More than 75,000 infants were born in the United States due to in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 2016, the most recent year national data were available (1). If you’re considering IVF, those numbers may give you hope for creating the family of your dreams if other methods haven’t worked so far.
While there’s no iron-clad guarantee that IVF will work for you, we’ve rounded up everything you should know about who experiences success with IVF, according to science. Plus, we highlight some crucial factors to sort through as you consider IVF.
To see if IVF will work for you, it’s a good idea to begin by looking up the IVF pregnancy rates of women who are your age, which the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks.
According to data from 2016, the most recent year available, here are the odds of having a full-term baby per assisted-reproduction cycle (1):
As these figures show, IVF isn’t a treatment that’s exclusive to older women or younger ones. Women of all ages have had success with IVF. Generally speaking, though, opting for the procedure at a younger age increases the chances of having a baby (2).
It’s natural to wonder how the odds of success change with a health issue that affects your fertility. Helpfully, you can filter through the national statistics to find out about IVF success rates by certain factors, including:
Choosing a clinic that commonly sees patients your age or with your specific fertility issue may give you a measure of assurance that IVF may work for you because it demonstrates that the clinic has a track record of success for women like you (3).
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How can you find these clinics? Every year, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) gathers results from member clinics and posts the data online (3). To search, go to the “Find a Clinic” page and plug in your zip code. The site will show a list of the fertility clinics closest to you. Click on an individual clinic to view a report on the clinic’s success rates per egg-retrieval cycle by age and several other factors.
However, the data comes with some caveats to bear in mind. SART warns that accurate and complete reporting of success rates is complicated due to differences in treatment techniques from one clinic to another, the type of patients that some clinics work with, and even how clinics submit data to SART (3).
While looking at the clinic statistics can give you a general idea of whether IVF might work for you, it can’t pinpoint your particular chances of success with IVF. The great news is that SART provides a free patient predictor tool that may give you more personalized odds of whether you might conceive with IVF (4).
Persistence pays off when it comes to IVF, according to a large, long-term study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (6).
The 2015 study, which followed nearly 157,000 women of a median age of 35 undergoing IVF, found the odds of having a baby on the first attempt was 29.5%. That percentage remained above 20% per cycle through the fourth cycle. The cumulative success rate after six cycles rose to 68% (6).
A recent paper in The Medical Journal of Australia reported similar results. Around 11% of women aged 40–44 had a baby in their first IVF cycle, but their cumulative success rate rose to approximately 39.9% by the eighth attempt. Women who started IVF before age 30 showed the highest rate of success following the first cycle — 43.7% — and this rate jumped to 92.8% by the seventh attempt (7).
The whole aim of IVF is to transfer a healthy embryo that will arrive about 40 weeks later as a newborn bundle of joy. In most cases, that means a single embryo, per the most recent joint recommendations from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and SART (8).
However, starting at age 38, both ASRM and SART suggest transferring more than 1 embryo but no more than 3-4 embryos, to increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant and giving birth (8). Doing so, of course, increases the odds of having multiples.
If you’re considering IVF in your late 30s to early 40s, you may wish to not only have a heart-to-heart with your partner, but also discuss your options with your doctor ahead of time. This helps ensure that you’re all on the same page regarding the possibility of bringing home twins or even triplets — or if this path to parenthood isn’t right for you.
Infertility is crazy stressful, and for many women, fertility treatment compounds the anxiety (9).
However, a new paper in Gynecological Endocrinology suggests that for some women the process of IVF is actually a relief (9). These women felt more stressed out and anxious before having IVF than during their treatments.
The research team theorized that higher pre-treatment anxiety was possibly due to “not knowing what they are expected to do to solve their problem.”(9) However, when the cause of infertility was due to female factors, women in the study experienced more anxiety both before AND during treatment, which was probably due to feelings of guilt, according to the researchers.
Women tend to blame themselves when they’re not getting pregnant — even when female factors account for infertility in just one-third of cases overall (10).
It’s worth remembering that male factors, including age, play a role. Indeed, new research underscored that a man’s likelihood of having a successful pregnancy with his partner fell 4.1% every year he aged, regardless of the age of the woman (11).
If you're considering IVF don’t be shy about seeking professional help from a counselor. You may wish to see someone together with your partner, depending on your needs. Some IVF providers even offer fertility house call appointments, allowing you to explore options with a fertility specialist in the comfort of your home.
Part IV: Will IVF work for me? (you are here)
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