New IVF treatment for needle haters

By Martin Johnston

Auckland fertility specialist Leigh Gray became pregnant with her daughter, Daisy, after treatment with the IVF drug Elonva. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland fertility specialist Leigh Gray became pregnant with her daughter, Daisy, after treatment with the IVF drug Elonva. Photo / Dean Purcell

Leigh Gray hates needles, so a new fertility treatment that reduced the number of injections immediately appealed to her.

She was also lucky to learn of the medicine well ahead of it becoming routinely available, because she happened to work for the company that makes it.

"When I saw [Auckland fertility specialist] Mary Birdsall I said if I'm the right candidate I would be very interested because I've got this real fear of needles.

"I was terrified about the whole process."

It turned out that the drug, Elonva, was suitable for her and she was treated with it.

IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) requires many injections, including follicle-stimulating hormones to increase the number of eggs growing in the ovaries.

Elonva is a sustained follicle stimulant given in a single injection. It can replace what is usually a seven-day course of one injection a day.

It was registered in New Zealand in March last year, but its maker, Merck Sharp & Dohme, is only now starting to promote its use here.

Ms Gray, 37, said she and her husband, Tim Jones, got tested before they started trying to have a baby, "because of my age".

"Rather than spend years trying first [we decided] let's get tested.

"It was about 12 months previous to starting IVF that we found out IVF was what we would have to do."

They paid privately for IVF treatment. The first embryo implantation didn't work, so they waited a month and had one of their frozen embryos - created from the initial treatment and frozen - thawed and implanted.

This time Mrs Gray became pregnant, resulting in the birth of Daisy, who is now 14 months old.

Dr Birdsall said there was caution about giving the new drug to women with polycystic ovary disease because of the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a potentially life-threatening complication of IVF hormone treatment.

However, techniques were emerging that could mitigate the risk.

"There are some innovations we can do to take away that risk," Dr Birdsall said.

"People hate the injections as part of IVF and this is a real step forward in terms of reducing the amount of burden associated with the treatment."

- NZ Herald

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