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ORIGINAL ARTICLE  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80-85
 

Do increased levels of progesterone and progesterone/estradiol ratio on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin affects pregnancy outcome in long agonist protocol in fresh in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles?


Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission17-Jan-2015
Date of Decision27-Feb-2015
Date of Acceptance23-Mar-2015
Date of Web Publication12-Jun-2015

Correspondence Address:
Neeta Singh
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Room No. 3090 A, Teaching Block, 3rd Floor, New Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-1208.158606

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   Abstract 

Background: The effect of elevated levels of serum progesterone (P 4 ) and estradiol (E 2 ) on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin and their cut-off value on in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes is still not clear. Aims: The aim was to evaluate the association between serum P 4 , E 2 and progesterone/estradiol ratio (P 4 /E 2 ) on pregnancy outcome in IVF/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycles with long agonist protocol. Setting and Design: Retrospective, single center, cohort study. Materials and Methods: A review of complete data of 544 women undergoing fresh IVF/ICSI cycles (539 cycles) with long agonist protocol from January 2012 to February 2014 was done. Data were stratified into Three groups according to the number of oocytes retrieved: low (≤4 oocytes obtained), intermediate (5-19 oocytes obtained), and high ovarian response (≥20 oocytes obtained). Statistical Analysis: Fishers exact test/Chi-square was carried for comparing categorical data. Receiver operating characteristics analysis was performed to determine the cut-off value for P 4 and P 4 /E 2 detrimental for pregnancy. Results: A negative association was observed between pregnancy rate (PR) and serum P 4 and P 4 /E 2 levels with no effect on fertilization and cleavage rate. The overall cut-off value of serum P 4 and P 4 /E 2 ratio detrimental for pregnancy was found to be 1.075 and ≥0.35, respectively. Different P 4 threshold according to the ovarian responders were calculated, 1.075 for intermediate and 1.275 for high responders. Serum E 2 levels were not found to be significantly associated with PR. Conclusion: Serum P 4 levels and P 4 /E 2 ratio are a significant predictor for pregnancy outcome without affecting cleavage and fertilization rate while serum estradiol levels do not seem to affect PR.


Keywords: Estradiol, in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection, progesterone, progesterone/estradiol ratio


How to cite this article:
Singh N, Kaur SD, Malik N, Malhotra N, Vanamail P. Do increased levels of progesterone and progesterone/estradiol ratio on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin affects pregnancy outcome in long agonist protocol in fresh in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles?. J Hum Reprod Sci 2015;8:80-5

How to cite this URL:
Singh N, Kaur SD, Malik N, Malhotra N, Vanamail P. Do increased levels of progesterone and progesterone/estradiol ratio on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin affects pregnancy outcome in long agonist protocol in fresh in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles?. J Hum Reprod Sci [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Aug 12];8:80-5. Available from: http://www.jhrsonline.org/text.asp?2015/8/2/80/158606



   Introduction Top


Pregnancy outcomes during in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF/ICSI) cycles may be influenced by supra-physiological concentrations of estradiol (E 2 ) and progesterone (P 4 ). [1] The current use of both Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist and antagonist, highly effective to prevent luteinizing hormone (LH) surge, has limited the need for determination of serum P levels. Still, studies have shown a rise in P 4 levels in 35% (5-35%) of GnRH agonists cycles and 38% (20-38%) with GnRH antagonists [1],[2],[3] but the effect on IVF outcome is still unclear. The mechanisms that account for this P 4 rise are not clearly understood. Recently, this elevated P 4 has been linked with the number of mature follicles and secretion of P 4 in late follicular phase. [4],[5],[6] Several questions have been raised regarding this P 4 elevation at the time of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) administration. The underlying mechanism of its effect on IVF success rate is not yet clear. Several studies-deny any association between P 4 and pregnancy rate (PR) [7],[8],[9] while others show a negative association. [10],[11],[12] In several studies, the increasing P 4 levels have shown an adverse effect on oocyte maturation, fertilization, or early cleavage [13] while other studies have denied the concept of poor embryo quality [14],[15],[16] and found it to be associated with impaired endometrial receptivity as a consequence of disturbed endometrial development and maturity [6],[17] and gene expression. [18] Different detrimental cut-off values of P 4 and P 4 /E 2 has also been determined, but a consensus could not be reached.

