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 waits. 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 gestational carrier is used with success rates hovering around 70% per cycle.
IVF is complicated and, while we wish we could say that it's possible to absorb all the details during the 5 - 30 minute visits with your doctor, that's really not the case. This comprehensive guide to IVF boils down every major issue you'll encounter -- a high level overview of the IVF process, a deeper dive into the IVF process, IVF success rates and how they differ depending on diagnosis and age, the medication protocols that can be used during IVF, the choice of inseminating eggs either using ICSI fertilization or conventional insemination, the pros and cons of growing embryos to Day 3 cleavage stage or Day 5 blastocyst stage, the decisions around genetic screening of embryos, deciding which embryo to transfer, deciding how many embryos to transfer at once, the ways the IVF laboratory can impact your odds of success and the things you need to know up front to avoid going to the wrong lab for you, the risks of IVF, and the costs of IVF. We're always sure to provide details about how data might be different depending on different unique types of patients -- because in the world of fertility, it's really not one-size-fits-all. We truly believe this guide is the foundation every fertility patient should start with when they're navigating the world of treatments.