Understanding clinic statistics

To help you assess your chances of success, what you really want to know is, of all the couples who start an IVF treatment cycle, how many have a baby at the end of it? IVF clinics provide various facts and figures about their success rates with couples in general. When you read this information keep in mind that data can be presented in many ways and this presentation can affect your interpretation of the results. Here are a few issues to look out for:

1 The denominator used: Check whether the success rate quoted is a percentage of all couples who:

• Start treatment

• Undergo egg collection

• Have embryo transfer

For example, if out of 100 couples who start IVF treatment 80 undergo egg collection, 70 have embryo transfer and 15 have a baby, the success rate per started cycle is 15 per cent (15 out of 100). However, counted as a percentage of couples who undergo transfer the rate jumps to 21 per cent (15 out of 70) — which sounds much better. Either way, the result is the same: It's just the presentation that differs.

1 What counts as success: Falling pregnant isn't the same thing as having a baby: Not all pregnancies go well. So check whether the success rate quoted refers to all women with:

• A positive pregnancy test

• Clinical signs of pregnancy

• A viable pregnancy confirmed by ultrasound

• A pregnancy beyond 20 weeks

il Who the quoted success rate refers to: IVF is more successful for some couples than for others, so check whether the quoted success rate is for all couples or for only a selected group that includes couples who have a good prognosis, such as couples:

• Where the woman is younger than 35

• Who don't have complicated infertility problems

• Undergoing their first treatment cycle

Because IVF may not work on your first cycle, it's useful to think about IVF as a series of treatments rather than a one-off treatment. So instead of focusing on what your chance may be if you have just one cycle without any additional transfers of frozen embryos, ask your doctor to give you an idea of how likely you are to have a baby if you were to have three stimulated cycles, including transfer of frozen embryos from these stimulated cycles. Depending on your personal circumstances, your chance may be as high as 75 per cent.

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