STUDY QUESTION Can controlled ovarian stimulation with low-dose human menopausal gonadotrophin (hMG) improve the clinical pregnancy rate when compared with ovarian stimulation with clomiphene citrate (CC) in an intrauterine insemination (IUI) programme for subfertile couples? SUMMARY ANSWER Ovarian stimulation with low-dose hMG is superior to CC in IUI cycles with respect to clinical pregnancy rate. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY IUI after ovarian stimulation is an effective treatment for mild male subfertility, unexplained subfertility and minimal-mild endometriosis, but it is unclear which medication for ovarian stimulation is more effective. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION A total of 330 women scheduled for IUI during 657 cycles (September 2004-December 2011) were enrolled in an open-label randomized clinical trial to ovarian stimulation with low-dose hMG subcutaneous (n = 334, 37.5-75 IU per day) or CC per oral (n = 323, 50 mg/day from Day 3-7). Assuming a difference of 10% in 'clinical pregnancy with positive fetal heart beat', we needed 219 cycles per group (alpha-error 0.05, power 0.80). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS We studied subfertile couples with mild male subfertility, unexplained subfertility or minimal-mild endometriosis. Further inclusion criteria were failure to conceive for ≥12 months, female age ≤42 years, at least one patent Fallopian tube and a total motility count (TMC) ≥5.0 million spermatozoa after capacitation. The primary end-point was clinical pregnancy. Analysis was by intention to treat and controlled for the presence of multiple measures, as one couple could have more randomizations in multiple cycles. Linear mixed models were used for continuous measures. For binary outcomes we estimated the relative risk using a Poisson model with log link and using generalized estimating equations. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE When compared with ovarian stimulation with CC, hMG stimulation was characterized by a higher clinical pregnancy rate (hMG 48/334 (14.4%) versus CC 29/323 (9.0%), relative risk (RR) 1.6 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-2.4)), higher live birth rate (hMG 46/334 (13.8%) versus CC 28/323 (8.7%), RR 1.6 (95% CI 1.0-2.4)), low and comparable multiple live birth rate (hMG 3/46 (6.5%) versus CC 1/28 (3.6%), P > 0.99), lower number of preovulatory follicles (hMG 1.2 versus CC 1.5, P < 0.001), increased endometrial thickness (hMG 8.5 mm versus CC 7.5 mm, P < 0.001), and a lower cancellation rate per started cycle (hMG 15/322 (4.7%) versus CC 46/298 (15.4%), P < 0.001). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION We randomized patients at a cycle level, and not at a strategy over multiple cycles. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This study showed better reproductive outcome after ovarian stimulation with low-dose gonadotrophins. A health economic analysis of our data is planned to test the hypothesis that ovarian stimulation with low-dose hMG combined with IUI is associated with increased cost-effectiveness when compared with ovarian stimulation with CC.
- clomiphene citrate
- human menopausal gonadotrophin
- intrauterine insemination