This study aims to investigate the relationship between P 4 and E 2 levels on the day of hCG administration with PR, oocyte number, fertilization and cleavage rate in GnRH long agonist protocol in nondonor fresh IVF/ICSI cycles.


   Materials and methods Top


This is a retrospective, single-center cohort study of patients undergoing IVF/ICSI treatment. Complete data of 544 women who underwent nondonor fresh IVF/ICSI cycles between January 2012 and February 2014 with long agonist protocol was reviewed. The primary or combined indications for fertility treatment were tubal pathology (45.1%), male subfertility (22.7%), endometriosis (10.7%), polycystic ovarian syndrome (5.9%), unexplained infertility (14.4%). To eliminate the confounding factors that might affect the outcome, following inclusion criteria was kept: Age < 40 years, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) <10, antimullerian hormone (AMH) >1, fresh cycles (frozen cycles excluded). The study involves no violation of animal or human rights.

Stimulation protocol

Patients underwent controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) with use of a GnRH agonist long protocol. The pituitary down-regulation was achieved by subcutaneous injection of 1 mg of leuprolide acetate daily from the midluteal phase of the preceding cycle. Ovarian stimulation was done with 150-300 IU recombinant FSH follitropin alpha (Gonal-F, Merck Serono) SC (subcutaneously) and dose adjusted according to the response. Recombinant Chorionic Gonadotropin alpha (250 mg; Ovitrelle) was given to trigger ovulation when at least two-three leading follicles reached a mean diameter of 18 mm. Serum P 4 and E 2 levels were measured on the day of hCG administration by the chemiluminescent immunoassay using Access 2 Immunoassay system (Beckman Coulter) in the same laboratory. Oocyte pickup was done 36 h after hCG administration. Oocytes were cultured in G-IVF plus media (VITROLIFE) containing 10% of human serum albumin with gentamicin as an antibacterial agent and inseminated with motile sperm prepared by the two-layer percoll gradient method. Fertilization was defined as oocytes with two pronuclei 16-20 h after insemination. Embryos were transferred to G-IVF plus media and were classified by blastomere equalization and cytoplasmic fragment. Day 3 or 5 embryo transfer was done depending upon the number of embryos, and excess good-quality embryos were cryopreserved for subsequent frozen embryo transfer cycles with different grades of embryos (1-3). An ongoing pregnancy was defined as the pregnancy test done after 14 days of embryo transfer with a positive heartbeat by ultrasound at 6 weeks of gestation.

Grouping of high, intermediate and poor ovarian responders

Patients were categorized into 3 groups according to the number of oocytes retrieved: Low (≤4 oocytes), intermediate (5-19 oocytes) or high ovarian response (≥20 oocytes).

Six groups according to P 4 levels

Group A <1.0, group B: 1.0-1.25, group C 1.26-1.50, group D 1.51-1.75, group E 1.76-2.0 and group F > 2.0.

Five groups according to E 2 levels

Group A (<1000 pg/ml), group B (1000-2000 pg/ml), group C (2000-3000 pg/ml), group D (3000-4000 pg/ml), and group E (>4000 pg/ml).

Statistical analysis

All the statistical analyses were carried out using Statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS) IBM version 19.0 (Chicago, Illinois). Data were expressed as mean, standard deviation (SD) or frequencies and percentages. For comparing categorical data, Chi-square/Fishers exact test was carried out as appropriate. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis was performed to determine the cut-off value for P 4 and P 4 /E 2 at an approximately equivalent sensitivity and specificity, which may discriminate between pregnancy and nonpregnancy. A P < 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.


