About one in eight American couples suffer from infertility, or the inability to conceive despite having regular unprotected sex. Some turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) as a fertility treatment option.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ART "includes all fertility treatments in which either eggs or embryos are handled." Approximately 2% of all infants born in America every year are conceived using ART, says the CDC, and its use has doubled in the past decade.
One of the most common forms of ART is vitro fertilization (IVF). During an IVF procedure, eggs are surgically retrieved from the ovaries, fertilized with sperm in a lab, and inserted back into a woman's uterus.
If you decide to try IVF, you may not simply be looking for good thoughts and crossed fingers. Instead, you want facts. What are the typical IVF success rates? Can you do anything to make IVF more successful? Thankfully, there are some reports that prospective parents might find particularly informative. Keep reading for more information about having a successful IVF cycle.
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What are IVF Success Rates?
The CDC has a report called ART Success Rates, which just released its preliminary 2020 data. It analyzed more than 326,000 ART cycles carried out by 449 fertility clinics across the country, as well as the outcomes of the cycles.
These cycles resulted in:
- 75,023 live births (deliveries of one or more living infants)
- 79,942 live born infants
Of the 326,468 ART cycles performed, 123,304 were egg or embryo banking cycles intended to be frozen for future ART cycles, and not expected to result in a pregnancy or birth. This means that without these cycles, 203,164 were intended for pregnancy.
A second report about IVF success rates is conducted by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Treatments (SART), an affiliate of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the primary organization of professionals dedicated to IVF in the United States. It releases an Annual Summary Report of SART-member clinics, which amounts to almost 90% of ART clinics in the United States.
SART is well-known for its in-depth look at specific categories for live births; for example, they break down data by singleton births (the birth of one child per IVF cycle) and non-singleton births (twins, triplets or higher). It also focuses on the age ranges of people undergoing IVF; maternal age can affect the success rate of IVF.
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For singletons, here's the percentage of live births per intended egg retrieval in 2020 (based on preliminary data). It takes all embryo transfers into consideration, using the patient's own eggs.
- Under 35 years old: 41.6%
- 35-37 years old: 29.6%
- 38-40 years old: 18.7%
- 41-42 years old: 9.2%
- Older than 42 years old: 2.8%
Here's the percentage of all live births, including for non-singletons, in 2020 using the patient's own eggs. SART breaks down data this way because there's often a preference for singleton births, which are generally safer for both parent and baby.
- Under 35 years old: 44.6%
- 35-37 years old: 31.5%
- 38-40 years old: 19.9%
- 41-42 years old: 9.7%
- Older than 42 years old: 2.9%
The SART report breaks down the data even further; for example, you can see IVF success rates for first embryo transfers and second/subsequent embryo transfers. You can also see data about embryo transfers with a patient's own eggs, donor eggs (fresh, frozen or thawed), or donated embryos. Check out the latest report for more specialized information.
How to Increase Your Chances of IVF Success
If you're looking to increase your chances of conceiving during IVF, here are eight tips from fertility doctors.
1. Maintain a healthy weight.
"Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important in fertility and IVF," says Linnea Goodman, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine. "We know that being obese (BMI >35) and underweight (BMI <19) affects IVF success rates. Being overweight also makes monitoring the ovaries during IVF more difficult and increases the chance of complications during egg retrievals."
Getting to a healthy weight can be achieved through changes in diet and activity, and with professional help if necessary. "Working with dietitians, and in some programs enrolling in a cardio metabolic weight loss program, can help achieve these goals," says Zaraq Khan, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
2. Optimize sperm health.
"Use of multivitamins and maintaining optimal body weight, as well using boxers over briefs, could improve sperm quality," says Dr. Khan. "Under appropriate care, men can also be started on medications that can help boost sperm numbers and quality that can have a beneficial impact on IVF outcome. In certain cases, sperm aspirated directly from the testicle over ejaculate could also be beneficial. Involving a male infertility specialist for any form of abnormalities in semen analyses is key."
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3. Partner with an excellent doctor and embryology laboratory.
"Choosing an excellent reproductive endocrinologist is twofold: In addition to experience and commitment to evidence-based medicine, look for someone with whom you feel comfortable and connected. Your doctor will accompany you on this very emotional journey and it is important for you to feel supported and heard," says Elizabeth Fino, M.D., fertility specialist at NYU Langone Fertility Center. "Asking for recommendations from friends and family who know you best can help guide you to a knowledgeable physician with whom you feel comfortable, but also be sure to do your research."
In a world of online reviews, it can be difficult to determine credibility. "Be careful of online reviews—they are often completed by select patients who had an extreme experience for one reason or another and may not be universally applicable," says Dr. Fino. FertilityIQ offers a unique model which hones in on specific aspects of the experience after vetting patient reviews.
To find an embryology laboratory, look for a long history of exceptional outcomes. One source is the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology which details the clinic's volume and live birth rate.
4. Reduce your stress.
"Basal stress levels can influence natural and assisted conception rates," says Dr. Khan. "Reducing stress troubles during an IVF stimulation cycle can be one of the hardest things to achieve for couples. Several reports suggest improvement of pregnancy outcomes with the use of acupuncture and other stress relieving techniques, like enrolling in mind-body programs, stress reduction, and resilience training workshops."
5. Quit smoking.
"Smoking can drastically decrease the chance of success while doing IVF because it affects egg and sperm quality," says Dr. Khan. But you don't have to do it on your own. Quitting smoking is not an easy task and often requires a great deal of personal as well as professional support. Try to involve your friends and family to help encourage you in the process. For smoking cessation, structured programs and/or pharmacological assistance have proven to be most successful," says Dr. Fino.
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6. Look into taking supplements.
"DHEA and CoQ10 are supplements that have shown some promise in association with an increase in egg quantity and quality," says Dr. Fino. "Talk to your doctor to see if he or she recommends them for you."Multivitamins may also be helpful, adds Dr. Khan.
7. Ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D
"Over 40% of individuals are deficient in Vitamin D, and there is emerging data on its association with infertility and worse IVF outcomes," says Tarun Jain, M.D., medical director of Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Oakbrook Terrace. "Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level, and consider taking a vitamin D supplement if it's low."
8. Focus on persistence and patience.
"Many patients require more than one cycle of IVF to achieve an embryo for transfer and outcomes may vary significantly from cycle to cycle," says Shannon DeVore, M.D., at NYU Langone Fertility Center. "If your first cycle wasn't successful, your doctor may be able to adjust the medications to optimize a subsequent one. Other times, it just means keeping at it. Try not to be discouraged by suboptimal outcomes and setbacks. The single biggest thing to remember is that most (or all) of this is out of your control. Nobody likes lack of control, but sometimes letting go can help you endure the journey. Take care of yourself and don't blame yourself when things don't go well. You are not alone; it often takes a village to build a family."