What Are the Chances for IVF Success?

Mother kissing sleeping baby on head, conceived with IVF
IVF is no guarentee of pregnancy, but it has helped millions have children who couldn't have them otherwise. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Three Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Given the high cost of IVF, you’re probably wondering if IVF will work for you. The good news is that IVF is generally successful, especially for women under age 35 and those using donor eggs. For women of all ages, the odds of a live birth are between 34 and 42 percent over three cycles.

IVF success rates are available online at the website for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).

You can look up the national rates, or find rates for individual clinics, at these sites.

The success rates are generally reported according to the woman's age since as a woman gets older, the IVF success rates go down if she's using her own eggs.

According to the data collected for 2014, these are the IVF success rates nationally, when using non-donor eggs, per egg retrieval. (These are not per cycle. In other words, these are the odds of a live birth after one egg retrieval, which may mean conception with fresh eggs/embryos in the cycle of the egg retrieval ​or after a frozen embryo transfer cycle in the following months.)  

  • For women younger than 35, the percentage of live births per egg retrieval is 54.4 percent.
  • For women ages 35 to 37, the percentage of live births per egg retrieval is 42 percent.
  • For women ages 38 to 40, the percentage of live births per egg retrieval is 26.6 percent.
  • For women ages 41 to 42, the percentage of live births per egg retrieval is 13.3 percent.
  • For women ages 43 and up, the percentage of live births per egg retrieval is 3.9 percent.

As you can see, IVF success goes down significantly after age 40. For this reason, most women 40 and up use donor eggs.

Success rates when using donor eggs are not as dependent on the woman's age.

  • The percentage of live births per cycle when using donor eggs is 53.5 percent with fresh embryos.
  • The percentage of live births per cycle when using donor eggs is 38.5 percent when using frozen embryos.

It's interesting to note that IVF success rates with donor eggs are even higher than a woman younger than 35 using her own eggs. Donor eggs offer the best chance for success.

One Cycle Statistics vs Multiple Cycle Statistics

Something else that's important to realize is the statistics above are for one egg retrieval. Your odds of success increase if you can do more than one IVF cycle, and it's typically recommended that you plan on it.

According to at least one study, women who conceived with IVF treatment went through an average of 2.7 cycles. They found that the odds for success—for women of all ages—after three IVF cycles were between 34 and 42 percent.

Practically speaking, to improve your odds, you should try for at least three IVF cycles.

What about trying for more than three cycles? This particular study found that cumulative pregnancy success odds continued to improve (slightly) for up to five cycles. After that, the odds plateaued.

The high cost of IVF, plus the psychological distress experienced by couples, makes multiple IVF cycles difficult.

Few couples are able or willing to go through more than two or three cycles.

Getting Personal Odds for Success With IVF

IVF success is dependent on a number of factors, some of which you have little control over, and many of which are specific to you personally. Some of these factors include your age, the reasons for infertility, whether or not donor eggs (or sperm) will be used, and the competency of the IVF clinic or lab.

While looking at the national statistics can give you a general idea, it's not going to really tell you what your particular chances of success are.

The great news is that SART has created a patient predictor tool that will give you slightly more personal odds.

It's free and easy to use. The tool assumes you have not done IVF before.

You need to provide your age, height and weight, how many pregnancies you've had (this total includes any pregnancy losses), how many full-term births, your cause for infertility, and whether you plan to use your own eggs. (If you don't know your cause for infertility, you can indicate that on their tool.)

Univfy has developed a tool that can give you a better idea of whether IVF will work for you personally. This tool is not free, but it considers more data than the SART predictor and can be used if you have done IVF previously.

You input your personal fertility data, including diagnosis, age, weight, and previous success (or not) in fertility treatments. Their calculator will then consider your data with the research and give you personal odds of statistics.

The calculation is not free but may be worth it. At the end of the day, only you can decide what odds you're comfortable with. What Univfy will give you is more accurate odds to make that decision on.

IVF Success at Individual Clinics

You can look up IVF success rates on individual clinics—and you should—but it's important to take some of this information with a grain of salt.

For example, a clinic with excellent rates may be turning away couples who have a lower chance of success. Or, they may be transferring a higher number of embryos per treatment cycle, which is risky.

It's also possible that a very small client base can show abnormally high success rates.

Also, make sure you're comparing their live birth rates and not just their pregnancy rates. Pregnancy success is going to be higher than the live birth rate since it does not account for miscarriage and stillbirth.

You can look up the success rates for clinics near you on the CDC's website.

Sources:

2014 Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report. Center for Disease Control.

Clinic Summary Report. Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. https://www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx?ClinicPKID=0

Stewart LM1, Holman CD, Hart R, Finn J, Mai Q, Preen DB. “How effective is in vitro fertilization, and how can it be improved?” Fertil Steril. 2011 Apr;95(5):1677-83. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.01.130. Epub 2011 Feb 12.

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