The reality of IVF success rate 

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has published a new report, the latest, on the outcomes of assisted reproduction in Europe, corresponding to the year 2011.

It includes data from 33 countries, two more than in 2010, from 1064 clinics, which total 609,973 ovarian stimulation cycles. Of these, 138,592 correspond to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and 298,918 to intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI). Frozen embryos were used on 129,693 occasions, and donor eggs on 30,198. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select the best embryos was used 6,824 times. Artificial insemination using the husband or partner’s semen was performed on 174,390 occasions, and using donor semen on 41,151.

The most interesting thing about this report, however, is undoubtedly the outcomes obtained. The pregnancy rate in the first IVF cycle per aspiration and per embryo transfer was 29.1% and 33.2 %, respectively, while these rates were 27.9% and 31.8% when ICSI was used.


The live birth rate — the main figure to take into account since it reflects the number of women who had a child after one stimulation cycle — was 19.2%, lower than in previous years, since this was 20.6% in 2010; 20.2% in 2009; 21.7% in 2008; 22.3% in 2007 and 20.8% in 2006.

One possibly more interesting fact is to know the percentage of women who had a child after several IVF attempts, since this is ultimately the real success rate. This was evaluated in a recent article (Human Reproduction, 31;) that included data from 178,898 cycles during the years 1992 to 2007. After three stimulation cycles, the live birth rate was 30.8% for IVF procedures carried out between 1992 and 1998, and 42.3% for those carried out between 1995 and 2007 (Human Reproduction 31; 233-248, 2016).

These are very interesting data since they reflect the reality of the success rate achieved with IVF, or the percentage of women who were able to have a child after several attempts plus ICSI, which after one stimulation cycle varies around 20% of births and after three between 30% and 40%. These are without doubt percentages much lower than those that most clinics show in the brochures that they use to attract clients.