Women who go through multiple rounds of IVF have a significantly higher chance of having a baby, long-term data shows.
The Medical Journal of Australia has published the first report on cumulative live birth rates for complete ovarian stimulation cycles.
In other words: the chances of having a baby from multiple rounds of IVF or other types of assisted reproduction.
Currently, women who seek assistance in having a baby are counselled on their chances of success based on individual cycles, but this research is seeking to change that.
The researchers followed over 56,000 women who completed eight cycles of treatment in Australia and New Zealand during 2009-2012, and followed them until 2014, or the first treatment-dependent live birth.
For women aged 40, success rates for live births increased from 10 per cent to roughly 40 per cent by the seventh cycle.
“What this shows is that women going into IVF today have a very reasonable chance of getting pregnant,” researcher Michael Chapman said.
Professor Chapman said success rates soared for younger women.
“A 35-year-old for instance can be fairly certain that she’s got a better than 70 per cent chance of taking home a baby with current modern technology,” he said.
So what is behind the higher success rates?
Professor Chapman said it is a numbers game, and that up until now the data on multiple cycles has not been made available.
“We’ve now got long term data where we identify individual women and can follow them through.”
New mum ‘gutted’ after failed IVF
Kristy O’Brien’s story matches up with this latest research.
But she did not have an easy time during her journey through multiple cycles of IVF.
“I got all excited with the first cycle thinking, ‘yep, there’s a chance this will work, this is great’,” she said.
“And then I got cut off at the knees straight away, and I was gutted,” Ms O’Brien said.
After 11 years of trying to conceive, a failed marriage, one miscarriage, and seven rounds of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), the 41-year-old gave birth to a baby boy.
“It sent me to hell and back: physically, emotionally and financially,” she said.
Hard to know when to stop
Thirty-seven-year-old Nicola Goring is another success story from multiple cycles of IVF, but only because her and her husband persevered.
After three failed cycles, Ms Goring’s specialist advised her to use donor eggs or give up on the idea of having a baby.
“She said unless we’ve got bags of money, but also to consider the psychological and emotional effects, and that it’s probably best to try something else.”
Professor Chapman conceded that there was never a guarantee of success with IVF.
“One of the hardest things I face in my clinic is to say I think it’s time to stop,” he said.
“But I would say that 50 per cent of couples will say even if I have 1 per cent [chance], I’ll keep on going.
“For some couples, one cycle, and the psychological trauma of failing is enough for them to pull out of the game, but it varies from person to person,” Professor Chapman said.
Ms O’Brien said you need to go into IVF with an open mind.
“And be prepared for it to not work the first, second, or third time, because you have to juggle things to make it right for you,” she said.
Professor Chapman said he wanted this data to be used when counselling prospective parents about the likelihood of treatment success, as well as for educating the public and policy makers.