In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) has helped hundreds of thousands of Australians start and grow their families, with one in 20 babies now conceived with the assisted reproductive treatment (ART). But success doesn’t always come easily, or at all, for some, and there can be confusion around these expectations.
It’s this issue that YourIVFSuccess — a world-first tool providing clear and credible information on IVF, comparing treatment success amongst IVF clinics, and helping patients estimate their chances of having a baby — is working to overcome.
Calculating your chances
Infertility is an issue for one in nine couples and the man contributes to infertility in around half of all cases — a statistic that comes as a surprise to many. If you’ve been trying to fall pregnant for 12 months without success, IVF might be on the cards in order to conceive. Despite growing awareness about infertility and ART, there’s still a significant amount of shame associated with the experience and many couples can go into the process with little understanding around their likelihood of success.
“Some are better informed than others, and there are great variations in health literacy,”Professor Robert McLachlan AM, Medical Director of Healthy Male, says.
Stathi Paxinos, who went through 12 unsuccessful rounds of IVF with his partner Jo, says he wasn’t aware of how challenging the experience would be.
“I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be, I didn’t realise how much pressure and stress it would put [my partner] under both physically and mentally, I didn’t realise what was involved in the cycles,” Paxinos says. “Our expectation was that we thought that we’ll go to IVF after a round, maybe two or three, we’ll leave with a baby. It didn’t really occur to us until we were onto our fourth, fifth, sixth failed cycle and we realised oh, this may not be a guarantee.”
The YourIVFSuccess Estimator calculates your chances of a successful treatment — which is defined as a live birth — after the first complete egg retrieval cycle, as well as additional egg retrieval cycles. This estimate is based on the woman’s age, the man’s age, history of pregnancy, infertility diagnoses and previous experience with IVF, and the chance of a live birth based on women who have had IVF treatment in Australia with the same characteristics as you. The latter data comes from the Australian and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database (ANZARD), based on over 600,000 IVF cycles done between 2009-2017.
It’s important to stress that the calculation does not reflect the nuances of your individual circumstances and may not reflect your actual rates of success during IVF treatment.
“It sets the scene for a detailed conversation with the clinic, making the consumer more educated about the terminology and the right questions to ask,” Professor McLachlan says. “From a public awareness point of view it starts to focus people on results and asking questions that are relevant to them.”
Male infertility has a broad range of causes, some more curable than others. In the future, the tool will be enhanced by ANZARD’s collection of information about specific male causes. The focus has long been on the woman’s age when estimating IVF success, which is a critical factor, but research has found the need for greater awareness of the impact of male age. Sperm quality declines as men get older, with those over 40 having fewer healthy sperm than younger men. Research has found a 4.1% decrease in the odds of live birth via IVF with each year of increase in male age, after 40 years old.
Comparing IVF clinics
Through the tool you are also able to search for IVF clinics near you, find out the services they offer and see their success rates, benchmarked against the national average. This independent and impartial information also comes from ANZARD and will help create greater transparency in the IVF industry.
Previously, prospective parents would have to get this information from each clinic with success rates often presented in ways that were not directly comparable and sometimes misleading. These details can inform your decision to try IVF and which clinic to go with — decisions that can not only have a high financial cost but a physical and emotional one too.
However, the website makes it clear that caution is still needed when comparing these statistics and applying the success rates to an individual couple’s outlook as there are factors that are not taken into account by the tool. A clinic’s success rates could be high or lower based on the types of patients it treats, as well as its diagnostic and treatment strategies. For example, younger women are more likely to experience IVF success and a clinic that treats more young women will therefore have higher success rates. It’s also important to keep in mind that the data these comparisons are based on aren’t the most recent available.
The main takeaway? This service can be a useful tool to generate awareness and assist in your IVF research as a starting point, but personalised medical advice is always essential.