In vitro fertilization, which is also known as IVF or in vitro, is an assisted reproductive technique that couples use to conceive. Most commonly, a couple will utilize IVF if they have been trying to get pregnant for a year without conceiving a child. The in vitro fertilization process involves administering hormones to a woman to promote her ovaries to release multiple eggs. The eggs are then extracted and combined in a laboratory with her partner’s sperm or donor sperm. The donated egg and sperm combinations ideally become embryos that are then transferred to a woman’s uterus, ideally for implantation and subsequent pregnancy.
In vitro is a source of hope for many couples who have been able to conceive by traditional methods. This may be due to a preexisting medical condition affecting the male and/or the female or due to the female’s age and poorer quality of egg production. Whatever the reasons, there are thousands of couples across the United States who have successfully used in vitro to have their child or children.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the live birth rates for a single cycle of IVF are as follows:
- Women under age 35: 41 to 43 percent
- Women ages 35 to 37: 33 to 36 percent
- Women ages 38 to 40: 23 to 27 percent
- Women older than age 40: 13 to 18 percent
It is important to note that these statistics represent live birth rates, not pregnancies. These are statistics for women who underwent IVF and gave birth to a living baby.
What Factors Affect In Vitro Fertilization Success Rates?
A number of factors can go into whether or not a couple conceives successfully, even without in vitro fertilization. According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, the likelihood of a young and healthy couple conceiving after one month of trying to get pregnant is between 15 and 20 percent. If a couple is considering using in vitro fertilization to get pregnant, it’s important they discuss both the potential positives and negatives that could affect their success rate. Some of the known factors affecting in vitro fertilization success rates include:
Age is one of the biggest determining factors in IVF success. This has to do with a woman’s egg reserve and the quality of the remaining eggs she has as she ages. A woman is born with all the eggs she will release during her lifetime. Typically, the eggs she releases for ovulation on a monthly basis start to decline in quality as she ages. As a result, a sperm may have greater difficulty fertilizing an egg. Older women are also at greater risk for many pregnancy-related complications, including gestational diabetes, placental abruption, placenta previa, birth defects, and stillbirth. Most commonly, fertility starts to decline after about age 35. However, there are still many women who are conceiving children after this age.
There are a number of pre-existing conditions that can affect a woman’s ability to conceive. Ideally, in vitro can help a woman overcome these concerns. Examples include:
- Disorders that affect ovulation, such as polcystic ovary syndrome
- Lack of egg supply
- Uterine fibroids
- History of Fallopian tube problems or surgeries, such as a tubal ligation or tubal hydrosalpinx
Men may also have pre-existing conditions that can affect their fertility. One example is low sperm count. All of these factors can affect a couple’s chances for becoming (and staying) pregnant. A doctor will often evaluate these conditions with the couple to determine how they affect the likelihood a woman can become pregnant. In some cases, such as when a woman has a diminished ovarian reserve, a couple may choose to utilize donor eggs instead.
Sometimes a doctor cannot determine why a couple has experienced infertility. This can be a frustrating fact of life for both the couple and the doctor as they may have difficulty becoming pregnant, even using in vitro.
Factors That Help a Woman Going Through In Vitro
Just as there are considerations to make that could affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant, there are some factors that could indicate a woman is more likely to successfully conceive. For example, if a woman has had children in the past, either through natural or in vitro techniques, this is a promising fact. The more full-term births (babies born at 37 weeks or higher) a woman has had, the greater her chances for reproductive success.
Women who are at a healthy weight for their height also experience greater pregnancy rates. Their bodies are healthier and better-equipped to support a baby than women who are underweight or overweight. Women who live healthier lifestyles, such as refraining from smoking, are also more likely to experience higher rates of IVF success.
What Conclusions Can I Draw About In Vitro Fertilization Success Rates?
According to WebMD, an estimated 29.4 percent of in vitro cycles result in pregnancy. This number may be adjusted based on the age of the woman participating in the IVF cycle. When considering the success rates of all those who participate in IVF, an estimated 22.4 percent of IVF cycle result in live births. However, WebMD reports the number of women becoming pregnant as a result of IVF is increasing regularly thanks to improvements in techniques and treatments used to treat infertility.
If a couple is considering using in vitro fertilization – which can be a costly endeavor – it’s important they ask a doctor about their unique risks and likelihood for conceiving and carrying the baby to term. Understanding these risks can help a person make a realistic and informed decision regarding whether to proceed with IVF. Additionally, an ethical doctor should not agree to perform an IVF cycle or cycles if the chances of conceiving are slim to none. Because in vitro can be such an expensive and stressful process, it’s important a person embark on the journey with the right medical team behind them.
American Pregnancy Association: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)