Home- or hospital-based monitoring to time frozen embryo transfer in the natural cycle? Patient-reported outcomes and experiences from the Antarctica-2 randomised controlled trial

Hum Reprod. 2020 Apr 28;35(4):866-875. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deaa040.

Abstract

Study question: What are the patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and patient-reported experiences (PREs) in home-based monitoring compared to those in hospital-based monitoring of ovulation for scheduling frozen-thawed embryo transfer (FET)?

Summary answer: Women undergoing either home-based or hospital-based monitoring experience an increase in anxiety/sadness symptoms over time, but women undergoing home-based monitoring felt more empowered during the treatment and classified the monitoring as more discreet compared to hospital-based monitoring.

What is known already: FET is at the heart of modern IVF. The two types of FET cycles that are mainly are used are artificial cycle FET, using artificial preparation of the endometrium with exogenous progesterone and oestrogen, and natural cycle FET (NC-FET). During a natural cycle FET, women visit the hospital repeatedly and receive an ovulation trigger to time FET (i.e. modified NC-FET or hospital-based monitoring). The previously published Antarctica randomised controlled trial (NTR 1586) showed that modified NC-FET is more cost-effective compared to artificial cycle FET. From the women's point of view a more natural approach using home-based monitoring of ovulation with LH urine tests to time FET may be desired (true NC-FET or home-based monitoring). Currently, the multicentre Antarctica-2 randomised controlled trial (RCT) is comparing the cost-effectiveness of home-based monitoring of ovulation with that of hospital-based monitoring of ovulation. The Antarctica-2 RCT enables us to study PROs, defined as the view of participating women of their healthcare status, and PREs, defined as the perception of the received care of participating women, in both FET strategies.

Study design, size, duration: PROs and PREs were assessed alongside the Antarctica-2 RCT. PROs were assessed using the validated EuroQol-5D-5L questionnaire. Currently, there are no guidelines for assessing PREs in this population. Therefore, members of the Dutch Patient Organisation for Couples with Fertility Problems (FREYA) filled out an online survey and selected the following PREs to assess (i) anxiety about missing ovulation, (ii) perceived level of partner participation, (iii) level of discretion, (iv) feeling of empowerment and (v) satisfaction with treatment.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: Women participating in the RCT also participated in PRO and PRE assessment. We assessed PROs and PREs at three time points: (i) before randomisation, (ii) at the time of the FET and (iii) at the time of the pregnancy test. A sample size of 200 participants was needed to find a difference of 0.3 with a standard deviation in both groups of 0.7, an alpha of 5%, power of 80% and a drop-out rate of 10%. We performed mixed model analysis for between-group comparison of treatment and time effects.

Main results and role of chance: A total of 260 women were randomised. Of these, 132 women were treated with home-based monitoring and 128 women were treated with hospital-based monitoring. Data before randomisation were available for 232 women (home-based monitoring n = 116, hospital-based monitoring n = 116). For the PROs, we found a significant increase in anxiety/sadness symptoms over time (P < 0.001) in both groups. We found no treatment effect of home-based versus hospital-based monitoring for the PROs (P = 0.8). Concerning the PRES, we found that women felt more empowered during home-based monitoring (P = 0.001) and classified the home-based monitoring as more discreet (P = 0.000) compared to the hospital-based monitoring.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The results are applicable only to women undergoing NC-FET and not to women undergoing artificial cycle FET.

Wider implications of the findings: Apart from clinical outcomes, PROs and PREs are also of importance in clinical decision-making and to support tailoring treatment even more specifically to the wishes of patients. Measurement of PROs and PREs should therefore be incorporated in future clinical research.

Study funding/competing interest(s): The Antarctica-2 RCT is supported by a grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw 843002807). J.B. receives unconditional educational grants from Merck Serono and Ferring and is a member of the medical advisory board of Ferring. C.L. reports that his department receives unrestricted research grants from Ferring, Merck and Guerbet. E.G. receives personal fees from Titus Health Care outside submitted work. The remaining authors have no conflicts of interest.

Trial registration number: Trial NL6414 (NTR6590).

Trial register date: 23 July 2017.

Date of first patient’s enrolment: 10 April 2018.

Keywords: assisted reproduction; embryo transfer; natural cycle; psychology; randomised controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antarctic Regions
  • Embryo Transfer*
  • Female
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Ovulation Induction
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR6590