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IVF Success Rates Reviewed

If you’re considering in vitro fertilization, most commonly referred to as IVF, you likely have many questions. This curiosity is normal as IVF is an expensive and lengthy process that requires conscience research and deliberation before pursuing it. One of the most burning questions you likely have is, “Will IVF work for me?” As with most major life decisions, there is no simple answer to the question. There is, however, a whole host of data available to give you a broader picture of how successful IVF may be for you.

What is IVF?

IVF is a process by which eggs are externally fertilized and transferred into a uterus to be carried to term. It is used most commonly by families experiencing a variety of infertility issues.

Stages of IVF Treatment

IVF is a multi-step process. The precise steps you will need (or elect) to take vary from family to family. In general, IVF treatment includes harvesting eggs and sperm, fertilizing the egg in a laboratory to create an embryo and planting the embryo in a uterus and/or freezing them for later use. In preparation for IVF treatment, women usually go through fertility treatments with medications and injections to increase the likelihood of success.

 From start to embryo implantation, the typical IVF cycle lasts 6-8 weeks and includes the following stages:

  1. Fertility medication (stimulating the ovaries)
  2. Trigger injection (injection of medicine that induces the final maturation stage of eggs)
  3. Egg and sperm collection
  4. Embryo growth in lab
  5. Embryo implantation

 Starting IVF Treatment

 IVF treatment begins long before your first medical procedure. In fact, one might argue that even as you read this article you’ve begun the emotional and intellectual preparation for IVF treatment. Creating a research-backed foundation for your choice to move forward with IVF is just the foundation you need to feel comfortable with such a big decision. The first step to starting IVF is to ask lots of questions, explore your options and focus on making a decision that is wholly right for you.

What is the Typical Success Rate for IVF?

 A quick Google search results in a plethora of sources reporting on success rates of IVF. While it’s encouraging to see so much transparency when it comes to this data, the collection of information can be overwhelming. Because various methodologies are used for collecting similar types of data, it’s important to drill down into the source and process for collecting and calculating these numbers to get the most accurate picture of how successful IVF may be for you.

The reason there is so much IVF success rate data available is that clinics use these numbers to attract patients. After all, you wouldn’t want to choose a provider who can only quote general statistics about IVF, right? While this information is useful during the clinic selection process, it’s best to use larger picture data when making the decision of whether IVF is right for you.

All this to say that for a process as intricate as IVF with a nearly endless list of factors that may influence success, a “typical” success rate simply doesn’t exist. But have no fear, there is useful data here! Read on take a deep dive into IVF success rates in relationship to the varying factors that influence outcomes.

Data Sources: SART and the CDC

One source of this data comes from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), a professional organization made up of practitioners in reproductive technology, the field that encompasses IVF. Because SART is a national collection of leaders dedicated to maintaining high standards in their field of practice to serve patients better, you can count on their data to be comprehensive and unbiased.

Another source of unbiased IVF success rate data comes from the Center of Disease Control (CDC). The CDC confirms self-reported data submitted by clinics on success rates for multiple reproductive technology activities, including IVF, meaning verified rates for individual clinics as well as aggregate success rates are available.

The Most Recent IVF Success Rate Data

The most recent IVF success rate data is from 2015. You will find data sets that speak to successes for multiple outcomes of success—pregnancy, live births, multiple births—in a variety of circumstances—by diagnosis, with or without donor eggs, etc.

Age and IVF: In Vitro Fertilization Stats

SART IVF Success Rates by Age

SART’s most recent data reports the live birth rate at:

  • 40-43% for women under 35
  • 33-36% for women 35-37
  • 13-18% for women 40-44
  • Unlikely for women over 44

CDC IVF Success Rates by Age

All numbers below are results from using fresh embryos from nondonor eggs during the cycle.

CDC’s most recent data answering the question, “What is the chance of having a term, normal birth weight and singleton live birth per IVF cycle?”

  • 3% for women under 35
  • 17% for women 35-37
  • 1% for women 38-40
  • 1 for women over 40

CDC’s most recent data answering the question, “What is the chance of getting pregnant per ART cycle?”

  • 3% for women under 35
  • 32% for women 35-37
  • 1% for women 38-40
  • 4% for women over 40

CDC’s most recent data answering the question, “What is the chance of having a live birth per embryo transfer?”

  • 5% for women under 35
  • 4% for women 35-37
  • 4% for women 38-40
  • 5% for women over 40

The data above is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to all the IVF success rate data the CDC has to offer. Find the information that most relates to your specific circumstances here. Be sure to toggle between questions and scroll up and down to find data on the results of using fresh embryos from nondonor eggs, frozen embryos from nondonor eggs, or fresh or frozen embryos from donor eggs for each.

There you will also find data on success rates based on your infertility diagnosis, including:

  • Tubal factor
  • Uterine factor
  • Ovulatory dysfunction
  • Diminished ovarian reserve
  • Endometriosis
  • Male factor
  • Other factor
  • Unknown factor
  • Multiple female factors only
  • Multiple female & male factors

How are IVF Success Rates Calculated?

