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What is INVOcell? A Fertility Doctor Explains

August 5th, 2021 | 6 min. read

By Dr. Spencer Richlin

INVOcell is an excellent new option for patients who are looking for an alternative to traditional In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Here at Illume Fertility, we've been hard at work preparing to launch INVOcell for over a year, and we're finally ready to start offering this treatment to our patients. Our entire team is thrilled to have another amazing tool in our fertility treatment toolbox.

So what exactly is INVOcell? Let's dive in.

What is INVOcell?

INVOcell is a truly exciting new innovation in the field of reproductive medicine: a proven,  intravaginal culture (IVC) system. This intravaginal culture system consists of a very small inch and a half rectangular clear plastic container (often referred to as a culture device) with a soft silicone retention cap to keep the culture device safe and secure inside you.

Instead of the eggs and sperm mixing and fertilizing in an Embryology Lab, they do the same inside the inner cylinder of the INVOcell culture device, and use your own body as a natural incubator to develop into embryos.

Is your mind blown yet? Take a look at the ingenious design of the INVOcell device below.

Vertical Photos for Blogs (3)

How does INVOcell work?

Let's break it down together. The first part of the IVF process is similar: you go on medication to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs, then have an egg retrieval.

After your egg retrieval, we place your eggs into the inner cylinder of the INVOcell culture device with sperm. The small plastic INVOcell device will then be placed into the upper third of your vagina, comfortably cradled by a soft retention cap.

Those eggs and sperm will grow in a nutrient-rich culture media inside that culture device, and fertilization and early embryo development will occur. Your own body heat and natural movements will incubate the eggs and sperm to facilitate the creation of healthy embryos for an embryo transfer. How incredible is that?

Here's what happens next:

Five days later, we have you come back to the office. We will remove the small INVOcell  device, open it up, and look under the embryology microscope to locate and assess the health of your embryos. Then, we carefully remove any growing blastocyst embryos.

Minutes later, we will get you ready for an embryo transfer and place one of your embryos into your uterus - just like a traditional embryo transfer. Any excess embryos will be frozen for a future embryo transfer.

Get all your burning questions answered:

Click Here For Our INVOcell Guide

How is INVOcell different from traditional IVF?

Let me explain how this works. Similar to traditional IVF, we stimulate your ovaries with gonadotropin to make your follicles grow over roughly 10 days. When you are doing a cycle using INVOcell, ovarian stimulation protocols are milder which helps limit the number of monitoring visits you will need.

During the 10 days of ovarian stimulation, we will see you in our office two to three times. Once your follicles have grown to approximately 20mm, we will do your transvaginal ultrasound-guided egg retrieval 36 hours later.

With traditional in vitro fertilization, your eggs will be joined with sperm in the laboratory and grown in one of our incubators for 5 days. After 5 days of incubation, we transfer one of your embryos into your uterus and check for pregnancy in 9 days. 

But with INVOcell, your eggs and sperm join together naturally inside the device that's inserted in you, and you incubate the embryos yourself!

Watch me explain how INVOcell works in this video:

What are the advantages of INVOcell?

INVOcell is an option for any of our patients who want to do In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in a more natural way, by allowing their own body to incubate their future embryos. Some of our patients want to be intimately involved in their journey to baby, and this is an incredible treatment option for those who do. 

Why is INVOcell a great option for same-sex female couples?

One big advantage of INVOcell is that it offers both partners in same-sex female couples the chance to share in the conception and pregnancy experience. One partner incubates the INVOcell device and creates embryos for transfer, and the other partner can then have an embryo transfer and carry the pregnancy.

What an amazing way for both parents to be involved!

How does IVF with INVOcell differ from Reciprocal IVF?

Let's first break down what Reciprocal IVF is! This is a process where one partner goes through the IVF process of ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and then in the IVF lab, egg and sperm are joined and placed in an IVF incubator. After five days, an embryo will be transferred into the second partner.

With INVOcell, the partner who had the egg retrieval is able to participate in the first five days of life and incubate the invocell in her body. After five days, embryos are removed from the INVOcell device and an embryo is transferred into the carrying partner. What's so cool about this? Both partners are intimately involved in “carrying” their future baby. Teamwork! 

Can I pee, jump or sneeze the INVOcell device out?

Nope! The INVOcell device will not fall out of you. It is placed securely in the upper portion of the vagina and secured in place with a soft cap. It is incredibly rare for it to fall out. If it somehow does, not to worry - simply place it back into your vagina and call your Care Team.

Remember, this happens less than 1% of the time. So it's very rare! You can go to the bathroom and go about your daily routine without any worries that it will fall out.

INVOcell Success Rates

Pregnancy rates with INVOcell rival traditional IVF outcomes, coming in at a 25% success rate compared to an average 48% success rate for traditional IVF. And the average success rate for IUI hovers around 8-10%, making INVOcell an even more attractive option for many. 

INVOcell also produces better pregnancy rates than ovulation induction and super ovulation cycles without the risk of multiples. 

What happens if no embryos are successfully created?

On Day 5, we will remove the INVOcell device in an exam room connected to our Embryology Lab. The small INVOcell device will be handed to one of our embryologists. They will then look under a high-powered microscope for embryos in the inner chamber of the INVOcell.

It is unlikely that you will end up without any embryos for transfer. Why? We make sure that any patient who does INVOcell is a great candidate for success. That being said, if no embryos are available for transfer, we will regroup and set into motion another plan of action for success!

Am I a good candidate for INVOcell?

You might be - but you won't know for sure until you discuss this treatment option with your personal physician. INVOcell is a truly exciting new fertility treatment option. It offers a brand new experience that can compete with traditional IVF cycles, and INVOcell also increases your odds of success (over ovulation induction and IUI treatments).

Remember: every patient has their own path during their fertility journey, and no two bodies are the same. Your physician will be able to review your medical history and talk with you about your family-building plans to decide whether INVOcell is the best option to help you reach your goals.

If you’re about to embark on your IVF journey, and want a more personal experience you can be involved in from the beginning, then INVOcell may be right for you. 

Want to find out if you're a candidate for INVOcell?

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Dr. Spencer Richlin

Dr. Spencer Richlin is Surgical Director and a Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Illume Fertility. In addition, he is Division Chief of Reproductive Endocrinology at Norwalk Hospital. Dr. Richlin is Board Certified in both Reproductive Endocrinology and Obstetrics / Gynecology. Dr. Richlin has been with Illume Fertility since 2004.