Most fertility clinics publish success rate of fertility treatments without taking into account the number of IVF cycles patients went through to achieve either pregnancy or live birth.


Since the ultimate goal of couples at fertility clinics is to welcome a baby into their family, the live birth rate is what really matters.


However, there is currently no standard for determining the success rate of fertility treatments. Therefore clinics, when measuring success, often do not take into account the number of cycles patients undergo. This creates a misleading perception of the time and cost common treatments like IVF entail.


What is an IVF ‘cycle’?

If you or your partner are considering IVF or ICSI, you’re probably wondering about what an IVF cycle involves and how long it would take.


The beginning of an IVF cycle is marked by when a woman starts taking medication and administer injection to prepare her body for the upcoming IVF cycle. The medication and injection will contain reproductive hormones to encourage the ovary to produce multiple eggs during the ovulation cycle instead of the usual number of one.


These eggs are retrieved from the ovary and fertilised in a specialised laboratory to produce embryos. This process can take up to 6 days as the embryos require time to grow.


Matured embryos are then transferred to and implanted in the woman’s body with the intention of achieving pregnancy. This marks the end of an IVF cycle which generally takes about 2 weeks.


Age is the Number One Factor Contributing to Success.

The number of IVF cycles required to achieve live birth is affected by various factors. The biggest factor is the woman’s age.


In 2016,

  • A woman on average needs to undergo 2.6 cycles in order to have a baby.
  • 26% of women had a live birth (either fresh or frozen cycles)*.
  • 33% of women had a baby as a result of their first cycle. This number increased to 54-77% by the eighth cycle.


*This number includes patients who discontinued treatment after the first cycle.


However, these numbers do not display the vast difference in success rate amongst age groups.


Women who were younger than 30 had a 44% chance of live birth during their first IVF cycle and 91% by the sixth cycle. Women from the 30-34 age group had slightly lower rates.


For women aged 40-44, live birth during the first cycle was 11%, and 21-34% after six cycles.


Evidently, the number of cycles patients need to go through before achieving success varies greatly with age.


Besides age, there are also several other factors that you should consider:

  • Fertility laboratory affiliated with the clinic
  • Type of fertility treatment; for example, IVF vs ICSI (see what the difference is here)
  • Quality of sperm used in IVF


Success Rate Does Not Tell the Whole Story

The take-away message here is that success rates published by clinics aren’t entirely transparent.


The number of IVF cycles required to have a baby not only dictates cost, but also more importantly time. Therefore, it is beneficial for you to reach out to clinics to enquire about this information specific to your age group.


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