When it comes to IVF success rates, two important data points to define are live birth rate and pregnancy rate. While they both sound a bit self-explanatory, the second is not as straightforward as it seems. The first is as it seems–how many babies were born. The latter is a big fuzzier. Some pregnancy rates include chemical pregnancies, which include those that occur when HCG (a pregnancy indicating hormone) is present, but before an ultrasound can be performed or a viable fetus has formed. To avoid confusion when researching clinics, ask for both rates and clarify how the pregnancy rate is collected.

Another positive attribute of CDC’s information is that each data point is clearly attributed to a data set, noting all numbers come from national information based on a defined number ART cycles in a certain year. For example, the first set of data in the CDC IVF Success Rates section above is based on based on 91,090 ART cycles in 2015.

IVF Success Factors

IVF is a complicated process made up of many stages and influenced by many factors. Here are the top six factors that play a role in the success rate of IVF:

Age

A woman’s age plays a role in all pregnancies. With IVF, it is no different—there is a distinct correlation between age and IVF success rates. Though women of a certain age might experience more likely success with IVF, it’s also a go-to treatment used by older women who may have trouble getting pregnant naturally. Although the success rate of IVF is lower in certain age groups, it is more likely with IVF than naturally.

Fertility issue

Most families who seek IVF treatment do so in hopes of overcoming a fertility issue and having a biological child of their own. Fertility issues most commonly responsive to IVF are:

  • Ovulation issues
  • Endometrioses
  • Fallopian tube blockages
  • Low sperm count

Issues less likely to respond to IVF are:

  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Fibroid tumors
  • Ovarian dysfunction
  • Dual infertility (both partners struggling with separate infertility issues)
  • Long term infertility

Former pregnancy

If you’ve been pregnant before, the likelihood of IVF working for you is higher than average, even if fertility treatments were used in the past. Pregnancies that ended in a miscarriage may point to a lower chance of success. However, in the case of miscarriages, you should consult your doctor, as they will be able to more closely identify the reason for the miscarriages and whether or not it is likely to affect your IVF success.

Donor eggs and/or sperm

Using donor eggs or sperm during the IVF process may lead to a higher success rate in couples experiencing particular fertility issues. With either type of donation, couples may opt for an anonymous donor or choose someone they know.

Clinic

Arguably the most important choice you’ll make during the IVF process, choosing an IVF clinic is an extremely personal decision. Proper research is key to an experience you feel comfortable and confident about. Consider things such as staff experience and whether or not they’ve had success treating patients with your types of fertility issues.

Learning about laboratory quality is also part of the clinic screening process. A good lab will go above minimum requirements in standards of collection and care. The embryologist, the person who grows the embryos before transfer, as well as air quality, light and temperature all contribute to the success of your IVF cycle.

Lifestyle

The majority of factors effecting IVF success rates are out of your hands, but there are two lifestyle choices that influence success—smoking and weight. Smoking is detrimental to fertility in both men and women and should never happen during the IVF process. When a woman is over or under weight, it may also have a significant influence on success from the absorption of fertility medicines to the ability to carry a baby to term.

Pregnancy Rates by Age

According to the CDC, the chance of getting pregnant with one IVF cycle is:

  • 52% for women under 35
  • 7% for women 35-37
  • 36% for women 38-40
  • 8% for women over 40

The pregnancy rate is traditionally higher than the live birth rate since a percentage of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.

Risks of Multiple Births

Multiple births are quite common with successful IVF cycles. The chances of a successful IVF cycle increase if you elect to transfer more than one embryo per cycle. If more than one embryo implants, you can end up carrying twins, triplets or other sets of multiples.

Risks of IVF Treatment

Any medical procedure involves risks and IVF is no different. The medications used to stimulate the ovaries before egg retrieval is called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS affects approximately 10% of women who undergo IVF treatments with symptoms, such as bloating, pain, cramping and weight gain, ranging from mild to severe.

During the egg retrieval women may experience bleeding, infection or bowel damage. Another one of the risks of IVF treatment is a cancelled cycle, which occurs when a woman’s body does not sufficiently respond to fertility medications and follicles do not produce or mature at a rapid enough rate.

Frozen Embryos vs. Fresh Embryos

During the IVF process you may elect to freeze some of the embryos created as oftentimes more are made than can be used in one cycle. The process is common, with up to 60% of people electing to freeze embryos. Frozen embryos may be used in future IVF cycles, providing a more cost-effective approach to future cycles or donated to another couple. Many couples also find ethical solace in the process, which avoids having to dispose of the embryos. Finally, freezing embryos can be a plus for couple wishing to avoid multiple births since they can implant less embryos per cycle and keep others for a future cycle if needed.

