IVF: The Facts, Plus New Tech To Predict Your Odds of Success

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by Mylene Yao, M.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Univfy Inc.

Have you and your partner struggled to conceive naturally without success? Have you considered fertility treatments, but you’re unsure about whether to move forward with such an emotional—and financial—risk?

For some couples, infertility may be caused by underlying conditions that can be addressed by medical or surgical treatments. But for others, in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment offers the best chance to build a family. However, just like natural conception, there is no guarantee. Some women are falsely reassured into thinking that IVF can help them start a family easily in their forties. Still others may find it daunting to consult a fertility specialist and put off visiting their doctor out of fear of disappointment or the unknown, simply because they don’t know what their chances are of having a baby with IVF, should they need it.

When should I see a doctor?

Unfortunately, the longer you delay seeking treatment for infertility, the more difficult it is to overcome. Ovarian aging limits both the number and quality of eggs produced, which can significantly impact IVF success. In fact, your chances of IVF success vary greatly based a number of factors, including your age, overall health and that of your partner. That’s why I encourage anyone who’s struggling with infertility to see their doctor immediately. Don’t wait – the longer you do, the less likely you are to be successful.

As with any medical treatment, it’s your right as a healthcare consumer to know your prognosis—the likelihood of success—before you begin, so that you can properly weigh the risks and benefits. Numerous websites provide IVF success rates, including the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), which offers national and per-clinic average success rates for women in different age ranges who have undergone IVF. For instance, according to SART’s national statistics, a 38-year-old woman has a 22% chance of having a live birth with IVF using her own eggs, and a 42-year-old woman has a 12.5% chance.

What are my chances of success?

Most estimates are based on age and averages. And, while age is an important predictor, it isn’t the only determining factor. Each woman is an individual with a unique reproductive health profile. None of us, as an individual, are “typical” or an exact “average.” While one 38-year-old woman might have a 42% chance of success with IVF, another might have only a 15% chance based on specific, individual health factors. Taken altogether, a group of 38-year-olds might have an average 22% chance.

But, that group statistic may not accurately depict your individual probability of success, which may actually be far above (or below) others in your same age group. In fact, research has consistently shown that more than half of women would learn that their chances of having a baby with IVF were higher based on their unique reproductive health profile than estimated by age-based statistics.

Indeed, IVF success is affected by many factors in addition to age, such as height, weight (body mass index), ovarian reserve (age of your ovaries), reproductive history (e.g., previous pregnancies, miscarriages, etc.), and your male partner’s age and sperm count. But, until recently, there hasn’t been a reliable, consistent method to account for all of these factors and arrive at an accurate prognosis. New advanced, validated online prediction tests are now available to analyze your reproductive health data against tens of thousands of women who have undergone IVF treatment and provide you with a much more accurate and personalized gauge on your chances of having a baby with IVF.

How can I make the best decision?

Although each woman may weigh her personalized IVF success predictions differently when/if IVF is recommended by a fertility doctor, knowing your unique probability certainly gives you and your partner more reliable information to make a more confident decision about undergoing IVF.

If you’re struggling with infertility, the best first step is to start by talking to your doctor immediately. Consider taking one of the new online IVF prediction tests to get a clearer picture of your chances of success and bring those test results to your next doctor’s appointment. Armed with this information, you can both ask important questions and have a more meaningful conversation to determine what’s right for you. Knowing your personalized chances of IVF success can result in more confident and well-informed decisions about whether to see a fertility specialist, and if you’re already seeing a specialist, which options may be best for you.

Mylene W. M. Yao, co-founder and CEO of Univfy Inc., developer of Online, Personalized Fertility Tests, and a former Stanford University professor who has done more than 15 years of fertility research.

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