Calories, shmalories… We like our half and half! In fact, the lighter the better (sweet is good, too!). Half and half gives coffee that creamy taste that is not replicated by any amount of whole or skim milk. The same can be said for ovarian stimulation medications—the ovaries of most women like half FSH and half LH. In many cases without this combo, the response is bland and lackluster.
But before we go any further, let’s take it back to the “beans” (a.k.a. the basics). While FSH and LH are hormonal medications used in IVF, they are also hormones produced naturally in the brain. It is the steady production of FSH and LH throughout the menstrual cycle that results in egg production and ovulation.
Because in a natural cycle you never see FSH without LH, many fertility doctors prefer to keep this dynamic duo intact when selecting IVF stimulation medications. As a result, combined protocols (as we call them in fertility medicine) are definitely leading in the fertility polls. Most of us have seen better ovarian response, better egg quality, and hence, better embryo development when the two are mixed. But taking it back to the beans (a.k.a. the basics), FSH and LH are two hormones that are normally made in the brain.
Great, now they want me to take two shots? Unfortunately, yes, we do. And while we would love to minimize the number of times you have to stick yourself, doubling up will likely do your ovaries wonders. When we stimulate ovaries for IVF, as unnatural as it feels, we are trying to mimic a natural cycle as much as possible. Nature happens for a reason! By giving both FSH and LH together, we are coming closer to what happens when we are not there. These two were paired together before we got there—it seems silly to separate them!
Yes, there are certain women who do better with straight whole or skim milk or even black coffee. For example, women who suffer from hypothalamic amenorrhea (no periods due to low hormones from the brain) need LH. Their ovaries will sit on the runway all day without a blast of LH. On the flip side, women with the real deal PCOS do better with minimal LH in their stimulation. Their ovaries see LH all the time (been there, done that), so it’s better not to put fire on an already flammable situation.
The debate over whether to use FSH alone or FSH + LH has gone on longer than the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. There is evidence on both sides to support combo protocols vs. straight FSH or LH. While doctors may have a preference for one (and can certainly find evidence to support it), most large reviews have demonstrated that (like us) two are better than one. When sitting down with your doctor, before you start the shots, ask them what you are getting, why they are giving it to you, and why they like this for you. Asking questions will quell some of the confusion and anxiety that those bags of needles and boxes of medicines bring upon their arrival.
Your choice of cocktails is very personal. Trust us, we get it. While some of us are vodka soda fans, others like to mix with cranberry juice. And then we have the more elaborate amongst us who go for Cosmos, Long Island Iced Teas, and Mojitos. (Watch out the next day: sugar hangovers are the worst!) Whatever you like to mix with your alcohol, you probably have a reason for it. Same goes for your ovaries and us. Everything we do has a purpose. The difference is, we’re helping make babies, not Bellinis. Here’s to your success, your health, and your fertility. Cheers!