IVF success rates are misleading. There. I said it. Any fertility expert or independent statistician will tell you that IVF success rates are mere numbers mostly desired for public image, without providing anything of value for the undiscerning patient.
However, most people do not understand this and while choosing an IVF clinic the only question they ask is: “what is your success rate?”
There is no fixed answer to this, but most clinics will not tell you so honestly. IVF success is largely dependent upon the type, duration, and severity of infertility problem in the individual seeking treatment, but many clinics will proudly proclaim an average of 35% – 60%. An honest doctor will refrain from giving you false hope in the name of impressive success rates that they have previously achieved, and rather tell you about your individual condition.
Some clinics will advertise twice the pregnancy rates of other clinics and will attract many unquestioning patients. Impressed by what they are told and desperate to have a baby, the potential parents fail to ask what the clinic does different to be able to produce such results.
Instead they choose to believe in the miracle of double chances of success in IVF.
So how exactly are the IVF success rates made to look good?
We could not have explained this better than by taking an example from Dr. Joseph D. Schulman, MD, as in the below table:
|Accepted to program||60(75%)||94(98%)|
|Cycles immediately started||50(83%)||94(100%)|
|Cycles not canceled||40(80%)||90(96%)|
As illustrated above it is quite easy to create the impression of higher success rates in an IVF program with slight manipulation of the way the statics are presented. More the number of cases, lower will be the success rate, even for an advanced IVF program.
For clinic Y, doing 20 cases – 6 successful IVFs = 30% success rate
It is imperative that you do not rely merely on the success rate graphs of IVF clinics but look into other factors. There have been times when our doctors have achieved hundred percent success rate for a particular month but it was only when all factors were conducive to pregnancies for the patients that month.
I’m not saying you should never ask for IVF success rates, but do not rely solely on them.
Here’s looking at some factors to consider:
- Age – Even in the best of clinics only 50% of clinical pregnancies in women over 40 years of age will result in a live birth. Ask for the live birth rates of women in your age bracket. Each case is different and there will always be a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ situation to your pregnancy, no matter how perfect the conditions are.
- Embryos – In most parts of the world, the clinic will transfer only one embryo, but IVF clinics in India usually transfer 3-5 good quality embryos, obviously improving the chances of success.
- ICSI – Find out if the male partner has infertility issues, and opt for ICSI, if needed. Remember that it will only bring you one step closer to success if the problem is with the sperm count.
- Donor eggs/sperms – There is no point trying to conceive in vain with own eggs or sperms if there is a problem with the quality or number of eggs or sperms. It is imperative to be honest with the doctor regarding your age, medical history, and get proper analysis to make sure you are doing IVF right.
- IVF Budget – Higher price doesn’t always guarantee quality and low price doesn’t always mean bad standards. The price may vary from person to person as lower-dose hormone stimulation might be sufficient in younger patients while older ladies need higher doses of drugs. Also, considering the lower costs of healthcare in countries like India, we are able to offer IVF at a fraction of the price in the West.
However, it is advised that you do not fall for any claims of low-cost IVF without enquiring all the details as well as hidden costs for the said procedure.
Most importantly, ask the right questions, and see if the doctor is being honest with you regarding the success/failure and chances of your IVF.