IVF success rate – how often does it really work?

IVF success rates, failure rates, the risks associated with treatment - and what happens if you don't get pregnant

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Wondering how likely it is for IVF treatment to work for you?

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It’s a big question, of course. A huge, glaring question. One that often sounds a lot like: I am putting my body through so much, and I am so invested emotionally in this – please, please tell me it’s going to happen for me.

Sadly, we’re not genies and we can’t grant you even just one wish (as much as we’d like to).

But we can let you know what your chances of successful IVF are, the best ages for IVF and what happens if it unfortunately doesn’t work…

What is the IVF success rate in the UK?

The most recent success rates were reported in 2010, so quite some time ago, by the Human Fertility & Embryology Authority (HFEA):

  • 32.2% for women aged under 35
  • 27.7% for women aged between 35–37 
  • 20.8% for women aged between 38–39
  • 13.6% for women aged between 40–42
  • 5.0% for women aged between 43–44
  • 1.9% for women aged 45 and over 

Success in this instance = number of live births, which means how many people have gone on to have a child.

These stats also specifically represent women using their own ‘fresh’ (so, not frozen) eggs, and fresh embryos. These numbers also include ICSI treatments, too.

However, it’s important to note that these stats also represent women who are undergoing their first IVF treatment. It’s our understanding that these percentages drop quite a bit for multiple cycles ?

Admittedly, these numbers aren’t very heartening, especially if you’re attempting IVF in your 40s.

Though it’s SO crucial to remember that there are plenty of success stories out there – including one from MFMer Yvette, who documented her full IVF journey into motherhood for us ?

What is the best age for IVF treatment?

It’s clear that you’ve got the best chance of IVF success if you’re under 35, going off the above figures.

HFEA also notes that “if you are using your own eggs, on average, the younger you are the higher your chances of success.”

This is because nature unfortunately doesn’t always wanna play ball – and often, doctors can see a decline in egg quantity or quality (or both) as you get a bit older.

Interestingly, a graph of US data shared by Advanced Fertility suggests that 25 – 28 seems to be the peak period for women undergoing IVF.

This is when the chart, showing the number of live births signalling a successful treatment, starts to curve in the opposite direction to the one we want.

They also note another drop happening around age 31, then at 37.

What are the risks associated with having IVF?

As with anything related to the medical field, there are some risks you take when you agree to go ahead with IVF.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), ectopic pregnancy, medication side effects and the chance you’ll have multiple births (such as twins or triplets) are all possibilities, according to the NHS website.

They also note that another risk factor is just how emotionally taxing the process can be – for you, for your partner, and for your relationship as a whole.

You’re entitled to counselling during the process – we’d always say be sure to take advantage of it.

When IVF fails: what happens if IVF doesn’t work?

If your IVF treatment didn’t go the way you hoped, you’ll be asked back into your clinic for a review consultation. Your specialist can discuss what options are available to you, such as a frozen embryo transfer (FET).

If you’re being treated privately, these extra procedures will add to your final bill, but Dr Geetha Venkat, director of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, tells us that they’re often much cheaper than IVF itself (around £1k per frozen embryo session).

After several unsuccessful IVF treatments, it might be time for you to consider discussing what comes next with your fertility specialist.

We know just how hard this conversation can be, but it’s an important one to have, to make sure you’re fully aware of every option and opportunity within reach.

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