100 Ways of Using Data to Make Lives Better

What Are the Chances of Having a Baby Over Multiple Complete Cycles of IVF?

Published on: 16th June 2017

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Public Health
Case Study 51

Project Lead: Dr David McLernon, University of Aberdeen

A new online resource can provide couples with information about how likely it is that one or several rounds of IVF will be successful.

The Challenge

Normally, when a couple attend a fertility clinic to begin IVF treatment, they are only informed about their chances of having a baby for the first attempt of IVF. However, many couples will need several complete cycles of the treatment in order to become pregnant. Being able to predict a couple’s chances of having a baby over a complete programme of treatment is critical in shaping their expectations and to help them decide whether IVF is the right choice for them.

The Research

All IVF treatment information in the UK is collected by the regulatory body, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Researchers from the University of Aberdeen used the HFEA database to develop two novel online calculators. The first uses information the couple can provide before they start IVF, such as the age of the woman, how long the couple have been trying to conceive, and the cause of their fertility problem, to predict their overall chance of having a baby over several cycles of IVF treatment. The second calculator updates these predictions using information available at the first treatment attempt, such as the number of eggs that were collected, the number of embryos that were transferred, and the stage of these embryos i.e. 2-3 or 5 days old.

The Results

Before starting IVF treatment, increasing female age (from 30 years) and length of time trying to conceive were associated with lower chances of having a baby. If the couple had never had a previous pregnancy and the female partner had a diagnosis of tubal infertility the chances were even lower.

After the first IVF treatment, the main predictive factors included the number of eggs retrieved and whether or not spare embryos
were frozen for future use.

For example, according to the new online calculator, before IVF a 30-year-old woman with two years of unexplained infertility has a 46% chance of having a baby from the first complete cycle of IVF and a 79% chance over three complete cycles. If she subsequently has five eggs collected in her first complete cycle followed by the transfer of one 3-day-old embryo, with no embryos left for freezing, her chances decrease to 29% and 59%, respectively.

The Impact

This study provides couples and their doctors with an estimate of their cumulative chances of having a baby over a complete package of IVF from two points in time – before treatment and after the first embryo transfer. A new online resource will help shape couples’ expectations and will help them prepare emotionally and financially for their IVF journey.

The research team’s work was cited in the Scottish Government National Infertility Group Report where it contributed evidence which led to the recommendation, and subsequent policy change, of increasing the number of NHS funded complete cycles of IVF in Scotland from two to three.


You can try out the novel risk calculator, OPiS, for yourself:

Enquiries to Sabine Kurz, Communications Assistant, The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, sabine.kurz@ed.ac.uk


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