When you’re going through an experience as emotional as fertility treatment, numbers can be comforting. Having something concrete to apply to a situation that seems out of your control can help make the situation a little easier to handle.
This is why so many individuals and couples going through fertility treatment focus intently on the success rates of fertility clinics. After all, if the goal is to conceive, your clinic's track record of helping people get pregnant is clearly of the utmost importance.
But success rate stats without context won’t tell you the whole story. While this metric has real value, the number can sometimes be misleading, and, most importantly, it won’t always tell you what your probability of conceiving is.
So here’s what you need to know about success rates before you start fertility treatment.
The many factors that influence success rates
There are a number of different things that can influence the success rate of fertility treatment. The most critical factor is the woman's age (when using her own eggs). Success rates drop as women age, especially after their mid-30s.
Your medical history and the fertility issues you and your partner are facing also play a significant part in your chances of successfully conceiving. The protocols, methods, tools and processes a clinic follows influence a clinic’s success rate as well.
The Society for Reproductive Technology (SART) continually evaluates the success rates of clinics around the country. They work with clinics to make sense of their data and report their results to the CDC, which releases an Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Success Rates Report every few years.
Because of all of these influencing factors, SART has a disclaimer on the website that explicitly states: “[Because] patient characteristics vary among programs…success rates may vary greatly between individuals” and “success rates should not be used to compare treatment centers.”
Playing with the success rate numbers
Although these numbers are not meant to be used as a definitive guide for those undergoing fertility treatment, success rates are hugely important for clinics looking to attract new patients. As a result, some clinics try to keep their numbers high by only accepting certain patients, who they know are likely to conceive, to go through their program. This helps keep their success rate artificially high.
Some clinics can also push patients straight to IVF before considering other fertility treatment options, such as artificial insemination or IUI. In some cases, these less invasive and less costly treatments may have been enough for a couple or individual to conceive. However, success rates for these treatments aren’t reported by clinics and don’t impact their success rates.
In the past, some clinics also failed to report cancelled egg retrievals when the stimulation process wasn’t successful. Not reporting these cancelled cycles would keep a clinic’s success rates high, even though it doesn’t provide an accurate picture.
Other factors to consider beyond success rates
Those undergoing fertility treatment want to know what their individual chances are for conceiving. The truth is, no one can give you that number. Success rates depend on so many factors, including luck.
One useful tool for those who want to understand their chances of successfully conceiving is the CDC’s IVF Success Estimator. This calculator looks at your age, health, the reason for needing IVF, the number of previous IVF cycles, the number of previous pregnancies and whether you are using donor eggs. Again, while this number isn’t definitive, it does give you a more accurate picture of your individual chances of successfully conceiving through IVF.
However, that doesn’t mean a clinic’s success rate isn’t important. It’s just that it needs to be understood in context. And there are other metrics to consider, as well as success rates, and ones you’ll want to ask your clinic about before you move ahead with treatment, such as:
- What are a clinic’s fertilization rates? That is, how many eggs that are retrieved are successfully fertilized?
- What are a clinic’s blastocysts rates? That is, how many fertilized eggs make it to the blastocyst stage?
- What are a clinic’s current and ongoing live birth rates? The data they report to the CDC is often outdated, so it’s best to get the most recent stats possible.
And of course, when choosing a clinic, there are other factors to consider beyond its success rates. Like, what kind of patient care is offered? Will you be able to speak with a doctor in a timely manner if you have questions? Some larger clinics - often referred to as IVF mills - usually won’t give you adequate opportunity to get your questions answered.
This is especially important when it comes to things like how to take your medication. If you can’t get answers to your questions about administering your medication, you may take it incorrectly, which could also impact your chances of success.
Making sense of the numbers
Even if you’re armed with all the fertility treatment data you can handle, the truth is this process can be overwhelming.
But there is help out there. At HeraCare+, our team of fertility specialists can help you make sense of all the numbers and how they will impact your individual fertility journey. We’re here to help answer questions and provide additional support throughout your fertility treatment.
Want to learn more? Take a look at Hera Care+ to see how our team of fertility experts can help guide you through this process.