The most common and unanswerable question posed is that which follows one failed IVF cycle. Although our success rates continue to improve, on average about 1 in 3 couples is successful after one IVF attempt. However there are a growing number of studies that show that that success rate at least doubles when couples undergo at least 3 cycles. This is according to a just released report out of Sweden. A larger study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year was even more optimistic. In a study which followed more than 6,000 women through nearly 15,000 IVF cycles, they found that the live birth rate on the third attempt was between 65% and 86% in younger women and between 23% and 42% for women beyond age 40. Yet despite these advances in success rates, many couples drop out after only one attempt.
I regularly counsel my patients that a single IVF cycle can provide valuable information that can be used to plan future treatment; yet rarely does a single cycle serve to definitively identify those that will not conceive with one or more additional attempts. As a former IVF patient I personally understand the frustration at receiving a negative pregnancy test. That’s why I feel it is essential that good communication occurs throughout the treatment process.
Current estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that over 6 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 are affected by infertility. Yet many either never seek treatment or don’t complete enough therapy to be certain of their potential benefit. As our treatment attempts become increasingly more successful, I think it’s important to realize that a single cycle of IVF might only be the beginning of treatment and should only rarely be considered the end of the line.