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Didier Dewailly and Joop Laven

In women, the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is secreted by the granulosa cells of growing follicles. Its measurement is strongly correlated with antral follicle count and represents a reliable marker of ovarian reserve. It also has the advantage of being highly reproducible since it has little variation within and between cycles. However, although it seems to be a good quantitative reflection of the ovarian reserve, it does not assess oocyte or embryo quality. This drawback precludes any good prediction of female fertility in the general population as well as in specific subgroups of patients. However, the AMH assay can become an indirect marker of the remaining female fertile years in some cases such as in those women who are at risk for premature ovarian failure or in those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. Its interest is no more to be proven in assisted reproductive technology where it is a valuable aid to the choice of the proposed techniques, ovarian stimulation protocols and gonadotropin dosage. AMH is finally very informative in monitoring cancer patients having received gonadotoxic drugs or having undergone mutilating ovarian surgeries. In conclusion, although it cannot be considered as a reliable predictor of pregnancy in women, AMH is now a useful tool in the management and treatment of female infertility.

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Femke P Hohmann, Joop S E Laven, Frank H de Jong and Bart C J M Fauser

Objective: To investigate the relationship between serum concentrations of inhibin A, inhibin B and estradiol (E2) and the number of developing follicles during the administration of exogenous follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in various regimens in normo-ovulatory volunteers and to evaluate if inhibins act as suitable markers for the number of developing follicles during ovarian stimulation.

Design and methods: Serial hormone determinations and assessment of follicle numbers were carried out during unstimulated cycles and during various interventions with exogenous FSH. Subjects were randomized for FSH administration into the following groups: a single high dose (375 IU) during the early follicular phase (group A), 5 consecutive low doses (75 IU/day) starting in the mid follicular phase (group B) or daily low doses (75 IU/day) during the early to late follicular phase (starting on cycle days 3, 5 or 7; groups C, D and E respectively).

Results: Extending the FSH window increases the number of small antral follicles and hence inhibin B serum concentrations. If such an intervention results in multi-follicular growth, mid follicular phase inhibin B (P = 0.001) as well as late follicular phase inhibin B and inhibin A levels are significantly (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01 respectively) increased compared with mono-follicular cycles or the natural cycle. Although mid follicular inhibin B levels correlated well with the number of small antral (P < 0.05) and pre-ovulatory (P < 0.001) follicles in the late follicular phase, mid follicular inhibin A and estradiol serum concentrations only correlated with the number of pre-ovulatory follicles (P < 0.001 and P < 0.01 respectively).

Conclusions: The present data extend our understanding of the relationship between follicle dynamics, serum inhibins and FSH during ovarian hyperstimulation. However, although mid follicular inhibin B does correlate with the number of developing follicles, it does not facilitate the identification of women at risk for multiple follicle development.

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Evert J P van Santbrink, Femke P Hohmann, Marinus J C Eijkemans, Joop S E Laven and Bart C J M Fauser

Objective: To assess whether the addition of metformin to gonadotrophin ovulation induction in insulin-resistant, normogonadotrophic, anovulatory women alters ovarian responsiveness to exogenous FSH.

Design: Placebo-controlled double-blind assessment in an academic hospital.

Results: After a progestagen withdrawal bleeding, patients were randomised for either metformin (n = 11) or placebo (n = 9) treatment. In cases of absent ovulation, exogenous FSH was subsequently administered to induce ovulation. Only during metformin treatment did body mass index and androgen (androstenedione and testosterone) levels decrease, whereas FSH and LH levels increased significantly. In the metformin group, a single patient ovulated before the initiation of exogenous FSH. Significantly more monofollicular cycles and lower preovulatory oestradiol concentrations were observed in women receiving FSH with metformin compared with FSH alone.

Conclusions: Metformin co-treatment in a group of insulin-resistant, normogonadotrophic, anovulatory patients resulted in normalization of the endocrine profile and facilitated monofollicular development during the FSH induction of ovulation.