The CDC separates success rate data for fresh and frozen embryos. The chance of having a term, normal birth weight baby with fresh embryos per IVF cycle is:

  • 35% for women under 35
  • 9% for women 35-37
  • 5% for women 38-40
  • 9% for women over 40

While the chances with frozen embryos is:

  • 5% for women under 35
  • 1% for women 35-37
  • 3% for women 38-40
  • 3/17 for women over 40

IVF Success Rates by City

Variations in IVF success rates by city are not statistically significant. In other words, there is not one city more success at IVF than another. Here are three examples to illustrate this point:

Chicago IVF Success Rates

The CDC has data on six clinics in Chicago. The data below speaks to the chance of having a term, normal birth weight baby per IVF cycle using embryos from nondonor eggs:

Institute for Human Reproduction (IHR)

  • 2% for women under 35
  • 7% for women 35-37
  • 9% for women 38-40
  • 2% for women over 40

University of Illinois at Chicago IVF Program

  • 3% for women under 35
  • 19% for women 35-37
  • 3% for women 38-40
  • 9% for women over 40

Women’s Health Consultants

  • 7% for women under 35
  • 2% for women 35-37
  • 3% for women 38-40
  • 0% for women over 40

University of Chicago Medicine Center for Reproductive Medicine and Fertility

  • 7% for women under 35
  • 1/12 for women 35-37
  • 2/13 for women 38-40
  • 0/11 for women over 40

Fertility Centers of Illinois-River North IVF

  • 3% for women under 35
  • 8% for women 35-37
  • 5% for women 38-40
  • 4% for women over 40

Northwestern University

  • 1% for women under 35
  • 7% for women 35-37
  • 4% for women 38-40
  • 5% for women over 40

Boston IVF Success Rates

The CDC has data on two clinics in Boston. The data below speaks to the chance of having a term, normal birth weight baby per IVF cycle using embryos from nondonor eggs:

Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center

  • 35% for women under 35
  • 9% for women 35-37
  • 5% for women 38-40
  • 9% for women over 40

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Assisted Reproductive Technology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

  • 1% for women under 35
  • 6% for women 35-37
  • 1% for women 38-40
  • 4% for women over 40

New York IVF Success Rates

The CDC has data on nearly 20 clinics in New York. Data for five of those clinics are below and speak to the chance of having a term, normal birth weight baby per IVF cycle using embryos from nondonor eggs:

Manhattan Reproductive Medicine

  • 3/12 for women under 35
  • 1/6 for women 35-37
  • 3/8 for women 38-40
  • 30/4 for women over 40

NYU Fertility Center

  • 25% for women under 35
  • 4% for women 35-37
  • 9% for women 38-40
  • 8% for women over 40

Columbia University Center for Women’s Reproductive Care

  • 15% for women under 35
  • 7% for women 35-37
  • 7% for women 38-40
  • 5% for women over 40

Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, LLP

  • 1% for women under 35
  • 8% for women 35-37
  • 7% for women 38-40
  • 5% for women over 40

Advanced Fertility Services

  • 0/9 for women under 35
  • 3/16 for women 35-37
  • 0/14 for women 38-40
  • 0 for women over 40

IVF Success Rates by Clinic

While comparing IVF success rates from city to city is not very useful, looking at data between various clinics shows noticeable and significant differences among them. Compare information for various clinics here.

It’s important to understand that even though a clinic may have a lower success rate, it does not necessarily discount the skill or expertise of the practitioners. Take for example a clinic that specializes in treating more extreme fertility issues; the success rate may be lower on paper, but higher for those with your specific treatment needs. Finding a team skilled in the specific fertility areas effecting you is the most important piece of the decision.

PGD Success Rates

 Preimplantation Genetic Screen (PGD) is one option for increasing the success rate of your IVF cycle. PGD refers to a process in which embryos are genetically tested for genetic diseases and chromosomal disorders. This testing offers high-risk couples the option of choosing an embryo that is more likely to survive implantation and be carried to full term without complications.

Though it does not affect success rate, PGD can also be used for gender selection during IVF, a process most often elected into by parents looking for a gender balance in their family make up.

PCOS Pregnancy Rate with IVF

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) occurs when there is a hormone imbalance in a women’s body, specifically related to elevated testosterone. The increase in testosterone limits ovulation, leading to fertility issues. IVF is one of the most common treatments for women with PCOS who desire to get pregnant but have not been able to do so naturally or with other fertility treatments. There is up to a 70% pregnancy success rate and 60% live birth success rate among women with PCOS who attempt IVF.

Tubal Ligation Pregnancy Rate

IVF can help women who have had tubal litigation (getting your tubes tied) surgery who decide they would like to become pregnant. Women in this situation usually have two options–tubal reversal or IVF. The success rate for tubal reversal is higher than with IVF, but not an option for all women as you need a minimum amount of healthy fallopian tube left to do so. A tubal reversal results in a 70-75% success rate for a 35-year-old woman, while IVF results in 40-50% success.

Increase or Improve Your IVF Success Rate

As noted previously, many factors of IVF are out of your control, but there are a few things you can control that will potentially increase your chances of success. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and not smoking are research-backed methods to help with IVF success. Other anecdotally successful methods include special diets, teas and herbal supplements. Stress is another factor with links to IVF success. As we know, stress is directly linked to overall health, which influences the effectiveness of treatments like IVF as well.