In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most powerful tools for couples struggling with infertility. It often takes several cycles of IVF for couples to get pregnant. However, the majority of patients are successful after several cycles, making the treatment a great option for many couples with infertility.
It’s important to be aware of what to expect before deciding to undergo in vitro fertilization, so that you are more prepared for the process and the challenges that it may entail. Below, we’ll explore some of the factors that influence success, as well as what to expect in terms of the number of cycles.
During in vitro fertilization, eggs are fertilized with sperm outside of the woman’s body, and the resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus. During the first part of the procedure, the woman’s ovaries are stimulated with medication to mature more eggs than usual without ovulating. Once ready, the eggs are collected using a minimally invasive procedure and fertilized with the partner’s sperm. The embryos mature for several days before transfer to the uterus. Extra embryos can be frozen for future use. Within 9-11 days of embryo transfer, pregnancy can be confirmed.
Although in vitro fertilization is a powerful tool for treating infertility, it is also an intense process, affecting couples emotionally, physically, and financially. An unsuccessful cycle can be devastating, especially if the couple is unaware that most couples require several treatment cycles to be successful.
Who is a Candidate?
For most couples, in vitro fertilization is not the first choice of treatment. Depending on the cause and nature of your infertility, your doctor may recommend methods such as medication or artificial insemination in order to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Only if these methods fail should in vitro fertilization be considered. In vitro fertilization may be considered sooner for patients who are over 40, as well as those who have conditions that make pregnancy without IVF unlikely.
Factors Affecting Success
Numerous factors influence a couple’s fertility – there is a great deal of individual variation in terms of the cause of infertility, as well as the factors that surround it. Many factors affect your chances of success with IVF. Some of the most important factors include:
- Age – After 37, female fertility drops significantly each year, in part because of a decline in the health of the eggs. IVF tends to be more successful in younger women. However, many women over 37 have successfully gotten pregnant using in vitro fertilization.
- Type of fertility problem(s) – Some fertility problems are associated with a better chance of success than others. One thing to keep in mind is that the chances of success can be lower for couples who have more than one fertility problem.
- Use of donor gametes – In some cases, couples may decide to use donor sperm or donor eggs. In general, donor gametes are chosen because they will give the particular couple a higher chance of a live birth than there would be otherwise.
- Use of additional procedures – In some cases, additional procedures such as the injection of sperm directly into the eggs may be used to increase the chances of success in light of a specific fertility problem.
- Number of past IVF cycles – If you have gone through IVF cycles in the past, the success you had with those cycles can be a decent indicator of what to expect with future cycles.
- The clinic – Clinics that provide IVF services publish their success rates. For the best chances of success, choose a clinic with success rates at or above the national average.
Average Success Rates
On average, about one third (33%) of patients experience a live birth after their first IVF cycle. For women who go through three cycles, the success rate rises to around 70% of patients. You should contact your physician for information about the success rates at the facility. Remember that average success rates can vary based on the factors described above, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any extenuating factors that could alter what you can expect in terms of success with in vitro fertilization.
Plan on More than One Cycle
It’s recommended that couples going through IVF come in with the awareness that it may be necessary to undergo several cycles before pregnancy occurs. Although a significant number of people do experience a pregnancy after the first in vitro fertilization cycle, the fact is that the majority go through several cycles before being successful. Because of this, it’s best to go through IVF when you have prepared financially and emotionally for that possibility.
For couples going through several IVF cycles, embryo freezing can be an excellent choice. Often, more embryos are created than can be used in a single cycle. In such an instance, it’s possible to freeze the embryos for future use. This means that the process of maturing and collecting eggs will not be necessary. Embryo freezing costs about half of a full IVF cycle, which means that it can help minimize costs and stress.
Establish a Stopping Point
Although it’s a good idea to go in with the awareness that several cycles will most likely be necessary, it can also be important to establish a stopping point prior to starting IVF. Because each cycle is filled with so much hope, ad because the devastation can be so strong if a cycle is unsuccessful, some couples find it hard to decide when to keep going and when to stop.
It’s recommended that couples plan for at least 3 cycles, since that is the point where the majority of couples experience success with the process. However, deciding when to stop is a highly personal decision that should be made after careful consideration, and after consulting with your physician.
Advanced Fertility Services would be happy to meet with you about whether or not in vitro fertilization is right for your fertility problems. To schedule your consultation today, please click below and enter your information or give us a call at (212) 369-8700.