IVF alternatives open door to parenthood for many couples

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A new, less expensive fertility treatment called INVOcell has hit the market, making the joy of parenthood a reality for many couples who couldn't afford traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

Amanda Smith, who is currently six months pregnant, struggled to conceive for nearly seven years.

"I got married to my husband, Chris in March of 2012 and we started trying for a family right away. After almost a year of not conceiving at all, we went to my [doctor]," said Smith.

Her doctor recommended IVF, a process where egg and sperm are combined to grow an embryo in a lab, then implanted in a woman to deliver naturally. 

The cost of IVF, which can be as much as $20,000 per treatment, wasn't affordable for the Smiths. 

"People who have gone through it know it's not cheap," she said.

They turned to an $800 alternative called intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm is placed directly in the uterus to fertilize one or more eggs. After five tries, Smith and her husband finally conceived.

"Going through what we went through, I would have been open to any options that were available and within a price range that we could afford," said Smith. 

Another IVF alternative known as INVOcell is now popping up in medical offices across the country. 

Unlike IVF, women take lower doses of fertility drugs, and the eggs are fertilized in a small device called an INVOcell. The INVOcell is placed inside the woman for three days as the embryo develops.

"The idea is that you've created a natural incubator for the embryos," said Dr. Shayne Plosker, director of IVF at the University of South Florida Health. 

Much of the lab work and treatment costs are eliminated, so INVOcell costs about $7,000 - less than half the price of traditional IVF.

"I think it's going to be ideal, or potentially ideal, for people that are living in isolated areas where it may be difficult to get to an IVF center, or perhaps for people who can't afford standard IVF," said Dr. Plosker.

While USF Health does not offer INVOcell, there is a similarly-priced procedure available to patients known as minimal stimulation IVF.

Plosker said with IVF, women typically end up with more eggs to fertilize, so they are left with extra eggs at the end of the process to freeze and use for future pregnancies.

As Smith prepares to have her first child, she said she is grateful she was able to find a procedure that helped her achieve her goal of becoming a mother.

"It's so special because you've worked so hard for it," said Smith.

INVOcell is such a new procedure that it is currently only offered in two Florida clinics, in Boca Raton and Lake Worth.

To learn more about INVOcell, visit https://invobioscience.com/