   Results Top


A total of 544 ovarian stimulation cycles were included in the study. Of these, 5 cycles need to be cancelled as no oocyte could be retrieved. Of the total 539 cycles with long agonist protocol, 319 (59.1%) were conventional IVF cycles and 220 (40.8%) were ICSI cycles. Of all, 146 (27.08%) clinical pregnancies were noted. Baseline characteristics such as age, body mass index, serum AMH, FSH, LH (follicular phase), total gonadotropin dose, endometrial thickness on day of hCG, E 2 and P 4 on the day of hCG, number of oocytes retrieved, fertilization rate, cleavage rate and PR for all the subjects among the different ovarian responders are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Baseline characteristics of subjects in three groups according to ovarian response

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Overall, the mean age of the patients in our study was 31.6 ± 3.6 years (21-40). Average (SD) values of P 4 among different ovarian responders (≤4 oocytes, 5-19 oocytes and ≥20 oocytes) were 1.06 (0.7), 1.3 (0.8) and 1.4 (0.8), respectively, with an increasing value among high responders. Serum E 2 levels and numbers of mature oocytes retrieved also showed an increasing trend in high responders with a statistically significant difference between the three groups (P < 0.01).

We analyzed the correlation between the serum P 4 levels on fertilization rate, cleavage rate and PR among the different groups [Table 2]. It was found that PR was affected significantly with the change in serum P 4 levels. The total number of oocytes retrieved also varied significantly between the groups showing increasing trend with P 4 values.
Table 2: Comparison of fertilization rate, cleavage rate, pregnancy rate and number of oocytes retrieved in different groups according to serum P4 levels

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The trend of PR according to P 4 levels is as shown in [Figure 1]. PR showed a significantly decreasing trend (Chi-square trend in proportion = 8.25; P = 0.004) with increasing level of P 4 with maximum PR in the range of 1.01-1.25, but after a serum P level of 2 ng/ml, relatively stable effect was seen.
Figure 1: Trend of pregnancy rate with 95% confidence limits according to P4 levels

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To assess an optimum P 4 level for an equivalent sensitivity and specificity for pregnancy status, ROC analysis was carried out. The area under curve (AUC) 0.58 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.53-0.63) was significant (P = 0.006). Overall, P 4 level was found to be 1.075 for an equivalent sensitivity and specificity value of 55% [Figure 2] with positive and negative predictive value of 31.3% and 77%, respectively. For intermediate and high responders, the cut-off value was found to be 1.075 for an equivalent sensitivity and specificity value of 56% and 1.275 for the sensitivity and specificity value of 62%, respectively, while it could not be predicted for low responders as AUC was not statistically significant.
Figure 2: Receiver operating characteristic curve for defining optimal detrimental cut-off value for P4 on human chorionic gonadotropin day

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[Table 3] shows the correlation of E 2 on the day of hCG with fertilization, cleavage and PR. Bivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that the variable E 2 on day of hCG alone is not a significant predictor of pregnancy status, fertilization rate and cleavage rate although the number of oocytes retrieved increased significantly with an increase in E 2 levels.
Table 3: Comparison of fertilization rate, cleavage rate, pregnancy rate and number of oocytes retrieved in different groups according to serum E2 levels

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Impact of P 4 /E 2 ratio on the day of human chorionic gonadotropin

To assess threshold level of P 4 to E 2 ratio (P 4 [ng/ml] ×1000/E 2[pg / ml] ) for PR, ROC analysis was carried out. AUC 0.58 (95% CI: 0.53-0.64) was found to be statistically significant (P = 0.003). For an equivalent sensitivity and specificity value (56%) the corresponding value of P 4 /E 2 ratio was found to be 0.35 [Figure 3]. PR (31.4%) among the patients having ≤ 0.35 P 4 /E 2 ratio was significantly (P = 0.047) higher compared with 23.4% observed among the patients having value >0.35. However, fertilization and cleavage rates were not significantly (P > 0.05) different between the two categories. Similar ROC analysis was carried out according to the ovarian responders. As AUC was not significant, therefore P 4 /E 2 cut-off value could not be predicted.
Figure 3: Receiver operating characteristic curve for defining optimal detrimental cut-off value for P4/E2 ratio on human chorionic gonadotropin day

