It will take two-thirds of couples undergoing IVF treatment up to six attempts to have a successful pregnancy, according to new research.
Scientists at the universities of Bristol and Glasgow said patients should not view the process as a “single shot” as chances of success increased with the number of treatments.
The authors found that in all women, the live-birth rate for the first cycle was 29.5 per cent, and remained above 20 per cent up to and including the fourth cycle for women under 40. The cumulative percentage of live-births across all cycles continued to increase up to the ninth cycle, with 65 per cent of women achieving a live birth by the sixth cycle.
IVF is commonly stopped after three or four unsuccessful embryo transfers, with three unsuccessful transfers labelled “repeat implantation failure”.
The research, published in The Journal of The American Medical Association, looked at the likelihood of achieving a live birth from up to nine IVF cycles.
The study included almost 157,000 UK-based women who received almost 260,000 IVF ovarian stimulation cycles between 2003 and 2010 and were followed up until June 2012. The median age at start of treatment was 35 years, and the median duration of infertility for all cycles was 4 years.
Professor Lawlor, from the University of Bristol, said: “These findings support the efficacy of extending the number of IVF cycles beyond three or four.
“Clinicians often dissuade couples from further treatment cycles when they have had one with no eggs retrieved or imply that results from one such cycle indicate very low chance of future success. Our results suggest that is not the case.”
Despite national guidelines recommending up to three cycles of IVF for women under 40 who have not conceived after two years, the number of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) offering only one cycle has risen to 57 per cent. One IVF cycle at a private clinic costs around £5,000.
Susan Seenan, Chief Executive at Infertility Network UK, said: “This just shows the importance of every CCG in the country offering couples three full cycles, not just one or two which is happening in more and more areas around the country.”
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