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INVOcell – What it is, Treatment Process, Cost, and IVF Comparison

By CNY Fertility Updated on

Fast Facts About INVOcell

  • INVOcell is a intravaginal culture (IVC) system that is used as a IVF alternative for the treatment of infertility.
  • The INVOcell is a thumb size medical grade plastic device composed of two main components. The incubation component holds the sperm, eggs, and developing embryos directly. The retention device holds the incubation component securely inside the vagina.
  • The treatment process using INVOcell is very similar to conventional IVF, only fertilization and subsequent early embryo development happens inside the INVOcell device (rather than an embryology lab) which is then placed inside the woman’s vagina for a brief incubation period spanning a few days.
  • INVOcell is highly marketed as a more cost effective alternative to IVF, but those claims are highly dependent upon a few factors that are simply not true across the board. For instance, IVF with ICSI at CNY is $3,900, where INVOcell is $5,400 not including monitoring or medications.

What is the INVOcell

INVOcell is the first Intravaginal Culture (IVC) system granted FDA clearance in the United States.  The INVOcell is a unique device that allows egg and sperm to fertilize in a small container (about the size of a thumb) within your body.  This allows improved outcomes for fertility in those who have struggled with the idea of the laboratory being in control of the fertilization that naturally occurs in a woman’s body.

For those who have beliefs that do not allow them to utilize standard in vitro fertilization, the opportunity is now here with Invocell. The Invocell at CNY Fertility is an innovative way to build your family when naturally it’s not happening on its own.

How It Works

As mentioned, the INVOcell process is very similar to the IVF Process. In fact, many stages of the INVOcell treatment are the exact same as In Vitro Fertilization. The only difference is where fertilization and embryo development take place. That said, the INVOcell treatment has 4 main phases:

  • Ovarian Stimulation: The famale takes hormone based stimulation medications to entice the ovaries to grow more mature high-quality eggs that it normally does.
  • Egg Retrieval: The surgical procedure to remove the eggs from the ovaries.
  • The INVOcell: The egg and sperm are placed inside the INVOcell device for fertilization and early embryonic development.
  • Embryo Transfer: The developed embryos are removed form the INVOcell device. One (or sometimes two) of the embryos are then transferred back into the woman’s uterus. All remaining embryos are frozen using a flash freezing technology called vitrification.

Ovarian Stimulation

During the INVO Procedure, the patient undergoes ovarian stimulation using hormone-based medications in what is exactly the same process that takes place in IVF (or even IUI with gonadotropins). The idea here is to develop as many high quality eggs as possible with the hopes that more more eggs = more embryos = higher chance of a live birth resulting from the INVOcell treatment cycle.  Many INVO cycles will result in multiple of embryos.  One or two of those will later be transferred, the remaining can be frozen for future use.

If a woman has a regular menstrual cycle, they will have an office visit known as “baseline” appointment on day 2-4 of their cycle to measure their “baseline” follicular size, lining, and hormone levels.  In most cases, the woman will start the injectable medications for ovarian stimulation later that day and continue for approximately 10 days.

During this ten day period, the woman will have monitoring appointments every few days to track uterine lining, follicular, and hormonal development. This insures a safe and properly times INVOcell treatment.

Once the egg-containing follicles reach the appropriate size, a final “trigger” medication will be used to promote the final maturation of the eggs. It is imperative that instructions for the timing of this trigger medication are followed exactly. The trigger medication induces the final maturation and ovulation of the eggs. For the INVOcell procedure to work, the egg retrieval must take place before the eggs are truly ovulated.

Egg Retrieval Procedure

The egg retrieval is the most invasive part of the INVOcell IVF procedure.  This minimally invasive outpatient procedure takes place 35 hours after the trigger shot in order to collect the eggs from the ovaries before they are ovulated. 

The procedure is performed under moderate sedation using MAC anesthesia by a fertility doctor.  The procedure itself typically only last 5-10 minutes. During the egg retrieval procedure, the doctor will use an ultrasound to guide a aspiratory needle safely through the vaginal wall and drain the fluid from the follicles on the surface of the ovaries.  This follicular fluid contains the mature eggs.

The follicular fluid containing the eggs is then immediately transported the 20 or so steps to the embryology lab and sorted through by an embryologists who will find and isolate the mature eggs. 

The number of eggs retrieved will depend on your age, history, fertility diagnosis, medication protocol and response to medications.

