History and challenges surrounding ovarian stimulation in the treatment of infertility

Stephanie A. Beall, M.D., Ph.D. and Alan DeCherney, M.D.
Volume 97, Issue 4 , Pages 795-801, April 2012


To examine the history of superovulation for ovulation induction, its contributions to reproductive medicine, and its impact on multiple births.


A search of the relevant literature using PubMed and other online tools.


Infertility has been a condition known and studied for thousands of years. However, it was not until this past century that effective treatments were developed. With the advancement of our knowledge of the hypothalamic–pituitary axis, therapies utilizing gonadotropins were developed to stimulate ovulation. Not only could we now treat anovulatory infertility but also induce superovulation for IVF. With these successes came consequences, including increased multiple pregnancies. Several countries recognized the high costs associated with multiple births and implemented regulations on the infertility industry. The rate of triplet and higher-order multiples has declined over the past decade. This is largely attributed to a decreased number of embryos transferred. Nonetheless, the twin rate has remained consistently high.


Superovulation has become a routine medical therapy used for ovulation induction and IVF. With the development of this technology have come effective therapies for infertility and new ethical and medical challenges. Since the advent of gonadotropin therapy we have already developed technologies to improve monitoring and decrease hyperstimulation and high-order multiple pregnancies. In the future we anticipate new tools devised to optimize one embryo for one singleton live birth.

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