How effective is fertility treatment

The #1 question infertility patients have when they begin treatment is will it work? While it is impossible for research to answer that question specifically for your case, it can give you the odds. A large study presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Helsinki in early July found:

3 out of 4 women starting fertility treatment will have a baby within 5 years – and surprisingly around a quarter of these will be conceived naturally.

This was a large well-designed study of 20,000 women in Denmark who had infertility treatment between 2007 and 2010.  (Did you ever wonder why so much great infertility research is done in Denmark? Denmark’s health system records all fertility treatments and links them with babies being born later. In other words, it’s the ideal place to do well designed large-scale research.)

Researchers looked at when treatment started, then followed up by looking at live births 2, 3 and 5 years later. They found that:

  • After 2 years 57% of women starting fertility treatment had a baby.
  • 46% of these conceived by IVF when IVF was the first fertility treatment.
  • 34% of those having a baby had intrauterine insemination (IUI) as the first fertility treatment.
  • 16.6% of women starting treatments with IUI had a baby conceived naturally and not from the treatment.

Note that this study was on women who were in treatment from 2007 to 2010. Infertility treatment success rates has increased since that time, so if anything, these results are conservative.

Study presenter Dr. Sara Malchau, of Copenhagen University Hospital, said: “Overall, chances of a live birth are good, but successful treatment takes time. Couples will often need several treatment cycles.

#1 Factor Determining Effectiveness of Fertility Treatment

The number one factor influencing success is no surprise—the age of the woman. After 5 years, birth rates were:

  • 80% for women under 35 year
  • 60.5% for women aged 35-40
  • 26% for women aged 40 and over.

Odds of Getting Pregnant Naturally Without Fertility Treatment

Perhaps surprising to some was the finding that about a quarter of women who get pregnant after starting treatment will conceive naturally without the help of fertility treatment. Dr. Malchau says that spontaneous (natural) conceptions after or between treatments were seen with all causes of infertility and at all ages, but these were most common in women under 35 starting IUI. After 5 years from their first treatment, 18% of women under 35 who began treatment with IUI had given birth after natural conception. That compared with only 8% of women over 35 starting treatments with IVF.

Optimistic, But…

These findings are optimistic and should give hope to women beginning in fertility treatment, but the bottom line is that several cycles and years of treatment may be necessary. In countries like the United States, where the patients themselves usually pay for cost of treatment, this adds a huge financial burden. This information is invaluable when patients are assessing whether to consider using the payment plans, bundled plans, or multi-cycle plans being offered by their fertility clinic.

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

How many IVF cycles do you plan on doing? How many did you do before either getting pregnant or stopping treatment?

Image credit: Elisa Dudnikova