This new strategy increases IVF success rates from 36% to 62%
Couples who are thinking of using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to conceive, it’s time to rejoice: a new approach has drastically improved the odds of conception via IVF. Instead of implanting embryos in a woman’s body almost immediately following the first stage of fertility treatment, doctors from Cambridge have found that waiting a month before doing so increases IVF success rates significantly.
For the uninitiated, here’s how IVF typically works: women undergo an egg retrieval procedure, their male partners produce a sperm sample, and the eggs and sperm are placed in a petri dish for fertilisation to occur. Once the embryos are ready, the ob-gyn will then transfer an embryo (or two, if appropriate) into the woman’s uterus. This is typically done within a week of the eggs being retrieved.
But over at an IVF clinic in Cambridge, England, things are being done differently. Following a trial that shows that delaying the embryo transfer to a later date increases IVF success rates, the standard protocol at this clinic is now to wait for at least a month before continuing with embryo transfer.
According to figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the average success rate of IVF in England is 36%. This new technique, on the other hand, results in pregnancy 62% of the time. Stephen Harbottle, who’s the Consultant Embryologist of Cambridge IVF, has gone on record to say that this is the most “exciting” development he has witnessed in 25 years. According to Harbottle, the high IVF success rates are game-changing – because they mean that couples can finally embark on fertility treatment knowing that they are more likely to succeed than fail.
For those who are curious as to how the doctors stumbled upon this alternative approach, here’s the back story: women who undergo IVF are typically given hormones so that they produce up to ten eggs, all at once. All the eggs produced are fertilised with sperm and left to develop, but only one or two embryos are eventually transferred into the woman’s uterus. If there are any successful embryos remaining, these are frozen for use should the woman undergo a second or third IVF cycle.
In their practice, doctors at Cambridge IVF noticed that their patients who had frozen embryos transferred to their wombs experienced higher success rates (as opposed to those with fresh embryos). Wanting to explore what this could mean, the doctors enlisted the help of 147 women to take part in an 18-month research scheme which studied how utilizing frozen embryos would impact IVF success rates.
The results? 62% of the participants became pregnant, which is a drastic improvement over England’s national average of 36%. As a benchmark, Singapore KK’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital has reported an overall clinical pregnancy rate of 40-44% per cycle and a take-home-baby rate of 30% for IVF procedures.
Why the drastic increase? The doctors believe that the hormonal treatment administered at the start of an IVF cycle causes a hostile environment for an embryo. It naturally follows, then, that when a woman’s body is allowed to return to normal being an embryo is transferred to her womb, this results in higher IVF success rates.