Nowadays, intended parents have an access to a number of information. This is logical, because future parents in need of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, have to be familiar with every single aspect of this process. The primary subject to interest is of course the probability of a successful outcome – healthy pregnancy. Surrogacy agencies and clinics tend to make claims about their high IVF success rates. While success rates are an important indicator of clinic’s performance, numbers do not always depict the reality.
Meaning and Calculation
IVF success rates represent the ratio between pregnancies and IVF procedures. One could think of it as – “how many IVF procedures resulted in a pregnancy?”. Many clinics and agencies offer two types of rates to their future patients – clinical pregnancy and live birth success rates.
Clinical pregnancy rates will tell how many IVF procedures resulted in a clinical pregnancy.
Clinical pregnancy rate = number of total pregnancies / total number of IVF procedures.
Unfortunately, pregnancy is not yet a guarantee of a healthy gestation and delivery of a baby. For that reason, the rate intended parents are more interested in, is the one of live births.
Live birth rate represents how many IVF procedures resulted not only in a clinical pregnancy, but also in a delivery. Just because pregnancy lasts about 9 months, clinics and agencies may not have such regularly updated live birth success rates.
Live birth rate = number of total live births / total number of IVF procedures.
What do IVF success rates really tell us?
The higher the success rate of a clinic is, more attractive it seems to patients. However, each patient is much more than a part of a chart. Intended parents have very different problems and needs, they belong to different age groups and come from various medical backgrounds. All of the factors play an important role in the field of fertility. Majority of pregnancies are successful after only several IVF procedures. Even an average young and fertile couple has only a 20% chance of conceiving naturally within a month.
Having a 80% IVF success rate could hypothetically be true, however not for all patients, but rather for certain age groups.
To underline how individual IVF results are, parents should consider factors that play a significant role in successful outcome.
Age of the mother is one of the main factors in successful IVF. The quality and the amount of eggs become lower when females are over 35. For that reason, it is obvious that women below a certain age are going to have a higher IVF success rate. When intended mother is older than 35, it may be advised to use eggs from a younger donor.
- Pregnancy history
IVF success factors depend on previous pregnancy(ies) of an intended mother. For example, if female has experienced recurrent implantation failure, miscarriages or stillbirths, she will probably have a lower IVF success rate.
- Various fertility problems
Fertility issues are caused by various medical conditions an disbalances. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, high levels of FSH and LH hormones just to name few. Accordingly, IVF success rate depends on stages and progression of various health issues.
Female smokers tend to need more IVF attempts than non-smokers. Maintaining a healthy body mass index is also a crucial factor in fertility. Over and underweight females, as well as smokers have a lower IVF success rate than ones who lead healthy lifestyles.
Experience, training, dedication and professionalism of the IVF staff is also of a huge importance. IVF success rate is in fact connected with clinic’s general performance and proficiency. However it is not a direct indicator of individual parent’s probability of success.
The keypoint is not to accuse the clinic claiming to have an incredibly high success rate in data manipulation and misinterpretation. Neither is the point to ignore the 80% IVF success rate of a clinic and go for the one that has humbly published the number below 30%. Intended parents only have to know that high IVF success rate of a clinic ONLY is not yet an objective guarantee of desired outcomes and should not play the major role in formation of future plans.
The best way to relate personal situation with IVF success rates data, is to make assumptions based on doctor’s consultation. Based on medical testing procedures, the healthcare provider will be able to make reasonable assumption whether patient is falling in the list of “average” ones.