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   Discussion Top


This study has analyzed the correlation between serum P 4 , E 2 and P 4 /E 2 ratio on hCG day with PR. As a secondary outcome, the effect on cleavage and fertilization rate was also studied. The results have shown that serum P 4 levels and P 4 /E 2 ratio is a significant predictor for PR while the E 2 levels had no significant association. PR showed a significantly decreasing trend with an increasing level of P 4 and P 4 /E 2 levels. Different cut-off levels for P 4 and P 4 /E 2 were determined among different ovarian responders. Fertilization and cleavage rate were not affected by either P 4 or E 2 levels.

The potential effect of type of responders on the association between P 4 elevation and probability of pregnancy was also explored. Earlier there have been three studies in which data were analyzed according to the type of ovarian response. [19],[20] Recent study by Xu et al. has concluded that there is a significant decrease in ongoing PR and implantation rate with P elevation in all ovarian responses to COH. [6] Our study has also shown results in agreement with that study and different cut-off values for P 4 among intermediate and high responders were predicted.

A positive correlation between number of mature follicles and secretion of P 4 in late follicular phase have been reported in earlier studies. [5] In the present study also, an increasing pattern of serum P level was observed with a significant (P < 0.05) difference between the three types of responders thus supporting the concept that increasing P 4 levels is a reflection of the number of follicles and not due to premature luteinization.

Till now, there have been numerous studies which have evaluated the association of P 4 elevation with PR with conflicting results. Our results were in agreement with a recent meta-analysis published in 2013 which have reported a detrimental effect of P 4 elevation on PR in range of 0.8-1.1 ng/ml (odds ratio: 0.79). [21] The present study has used ROC analysis which is a preferred method to identify optimal thresholds to define these detrimental cut-offs and the value was found to be 1.075 for an equivalent (53%) level of sensitivity and specificity.

Serum E 2 concentration on the day of hCG alone was not found to be a significant predictor of pregnancy status which is in consensus with previous studies by Kyrou et al. (2012) and Yu Ng et al. [22],[23]

Not only the P 4 levels alone but also P 4 /E 2 has nowadays been considered to be a reasonable option for prediction of pregnancy outcome. A prospective cohort study by Elgindy published in 2012 have found a cut-off levels of P 4 >1.5 ng/ml and P 4 /E 2 >0.55 as detrimental to pregnancy. [24] In our study, P 4 /E 2 ratio ≤0.35 was found to be associated with a significantly higher PR compared to those having value >0.35 although no significant association with fertilization and cleavage rates was found. [Table 4] are summarizes the most recent studies with different threshold cut-offs of serum P 4 and P 4 /E 2 levels. [1],[2],[6],[25],[26],[27],[28],[29],[30]
Table 4: Recent studies showing the cut - off levels of P4 or P4/E2 levels in women undergoing fresh IVF cycles

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Either cryopreservation of pronuclear or cleavage stage embryos or blastocyst transfer has been suggested as a strategy to overcome this problem. A recent study by Corti et al. in 2013 has concluded that fresh blastocyst transfer does not completely overcome the detrimental effects of progesterone rise at hCG on pregnancy outcome. [31]


   Conclusion Top


The present study has shown a negative association of increasing P 4 levels and P 4 /E 2 with PR. It still remains uncertain whether freezing the embryos and transferring them later in frozen-thawed cycles will be a solution to improve the pregnancy outcome when P 4 levels are high. More randomized studies are required to evaluate the effectiveness of frozen cycles in comparison to fresh cycles to overcome the detrimental effect of elevated P 4 or P 4 /E 2 ratio.


   Acknowledgments Top


We acknowledge the patients who participated and the colleagues who supported us while conducting this study.

 
   References Top

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31.
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]



 

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