Staying power

IVF getting too much? Thinking of throwing in the towel? According to the results of a recent study, you might want to hang in there just that little bit longer.

A new study to come out of the United States has found that women could be giving up on IVF a little too soon.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women can actually keep increasing their chances of having a live birth through up to nine IVF cycles.

This flies in the face of the commonly accepted theory that three failed IVF attempts set a pattern for future failures.

Shot of a beautiful pregnant woman with the sun drawn onto her belly against the background of the ocean

What’s even more promising is that in the study, the researchers defined an IVF cycle quite expansively. Instead of considering each embryo transfer as an individual cycle, the study counted each attempt to stimulate the ovaries and harvest eggs as a new cycle.

That means each cycle may include multiple transfers.

It is believed that the conventional wisdom that three failed IVF cycles could point to a continuing pattern of failure, coupled with the fact that many doctors still base their recommendations on an outdated study that claimed that live birth rates drop after four IVF cycles, has led to many women giving up on IVF long before they needed to.

The study, by the University of Bristol in the UK, gathered data on 156,947 women who completed 257,398 cycles of IVF.

The results revealed that 30 per cent of the women had a live birth after their first IVF cycle, and the live birth rate was at least 20 per cent for the following three cycles.

Importantly, what it revealed was that the cumulative odds having a baby continued to rise through nine cycles.

Fertility experts are hoping that the findings of the study will encourage women to continue with fertility treatments for longer than they would have previously, although the study’s authors are quick to point out that just because they can, it doesn’t always mean they should.

According to the study: “For some couples, the emotional stress of repeat treatments may be undesirable, and the cost of a prolonged treatment course, with several repeat ovarian stimulation cycles, may be unsustainable for health services, insurers or couples.

“However, we think the potential for success with further cycles should be discussed with couples.”

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