As patients we’re fixated on how often IVF will work and while doctors have their own definition (for example, does an embryo “implant,” was a heartbeat seen on ultrasound) we think the bar is simple: IVF success means a baby born alive after an IVF cycle was started (with the cycle start marked by beginning medications to stimulate the ovaries).
The likelihood that any given IVF cycle leads to a live birth largely depends upon the age of the woman whose eggs are being used during IVF. Below are the IVF success rates across the US reported by 95% of clinics.
As you can see, most IVF cycles fail even for the youngest, healthiest patients. Delaying treatment imposes a penalty that increases depending upon how long someone wait. At the extreme, waiting say seven years, takes the odds any given IVF cycle will work from a coin-toss (about 48%) to the remotely likely (2 - 4%).
As a result, most patients need to undergo multiple cycles, and as we pointed out in a another lesson, no cycle is as likely to succeed as the first one. Below is data out of the UK published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that illustrates that after a few cycles most younger patients succeed with IVF but that is not necessarily true for older patients.
While it can be painful for patients to consider, using donor eggs or donor sperm during IVF can dramatically improve the odds an IVF cycle will work, as you can see below. The same is also true when a surrogate is used with success rates hovering around 70% per cycle.