Around 1 in 7 couples in the UK experience problems in conceiving quickly and naturally, and an increasing number are turning to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) infertility treatment to help them to have a baby. The treatment is often costly, so deciding which clinic to attend is something to be considered carefully.
Many people look at success rates: overall IVF success rates are around 22% per cycle of treatment, although the IVF success rates increase to around 32% for mothers under 35 years old. However, IVF success rates between clinics vary depending on a number of factors, and it is important to consider all of these when choosing an IVF clinic.
In 2009, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published comprehensive statistics on IVF success rates, to help people make that important choice. But how reliable are these figures, how are they useful, and what other factors should you take into account?
This article on IVF success rates and choosing a clinic for infertility treatment is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Factors affecting success rates
Age is the biggest factor affecting IVF success rates. In the most recent analysis, for 2007, the IVF success rates by age were as follows:
Under 35 32.3%
Over 44 3.1%
Clearly, when choosing an IVF clinic, their published IVF success rates within your age group will be a crucial factor. The reason for your infertility, and the type of treatment you choose to solve the problem, will also have a major influence. This includes factors such as whether you are using fresh or frozen embryos and whether you are using donor eggs or sperm. IVF success rates for each set of circumstances will vary from place to place and this should be considered when choosing an IVF clinic.
Even before you start the process of choosing an IVF clinic, there are steps you can take to increase your IVF success rates. For example, women with a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 30 are shown to be more likely to conceive, so it can be worth losing a few pounds to increase your IVF success rates.
Where to find details of IVF success rates
Given the cost, both financially and emotionally, of IVF treatment, choosing an IVF clinic that meets your needs is vital to maximise your IVF success rates. In 2009, this decision was helped enormously by the launch of comprehensive statistics on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website.
By visiting www.hefa.gov.uk/guide, you can now get access to the IVF success rates for every licensed clinic in England and Wales, comparing IVF success rates for age, treatment types, infertility diagnosis and other key factors. The site also helps you in choosing an IVF clinic for your specific circumstances, based on a range of search criteria.
“Fertility treatment is big business in the UK,” explains HFEA Chair Professor Lisa Jardine. “People can spend thousands of pounds in the hope of having a baby, so it is only right that they have as much information as possible to help them make their choice”.
Important things to consider
While the wealth of statistics available on the HFEA site is invaluable when choosing an IVF clinic, it is important to consider the raw data in context. For instance, you should bear in mind that:
The data is two or three years old and things may have changed
Most IVF clinics don’t do enough treatments to generate meaningful statistics or predictions of IVF success rates, and at best you will get a range, e.g. 12 – 28%
The variables mentioned earlier, such a diagnosis and age will affect the data. (For example, IVF clinics specialising in older patients may be below the overall IVF success rates, but may have high IVF success rates within this group).
The statistics are presented in great detail and so it is worth spending the time to compare clinics based on your own specific needs. What’s more, the IVF success rates data was analysed further in March 2010, breaking it down into even more specific categories, to help you make your choice.
Choosing an IVF clinic
While the HFEA site offers unprecedented information for patients choosing an IVF clinic for infertility treatment, one important factor that has emerged is that most clinics across the country have IVF success rates that are around the national average. This means that taking on the stress of travelling to a clinic rated higher than your local service may not reward you with that big an increase in IVF success rates as the increased stress could well negate any potential benefits.
Similarly, with most clinics producing IVF success rates around the national average, other, more personal factors will be just as important in choosing an IVF clinic, such as recommendations, local reputation and your own ‘feel’ for the clinic. Feeling reassured and comfortable, and trusting the team treating you, can make all the difference at this highly emotional time.
Success rates are increasing
The good news for couples considering treatment is that IVF success rates are increasing all the time as new techniques and technology are introduced. This is particularly true for older women, as shown in the latest birth rate figures, released in May 2010. These showed that the number of babies born to mothers over 40 increased by 89% between 1999 and 2009, while for 35 – 39-year-olds, birth rates were up by 41%. Clearly increasing IVF success rates have played a part in these impressive rises, bringing new hope to older women as they try to start a family.