Annually, infertility clinics are required to report their IVF success rates to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and these figures are passed on to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART).
Both organizations caution against using this data to measure the effectiveness of treatment in fertility centers because the data can lack reliability and credibility. In fact, some centers have even been found to manipulate data by finding loopholes in the federally mandated reporting system.
For these reasons, IVF success rates outcomes should be taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, people consulting prospective infertility centers continue to consider a clinic’s pregnancy success rates as one of the most important measurements of the quality and level of care that a clinic provides.
Three Things to Keep in Mind When Interpreting a Prospective Clinic’s IVF Success Rates:
1. Beware of centers with exceptionally high success rates
Chances are these centers have patient exclusion criteria. The reason their success rates are so high is likely because they accept only straightforward infertility cases.
Such centers exclude women who present with symptoms like very high FSH levels, very low AMH levels, a very low follicle count, or simply who are of advanced maternal age (women trying to get pregnant over 40). By excluding these women, who have lower pregnancy chances, a fertility center can offer misleading numbers that raise their success rates above industry standards.
So remember, if you’re being treated by or are looking into a fertility center that is claiming astronomical success rates, the rates likely apply only to women with the simplest of infertility cases.
2. Check before you make your first appointment about “cut-off” values
Before your first appointment, ask if your clinic has any specific cut-off, or exclusion criteria.
You don’t want to settle on a clinic and get started with the consultation and treatment process, only to find out that because of your infertility symptoms they cannot do anything for you.
This is especially true for women of advanced maternal age (35+), as time is of particular importance to these women when trying to get pregnant.
3. Measure the quality of an IVF center by looking at the pregnancy success rates of its egg-donation program
Experts suggest looking at the pregnancy success rates of a center’s egg-donation program to measure the skill level of a center’s IVF techniques.
Why? Egg donor cycles aren’t affected by the center’s patient selection.
Egg donor programs recruit donors that meet certain criteria, such as being young, healthy and having an excellent ovarian reserve. Therefore, since the reproductive health of the egg donors is more or less uniform, looking at the successful pregnancy outcome rates of the egg donation program is a good way to measure the skill and expertise of an IVF center.
Get some further tips about interpreting IVF success rates in the brief video below. Fertility specialist Dr. Norbert Gleicher from the Center of Human Reproduction, New York, explains the calculation of IVF success rates and why they vary from clinic to clinic.