We understand. You’ve been trying to get pregnant or can’t stay pregnant for a while. You’re up many nights in a row looking at fertility success rates posted on an IVF center website or social pages. You’re trying to make sense of the success rates provided and where to go for your fertility care.
You’re confused, anxious, and maybe a little frustrated, too; Why do IVF centers show different data points when highlighting their IVF success rates? Why do some centers show an average over multiple years? Why do some centers show only pregnancy rates, not delivery rates? Why do some centers share final data versus preliminary data?
Isn’t success measured the same way for everyone – the delivery of a healthy baby?
Since 1992 reproductive endocrinologists have been required by federal law to report live birth rates and other data to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The law was written to provide data consistency and transparency to patients from across the nearly 500 IVF centers in the U.S. today. In conjunction with the CDC, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) the professional association representing the medical field, also posts success rate data at www.sart.org.
Several years ago, SART started segmenting and reporting the data online in two ways: preliminary and final-year data sets. This change was instituted as the result of a divergence in clinical practice patterns between fertility clinics.
Many progressive IVF centers embraced frozen embryo transfer (FET) or delayed embryo transfers based on clinical research. This means that as much as 20% of the time, an embryo created in one year may be cryopreserved and stored and not transferred back to a patient until the following year. The use of FET has been shown to improve implantation rates and live birth rates.
Centers not routinely performing FETs felt it was unfair as those patients getting a FET were not counted as part of the total numerator that year and artificially flattered clinic success rates by a few percentage points. So began the process of reporting IVF success rates by both preliminary year (without delayed transfers) and final year data (all transfers).
Over the last five years, this process has been untouched, and patients could visit the SART website and clearly find either the preliminary year or final year success rate data of the clinic they were researching. Finding final year data took three “clicks.” When the reporting process changed on April 18th, 2023, finding final year data now requires seven “clicks” – and that’s if you know what you’re looking for.
Why did they do this? It’s clear that when you look at final year data, there are significant differences in success rates between IVF centers, 20 percentage points or more depending on age group. That difference is not as wide as the preliminary data. It’s grading on a curve.
So, if you’re Googling “What is IVF?” or “IVF Success Rates,” here’s what to look for when reviewing success rates by centers:
- Review the final year data when considering fertility centers. The final year data is the best, most transparent, and most complete way for patients to evaluate success rates between IVF clinics.
Go to SART.org. Search for the data sheet of the IVF center you’re considering. Next, find the final year data by clicking on the blue “view detailed report” button after being forced to select the “preliminary year data” pop-up.
Click on “view detailed report,” and you’ll have to select “preliminary year data” again (see our point?) before you’re able to go to the “FILTER” in the upper left and select final year data. Phew. Currently, 2020 is the most current final year data set available to patients. 2021 is the preliminary data set.
- Keep in mind it takes time (years) for patients to deliver and their outcomes data to be collected by a fertility center. If you had an IVF cycle in December 2021 and it was successful, it’s not until August 2022 or later that we learn what happened. As we speak, data teams from IVF clinics all over the U.S. are contacting patients treated in 2021 through mid-2022 to see if they were successful or not.
Usually, SART publishes the current data sets between late February and early April every year.
- Consider success rates by your age group. Maternal age is the biggest factor in success rates. Egg quality and quantity diminish over time, no matter who you are. Patients in their late 30s have a lower chance of success than mid-30s.
- Make sure clinic success rates meet or exceed current final-year averages. Your chance of success varies clinic by clinic. Often that’s an issue of the quality of the IVF lab and the embryologists and/or physicians doing the fertilizations or embryo transfers.
As of the 2020 final data, the average live birth rate per egg retrieval for a patient under 35 is 54.5%. That means there are IVF centers reporting success rates of around 40% or less and IVF centers reporting success rates of 70% or higher for the same category. Always compare clinic data to National average data. Visit SART.org for yourself.