Fertilization and Early Embryonic Development

Once the eggs are retrieved and sperm is collected, they are placed into the INVOcell incubation device. The INVOcell incubation device is then placed in the INVOcell retention device which helps it stay securely in the vaginal cavity.  The entire INVOcell devise is then placed inside the vaginal cavity to naturally incubate the eggs and sperm and to allow fertilization and early embryo development to take place.

After incubation for around 3 to 5 days, the device is removed allowing for the transfer of embryos right back to the natural environment. During this time, it is important that the woman avoid strenuous physical activity or other activity like taking a bath or using a sauna, that could drastically change the temperature of the vagina.

With the INVO Procedure, the temperature, gas concentration and physiological pH stays stable throughout the incubation period. There is no interference in the vaginal incubation environment which occurs in incubators due to the opening and closing of the incubator doors as well as the cycling of the temperature (thermostat). The INVOcell Culture Device uses the body as a natural incubator making it possible for the INVOcell device to maintain proper pH of the culture medium using the human body temperature and gas concentration throughout the incubation period. The use of the INVOcell Culture Device in the vaginal cavity is a more stable environment than an incubator for temperature and gas stability during fertilization and early embryo development.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be utilized for this method and embryos can be biopsied and frozen for genetic testing for those who still wish to use those methods, but intent of INVOcell IVF is to move towards a more natural process, allowing the body’s own mechanisms and methods to enhance your fertility.

Embryo Transfer

After the incubation period in which fertilization and early embryonic development take place within the INVOcell, the doctor will remove the device from the vagina and the quantity and quality of the embryos will be examined by the embryologists in the embryology lab. In most cases one, but sometimes two embryos are transferred into the woman’s uterus. During the embryo transfer process, those one or two embryos are loaded into a medical grade transfer catheter, gently inserted through the vagina and cervix and deposited into the uterus to implant and continue to develop. If the embryo sticks, pregnancy results.

If more than the one or two embryos that are transferred were made, they may be frozen and used for a subsequent Frozen Embryo Transfers.

Cost

As briefly mentioned in the introduction of this article, INVOcell is often touted as a more affordable option to IVF.  This however is based on a few primary assumptions and while it may be true in some cases, it does not hold true across the board.

The assumption that INVOcell is less expensive than IVF requires three main assumptions which in truth can not be made across the board:

  • The average cost of In Vitro Fertilization is around $20,000 for a single IVF cycle. That however is an average and the cost can vary quite a bit from clinic to clinic. For example, the total cost of IVF at CNY Fertility is around $7,000.
  • Part of the claim to INVOcell being more affordable is that it is often suggest to use a low or mild stimulation. That means less money spend on medications. However, the same thing is often done with what is commonly referred to as mini IVF.

Because the claim that INVOcell is more affordable than IVF is reliant upon these two claims (the $20,000 cost of IVF and the use of a minimal stimulation protocol) and those claims can not hold up upon scrutiny, INVOcell is not always more affordable than IVF.

For instance, the base cost of IVF with ICSI not including monitoring or medications is $3,900. The cost of INVOcell is $5,400.

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INVOcell Success Rates

According to a clinical study run by INVOCELL, success rates using INVOcell are higher than that of intrauterine insemination commonly known as artificial insemination, but lower than that of IVF.  The clinical trail involved 450 cycles, 421 of which resulted in embryo transfers and about 25% resulted in live births compared to roughly 10% for IUIs and near 50% for IVF.

INVOcell Availability at CNY Fertility

Because most people pursue INVOcell as a means of growing their family due to cost, but IVF with ICSI at CNY Fertility is more affordable than INVOcell, it is very rarely performed. We do have the ability to do INVOcell, but we do not keep INVOcell devices at our office. If you pursue INVOcell at CNY, cycles may take multiple months to coordinate.

The Bottom Line

INVOcell can be a very effective fertility treatment. It is certainly more effective on a live birth basis than IUI, but significantly less effective than IVF. Whether or not INVOcell is more affordable than conventional or ICSI IVF is highly dependent upon where you are planning to have your treatment done along with the medication protocol used in the treatment. For those who have failed IUIs but are not able to do IVF due to their belief system, INVOcell may be the best option available.

To learn more about how people travel to CNY Fertility from around the country for our affordable IVF, check out our travel page. If you’d like to discuss more with a medical provider and get the ball rolling, you can schedule a consultation by calling us at 844-315-2229 or by filling out our online consult request form.

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