Human Reproduction: Luteal phase anovulatory follicles result in the production of competent oocytes: intra-patient paired case-control study comparing follicular versus luteal phase stimulations in the same ovarian cycle
Are the mean numbers of blastocysts obtained from sibling cohorts of oocytes recruited after follicular phase and luteal phase stimulations (FPS and LPS) in the same ovarian cycle similar?
The cohorts of oocytes obtained after LPS are larger than their paired-FPS-derived cohorts and show a comparable competence, thus resulting in a larger mean number of blastocysts.
Three theories of follicle recruitment have been postulated to date: (i) the ‘continuous recruitment’ theory, (ii) the ‘single recruitment episode’ theory and (iii) the ‘wave’ theory. Yet, a clear characterization of this crucial biological process for human reproduction is missing. Recent advances implemented in in vitro fertilization (IVF), such as blastocyst culture, aneuploidy testing and vitrification, have encouraged clinicians to maximize the exploitation of the ovarian reserve through tailored stimulation protocols, which is crucial especially for poor prognosis patients aiming to conceive after IVF. LPS has been already successfully adopted to treat poor prognosis or oncological patients through Duostim, LPS-only or random-start ovarian stimulation approaches. Nevertheless, little, and mainly retrospective, evidence has been produced to support the safety of LPS in general. Feasibility of the LPS approach would severely question the classic ‘single recruitment episode’ theory of follicular development.
This case-control study was conducted with paired follicular phase- and luteal phase-derived cohorts of oocytes collected after stimulations in the same ovarian cycle (DuoStim) at two private IVF clinics between October 2015 and December 2017.
The study included 188 poor prognosis patients undergoing DuoStim with preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidies (PGT-A). FPS and LPS were performed with the same daily dose of recombinant-gonadotrophins in an antagonist protocol. Blastocyst culture, trophectoderm biopsy, vitrification and frozen-warmed euploid single blastocyst transfers were performed. The primary outcome was the mean number of blastocysts obtained per oocyte retrieval from paired-FPS- and LPS-derived cohorts (required sample size = 165 patients; power = 90%). Mean blastulation and euploidy rates were monitored, along with the number of oocytes, euploid blastocysts and clinical outcomes.
Significantly fewer blastocysts were obtained after FPS than LPS (1.2 ± 1.1 vs. 1.6 ± 1.6, P < 0.01), due to fewer oocytes collected (3.6 ± 2.1 vs. 4.3 ± 2.8, P < 0.01) and a similar mean blastocyst rates per retrieval (33.1% ± 30.3% vs. 37.4% ± 30.8%, P = NS). The number of oocytes collected were correlated (R = 0.5, P < 0.01), while the blastocyst rates were uncorrelated among paired-FPS- and LPS-derived cohorts. Overall, a significantly lower chance of producing blastocyst(s) was reported after FPS than after LPS: 67.6% (n = 127/188, 95%CI: 60.3–74.1) vs. 77.1% (n= 145/188, 95%CI: 70.3–82.8; P = 0.05). The mean euploidy rates per retrieval were similar between FPS- and LPS-derived cohorts of oocytes (13.6% ± 22.8% vs. 16.3% ± 23.4%, P = NS). Therefore, on average fewer euploid blastocysts (0.5 ± 0.8 vs. 0.7 ± 1.0, P = 0.02) resulted from FPS. Similar ongoing-pregnancy/delivery rates were reported, to date, after FPS- and LPS-derived euploid single blastocyst transfers: 42.4% (n = 28/66, 95%CI: 30.5–55.2) vs. 53.8% (n = 35/65, 95%CI: 41.1–66.1; P = NS).
More studies need to be conducted in the future to confirm the safety of LPS, especially in terms of ovarian and follicular environment, as well as the clinical, peri-natal and post-natal outcomes. Here, we showed preliminary data suggesting a similar ongoing implantation/delivery rate (>22 weeks) between FPS- and LPS-derived euploid blastocysts, that need to be extended in the future, to populations other than poor prognosis patients and using approaches other than DuoStim together with a constant monitoring of the related peri-natal and post-natal outcomes.
These data, from a paired study design, highlight that LPS-derived oocytes are as competent as FPS-derived oocytes, thereby adding some evidence to support the use of LPS for poor prognosis and oncological patients and to question the ‘single recruitment episode’ theory of follicle recruitment. These findings also encourage additional studies of the basics of folliculogenesis, with direct clinical implications for the management of ovarian stimulation in IVF.
No external funds were used for this study and there are no conflicts of interest.