IVF is considered a relatively safe and low risk procedure
The success rate of IVF depends on a number of factors including your reproductive history, age, the cause of infertility and lifestyle factors.
Your age is the single most important factor affecting success of IVF. The next most important factor is the length of time you’ve been trying for a baby. The longer your infertility, the less likely it is that IVF will be a success.
In Australia, the live birth rate for women after their first IVF cycle using fresh embryos is approximately:
- 31% for women under age 30
- 30% for women aged 30 to 34
- 21% for women aged 35 to 39
- 8% for women aged 40 to 44
It’s likely you’ll need more than one cycle of IVF before getting pregnant. Unfortunately, some women don’t become pregnant despite multiple IVF attempts. If your first cycle of IVF is unsuccessful, your chances of conceiving with subsequent cycles is unchanged in the following 6 cycles but declines for further cycles.
Success rates reported by individual IVF clinics vary. Some clinics report their results by the number of pregnancies achieved; others by the number of live births. If you’re comparing doctors or clinics, check to ensure that you compare the live birth rate for women in your age group.
IVF has some disadvantages, including potential risks from the fertility medications, the invasive procedures used and high costs.
Other risks include:
Ovulation hyperstimulation syndrome. A mild form of this syndrome affects 2% to 6% of women. It often happens because the drugs used to induce ovulation can cause your ovaries to become overstimulated. The symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. If you become pregnant during the IVF cycle, the symptoms can last for several weeks.
A more serious form of the condition affects about 1% of women and can result in blood clots in your legs or lungs, and fluid imbalances in your blood. Of particular concern is fluid accumulation in your abdomen or lungs. It’s more likely to happen after the retrieval of 20 or more eggs.
If the syndrome occurs, your IVF cycle may have to be cancelled and different medications used in subsequent cycles to avoid it happening again. Management depends on the symptoms but can include surgery to treat internal bleeding and any fluid build-up in your body.
Symptoms following egg retrieval. After this procedure you may have a feeling of cramping, fullness or pressure.
Egg retrieval complications. Bleeding, infection and damage to the bowel or bladder can occur following egg retrieval.
Symptoms following embryo transfer. You may pass a small amount of clear or bloody fluid shortly after the embryo transfer. You may also experience breast tenderness, constipation and abdominal cramping or bloating.
Ectopic pregnancy. This is where the embryo implants outside of your uterus, usually in one of your fallopian tubes. If this happens, your pregnancy needs to be terminated.
Miscarriage. This risk is mainly dependent on your age and the cause of your infertility.
Premature birth and low birth weight. Babies born to mothers who have had IVF have a higher risk of prematurity and low birth weight.
Multiple births. If more than one embryo is implanted in your uterus, there’s a chance of having twins or triplets. Carrying multiple foetuses gives you a higher risk of having babies that are premature with a low birth weight, cerebral palsy and all other related complications of prematurity.
Birth defects. Some researchers believe that babies conceived via IVF have an increased risk of certain birth defects, but this has yet to be definitely proven.
Emotional stress. The process of IVF is emotionally stressful, particularly if repeated attempts are unsuccessful. You’ll need support from family, friends or counsellors during this time.