A recent review of in-vitro fertilisation treatment (IVF) clinics in Australia, conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), identified some misleading ways they present people’s chances of a having a baby on their websites.
Clinics provide IVF success rates in often confusing ways because there is no agreed format on how this information should be presented.
Our recent audit, presented at a recent conference of the Fertility Society of Australia, reviewed the success rates published on the websites of IVF clinics in Australia and New Zealand. It identified some common traps in the way these figures are presented. Below are five things consumers should be aware of when visiting IVF clinic websites.
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IVF treatment involves several steps: fertility drugs to develop a number of eggs, retrieving the eggs, adding sperm to the eggs for embryos to develop and finally, an embryo transfer (ET). The ET involves an embryo being placed in the uterus, where it hopefully implants and grows into a baby.
Unfortunately, things can go wrong in each of these steps. The woman might not respond to the fertility drugs, eggs may not be recovered and embryos may not develop or implant. And even if the embryo does implant and what is known as a clinical pregnancy is established, there is still a risk of miscarriage.
1. How do clinics define ‘success’?
One clinic can look much more successful than another because of the way they measure success. It is important to know whether a clinic’s success is defined as a clinical pregnancy or a live birth. And whether the success rate figures are per started treatment cycle or per embryo transfer.
As an example, let’s say 100 women start a treatment cycle. 75 of them have an embryo transfer, 25 have a clinical pregnancy and 20 give birth. The rate of the pregnancy per embryo transfer then is 33 per cent. But the live birth per started treatment cycle is only 20 per cent.
Regardless how success is reported, the outcome is the same: of the 100 women who started a treatment cycle, 20 had a baby.
Our recent audit found most clinics quote pregnancy per embryo transfer rates. This does not account for women who don’t get eggs or embryos, or the 20 per cent of women who get pregnant but miscarry.