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New In-Vitro Treatment Shuns Shots

Many women who've had trouble getting pregnant have had success via in-vitro fertilization treatments, but have found the side effects of hormone injections difficult to manage.

Now, there's an alternative that does away with those injections.

"In-vitro maturation" is simpler, less risky and less expensive -- but also somewhat less effective.

As CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports, some 400 babies have resulted from IVM worldwide so far, without the massive doses of hormones most fertility treatments require.

In historic Oxford, the fertility unit is the only clinic licensed for the procedure in Britain, one of a handful around the world.

Dr. Tim Child, a fertility specialist and IVM expert at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, explained to MacVicar that, "The eggs we get out are immature, and we have to mature those in a laboratory for a day or two. That's the difference. There are no hormones at all."

In traditional IVF, women are injected with hormones to stimulate their ovaries and ripen their eggs before they're extracted. In IVM, tiny un-ripened eggs are harvested from follicles and matured in a kind of hormone soup in the lab. Just as with IVF, the eggs are fertilized, and the resulting embryos put back in the uterus.

"Women who are 35 or less who have a good number of resting follicles in their ovaries," Child says, "and there's about a 40-45 percent chance of pregnancy per IVM cycle."

That, MacVicar points out, is a lower pregnancy rate than IVF. But, she adds, "IVM is safer for women with polycystic-like ovaries, about 30 percent of all women."

"IVM is safer," Child says, "because it involves no ovarian stimulation. It is simpler because it's a much quicker treatment: Women basically turn up and have the egg collection, maybe one scan beforehand, and it's cheaper."

Tina and Joe Milkovic were scheduled for IVF, but knew that could be risky for Tina, who has polycystic ovaries.

So, they tried IVM.

The result?

Isabella and Ilia Milkovic, the first babies conceived in Britain as a result of IVM.

"I'm lucky I have one of each, and I'm happy," Tins says. "But if it wasn't successful, then I would have tried again, and again, and again, because it wasn't a bad procedure."

The first woman to get pregnant using IVM in the U.S., Cortney Webb, and her physician, Dr. Randy Morris, a reproductive endocrinologist, spoke with co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez from Chicago on The Early Show Wednesday.

Morris echoed Oxford's Child, saying, "One of the risks we see with fertility medication is a problem called ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries are so sensitive to fertility drugs, that the women over-respond. They get high hormone levels, and can get very sick from that. Since we don't use drugs with IVM, we completely avoid that problem."

"It is a little bit trickier to do than standard IVF," Morris said. "We've had standard IVF for many years; we're very comfortable with that. But these techniques are different. The way you remove the eggs is different. We use different aspiration needles. The media, the culture we use to grow the eggs is different, and I think it just took a little while before we hit on all the right options.

"(IVM is) a lot easier for the patient. With standard IVF, they have to take fertility drugs anywhere from to a couple of weeks to even as long as a month. You don't have to do that at all with IVM. We basically can just choose a date to remove the eggs, maybe one ultrasound before that, you go right in. It's Shorter, it's cheaper, it's a much easier process."

Webb said she and her husband "were excited about trying this, because there was little risk to me and my health.

"There's always concern when you're the first trying something new. You know, concerns if it would work, and what the success rate would be, and just concerns about the overall procedure, but Dr. Morris and the staff were great in leading us through it, so we were very comfortable with them."

How's the pregnancy going?

"So far, so good. We're Six weeks away, so we're very excited."

For more from Dr. Morris on IVM, click here.