researcher involved in Bonnie’s birth said this meant the eggs were maturing “more healthily”.
Last week, Leanna Loutas, along with her partner Theo, welcomed their daughter Bonnie Mable, the first baby in Australia conceived through CAPA-IVM. After two years of struggling to get pregnant, including a round of IVF, the couple were offered the procedure. In the photo, Leanna, Theo and Bonnie.
However, fertility scientists believe it will become more available in the coming years.
Last week, an Australian couple welcomed the first baby conceived through this procedure.
Leanna Loutas, who gave birth to her daughter Bonnie Mable with her partner Theo using CAPA-IVM, said she felt “hugely privileged and grateful to have had the opportunity.”
The couple tried to get pregnant for two years, and even underwent a round of IVF, before being offered the pioneering procedure..
Leanna said: “Hopefully we will be the first of many to come and when other people hear about our story they will cheer up.”
With traditional IVF, women receive daily injections of hormones (a process that lasts up to two weeks) to help their eggs mature before being harvested.
But IVM, a decades-old technique, allows eggs to be retrieved early, before they mature, and progressed artificially in the laboratory.
Instead, women only need “two doses” to prepare their ovaries to produce more eggs, just like with traditional IVF.
In theory, this reduces the chance of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
The condition can cause the ovaries to expand dangerously and, in severe cases, leave victims struggling to breathe with blood clots in the lungs. However, most only see mild effects.
Some researchers playing with the IVM concept say it completely eliminates risk.
However, regulators say the complication can occur due to injections taken to increase egg production in the first place. This results in too many being produced, causing the ovaries to become enlarged and painful.
IVM is also cheaper because fewer fertility drugs are needed. Clinics offering IVF charge in the region up to £2,000 for them.
But, with traditional IVM, eggs outside the human body mature quickly, even if they are not quite ready to do so.
CAPA-IVM stops the process for 24 hours, allowing it to grow more slowly. An Australian researcher involved in Bonnie’s birth said this meant her eggs were maturing “more healthily”.
Professor Ying Cheong, a specialist in reproductive medicine at the University of Southampton, told MailOnline: ‘CAPA-IVM is an exciting new fertility treatment.
“Early studies have shown good success, although the overall live birth rate remains lower than with traditional IVF treatment.”
He added: “The long-term safety of CAPA-IVM, since it requires the use of various components in the culture media to stop and start the maturation of eggs, is still unknown for mothers and babies.
“Further studies would be needed to determine its safety before widespread use.”
Meanwhile, Professor Daniel Brison, clinical embryologist at the University of Manchester, said: ‘CAPA IVM is an exciting and welcome new development in IVF treatment.
‘Like all forms of IVF, where oocytes and embryos are kept in the laboratory outside the body, the artificial environment can also present risks.
‘Many years of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this. “Countless hours of research over two decades, so this is a very proud moment,” said Professor Robert Gilchrist, who led the CAPA-IVM research alongside scientists in Brussels and Ho Chi Minh City. photo, Professor Gilchrist with Leanna, Theo and Bonnie.
“To validate this treatment it is important to consider the risks versus the benefits.”
He called for trials to be carried out to evaluate how children born with this technique fare.
To date, approximately 150 children have been born worldwide using CAPA-IVM.
Assessments of mothers and babies suggest it poses no additional dangers, according to the Fertility and Research Center at the Royal Sydney Women’s Hospital, where Bonnie was born last week.
Researchers also claim that pregnancy rates per cycle using the procedure are higher.
However, the clinics themselves recognize that IVM, despite being safer and cheaper, is only half as successful.
Professor Robert Gilchrist, of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, who helped develop the CAPA-IVM treatment, said of Bonnie’s birth: ‘Many years of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this.
‘Countless hours of research over two decades, so this is a moment of great pride.
“Being able to take a discovery from the lab to the clinic and make a real difference for Leanna in her fertility journey and for other women who will follow is very special.”
In February, India also welcomed its first CAPA-IVM baby at Oasis Fertility’s The Warangal center in the south of the country.
The HFEA, the UK’s independent regulator for fertility treatments, currently warns against IVM altogether because it is a “new technique”.
Rachel Cutting, from the HFEA, told MailOnline: ‘Licensed clinics in the UK are authorized to perform IVM.
‘However, because IVM is a new technique, very few births have occurred thanks to IVM compared to other types of IVF treatment.
“This means we can’t be 100 percent sure of its safety until there are more healthy births and researchers have been able to observe the development of children as they grow.”
Around 55,000 Britons went through the grueling IVF process in 2021, the latest figures from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show.
According to their data, success rates ranged from 41 percent for those under 35 to six percent for those over 44.
Under current official guidelines, women under 40 who are struggling to have a child should receive three cycles of fertility treatment on the NHS.
But in July MailOnline revealed that only three parts of the country meet this access criterion, developed 10 years ago.
Most health authorities, which are allowed to set their own access rules, offer only one IVF cycle.
Some deny it to women over 35 years of age. Others even refuse to pay for the procedure if they or their partner already have children.
HOW DOES IVF WORK?
In vitro fertilization, known as IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already fertilized egg inserted into her uterus to become pregnant.
It is used when couples cannot conceive naturally and a sperm and egg are removed from their bodies and combined in a laboratory before the embryo is inserted into the woman.
Once the embryo is in the uterus, the pregnancy should continue normally.
The procedure can be performed using eggs and sperm from a partner or donors.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that IVF be offered on the NHS to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for two years.
People can also pay for IVF privately, which costs an average of £3,348 for a single cycle, according to figures published in January 2018, and there is no guarantee of success.
The NHS says success rates for women under 35 are around 29 per cent, with the chances of a successful cycle reducing as they age.
It is believed that around eight million babies have been born thanks to IVF since the first case, British woman Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
Opportunities for success
The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of infertility (if known).
Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy.
IVF is generally not recommended for women over 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.
Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:
29 percent for women under 35 years old
23 percent for women ages 35 to 37
15 percent for women ages 38 to 39
9 percent for women ages 40 to 42
3 percent for women ages 43 to 44
2 percent for women over 44 years old