IVF Success Rates: What They Do, and Don’t, Mean
When you are ready to consider IVF, researching the success rates of fertility clinics is a big factor in making a decision on where to go for fertility treatment. This is just one tool in your fact-finding, but it’s an important one.
About 85 percent of fertility centers report their statistics to SART, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. SART compiles the numbers and reports them on their website, sart.org. All fertility clinics are required to report the same data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
IVF cycle information for clinics is available on both websites, but the SART website presents it in a way that’s easier to understand. There’s a lot of information. What are the most important measures, and what affects a clinic’s results?
Patient Selection Affects Success Rates
Some clinics may refuse to accept patients who are less likely to have success with IVF, such as women 40 or over. These fertility centers may have high success rates because they are only treating younger patients or ones who don’t have a history of failed IVF cycles. Other clinics use different treatment approaches or cycle reporting practices which may raise or lower their success rates. SART advises that you consult your doctor and be cautious about comparing clinics. If a clinic’s success rate seems too good to be true, it may be due to who they treat rather than IVF success alone.
Some Basics about the Data
SART data is reported by IVF cycle starts, and is the annual total for a given clinic. The format has changed starting with 2014 data, to be more patient-friendly and easier to understand. It reports results per intended egg retrieval (IVF cycle start), preliminary primary outcome (IVF cycle with fresh eggs), subsequent outcome (IVF cycle with frozen embryos), and donor eggs. The report now includes data on live births per patient, which the older SART reporting did not include. This data makes it much easier to understand a clinic’s success, because you can see results per patient instead of per cycle. This is important because it may take more than one cycle of IVF to have a baby, depending on your age, fertility problems or other issues.
Be sure to examine the data for your age group. Age is the single most important factor in IVF success or failure unless you are using donor eggs. There is separate data for patients using donor eggs, which is not broken down by age. Eggs from young donors can enable older women to have nearly the same success rates as younger women.Facilities need two years of data in order to report live birth rates. If you are considering a newer fertility clinic, it may not have enough data to report yet. Ask the practice for more information and for their current pregnancy rates.
The Gold Standard
Some fertility clinics or specialists used to emphasize their clinical pregnancy rates on their websites, because these numbers are generally higher than the live birth rate. The new SART reporting format makes it easier to see a clinic’s live birth rate, which is the gold standard for measuring success. After all, it’s the baby that matters, right? This data is reported by age, so you can see the average for patients your age at that clinic. Again, remember that a fertility center’s practices may affect their success rates.
You can also see the number of single births (singletons), twins and triplets or more, which you may want to consider or discuss with the reproductive endocrinologist you choose. Many clinics are working hard to reduce the number of multiple births due to the increased complications for both mother and babies. In addition, the live births are reported as term, pre-term (premature) and very pre-term (before 32 weeks of pregnancy).