Adequate growth hormone levels are critical for good ovarian follicle development, and growth hormone levels are known to decline significantly with age. Studies show that adjuvant growth hormone treatment during IVF can help older women to beat the odds and have a higher take home baby rate - even when their ovarian reserve is poor and previous cycles have failed - by restoring youthful hormone hormone production within follicles. Some studies show that younger women who are poor responders reap the benefits also.
The results are quite amazing. In one study (1) one hundred women, 40 years of age or older - all of poor prognosis - were studied as they pursued IVF, half received growth hormone with their ovarian hyper-stimulation medications, half did not.
The numbers of eggs, embryos and pregnancies were similar in both groups but the growth hormone-treated women had far fewer miscarriages and a higher take-home-baby rate. Women being co-treated with growth hormone had far less biochemical pregnancies, and a pregnancy rate of 26% compared to 6% in untreated cycles. The delivery rate was significantly improved also, 22% of cycles versus 4% in the untreated group.
During the stimulation phase of the IVF, treated women had higher estradiol and growth hormone levels within the ovarian follicles thought to lead to healthier eggs and higher embryo quality. The researchers of this study (1) concluded that:
“Administration of GH (growth hormone) during ovarian stimulation alleviates age-related decrease in assisted reproduction treatment efficiency. This effect appears to be mainly due to an improvement of oocyte developmental potential, but GH action on the uterus cannot be excluded...”
“In conclusion, this prospective randomized study shows that women aged >40 years undergoing assisted reproduction treatment and co-stimulated with GH achieve more ongoing pregnancies and suffer less pregnancy wastage, resulting in more deliveries and live births, as compared with women of the same age category stimulated with gonadotrophins alone.”
Previously in a study (2) on 20 women who had responded poorly to ovarian hyper-stimulation, 24 IU (intramuscular injection) of growth hormone was given on alternate days alongside gonadotrophin stimulation. The researchers concluded that:
“...in a subgroup of patients who respond sub-optimally to standard ovarian stimulation regimens for IVF-ET and who have ultrasound-diagnosed polycystic ovaries, systemic growth hormone is an effective adjunctive therapy.”
In another study (3) on growth hormone supplemented IVF cycles in poor responders, 159 women were studied as they pursued a total of 488 IVF treatment cycles between 2002 and 2006, comprising 221 cycles with growth hormone and 241 without. Growth hormone co-treatment was shown to increase pregnancy rates in fresh and frozen cycles in all age groups - especially younger age groups - the researchers concluded that:
“GH cycles resulted in significantly more babies delivered per transfer than non-GH cycles... (20% versus 7%). The data uniquely show that the effect of GH is directed at oocyte and subsequent embryo quality.”
Previous studies have shown that the levels of hormones within ovarian follicles - especially growth hormone - are critical for the development of normal healthy embryos that are able to implant. Levels of growth hormone are tightly correlated to an oocyte’s ability to be of high quality, with a high potential for implantation. (Mendoza et al. 1999,2002)
A large study on 100 couples where the female partner was over 40 years also showed benefit. The women were split into two groups, to receive growth hormone treatment (8 IU of Saizen from day 7 until the day after the hCG trigger) alongside IVF or a placebo. The study concluded that:
“this prospective randomized study shows that women aged >40 years undergoing assisted reproduction treatment and co-stimulated with GH achieve more ongoing pregnancies and suffer less pregnancy wastage, resulting in more deliveries and live births, as compared with women of the same age category stimulated with gonadotrophins alone.”
Another similar study (4) on poor responders who received co-treatment with growth hormone with ovarian hyper-stimulation found that:
“...the GH cycles had better performance in terms of the number of oocytes fertilized and the pregnancy rate.”
Different studies have used varying amounts of growth hormone but many such studies concur that co-treatment with growth hormone can give you better odds of succeeding, especially if your prognosis is poor.
This article is purely for educational and informational purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment for which you should consult a physician.
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1. Improvement of delivery and live birth rates after ICSI in women aged >40 years by ovarian co-stimulation with growth hormone. Tesarik et al. Hum. Reprod. (September 2005) 20 (9): 2536-2541. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dei066 First published online: April 28, 2005
Human Reprod. (1991)6(47):526-528 Co-treatment with growth hormone of sub-optimal responders in IVF-ET. E.J.Owen et al.
Growth hormone supplementation improves implantation and pregnancy productivity rates for poor-prognosis patients undertaking IVF. Yovich JL and Stanger JD.Reprod Biomed Online 2010 Jul;21(1):37-39
The value of human growth hormone as an adjuvant for ovarian stimulation in a human in vitro fertilization program. JObstet Gynaecol Res. 1996 Oct;22(5):443-50. Wu et al.