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Assessing the chances

Part 2 of the topic-series »Success Rate«

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Couples considering IVF treatment are accompanied by high hopes and expectations towards their treating specialists. During the initial consultation, most of them raise the key question regarding their chances of achieving pregnancy through reproductive technologies.

Predicting the outcome of fertility treatment is always a medical challenge, as there are numerous factors which may influence the individual chances of getting pregnant and giving birth.

In addition to the IVF team’s specialist skills and the techniques applied (e.g. by the laboratory), there are different aspects that may have an impact on the successful outcome of an IVF therapy such as, for instance:

  • woman’s age
  • nature and length of infertility
  • possible pre-existing conditions
  • genetic constitution of the couples (balanced translocations, genetic diseases etc.)
  • ovarian reserve
  • quality of the gametes (oocytes and sperm)
  • quality of the blastocysts transferred
  • IVF treatment using either own oocytes/spermatozoa or donated oocytes/spermatozoa
  • selection of the stimulation protocol

Therefore, these success parameters should only be considered approximate values with a view to a specific “patient group” (e.g. with reference to the relevant age). Even taking into account as many of these factors as possible, the success prognosis in a fertility treatment can never be completely unambiguous.

For the couple this means that their chances should be assessed on the basis of a medical consultation, thorough examination and analysis of their personal situation, and finally an individually balanced treatment concept should be drawn up.

Comparisons between success rates of different IVF centers are only possible to a limited extent

When comparing the performance figures of different IVF centers, one often finds oneself facing a multitude of data and success parameters (e.g. pregnancy rate, cumulative pregnancy rate, implantation rate, birth rate). Viewed objectively, therapeutic success of different centers can only be assessed if the patient groups under evaluation are fairly comparable. You cannot just compare different success rates with each other. It is sometimes useful to decide whether use of the one or the other success parameter is indicated.

What is the parameter’s significance? In what way should it be interpreted? What are the advantages and drawbacks? What are the most frequent errors and misunderstandings when it comes to interpreting success rates?

In conclusion, these are the key questions that will be addressed in our future blog articles of our series “Success rate – What couples need to bear in mind when considering fertility treatment”. Among other things, the following topics will be dealt with: pregnancy rate, cumulative pregnancy rate, implantation rate.

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