IVF Success Rates: All In The Numbers?

IVF Success Rates: All In The Numbers?


IVF clinic success rates are important: we rely on them to decide where to go. But looking at the UK’s HFEA website, you need a maths degree to work out which stats matter and which don’t. As the HFEA points out, it’s not easy comparing clinic success rates. The numbers are based on other people’s treatment, not your prognosis.

The HFEA’s clinic summaries have improved in recent years. But its ‘success’ assessments are still disappointing. Patient ratings per clinic are based on surprisingly few patients (just 11 for one of the biggest UK clinics). The live birth success rate breakdowns are slightly confusing. Do people understand what ‘births per embryo transferred’ or ‘births per egg collection’ really mean?

There’s more fluff. The ‘reliability range’ of clinics is fairly meaningless, and the inspection reports don’t really help patients at all. Perhaps the HFEA knows its limitations: it’s a regulator, not a review site. The best recommendations about fertility clinics come from patients, but no comprehensive reviews are published. It’s all too clinical.

We looked closer at the number of cycles performed annually at UK fertility clinics. Many clinics treated fewer than 300 patients, the majority having IVF. Even in London, where patient turnover is higher, the number of donor-egg cycles was low. With patient numbers so variable, and donor egg recipients so elusive, can patients really have confidence in UK clinics? Donor waiting times are often over 12 months. That’s bad.

Better data often comes from non-UK clinics. Researchers at De Montfort University recently asked why so many UK couples go abroad for their IVF treatment. Two ‘push’ factors were dissatisfaction with their care (many had attempted at least one cycle in the UK before going) and very high costs. The ‘pull’ factors were availability of donors, short waiting lists, lower fees and better care.

Success rates matter. But we need more patient data. Our Czech clinic carried over 5,000 cycles last year, far more than any clinic in the UK. It has achieved over 10,000 live births in the last 10 years. Those results provide stronger reassurance. Lots of patients went, and lots of patients succeeded.

Fertility-clinic success rates are measured in different ways. Cumulative pregnancy rates, oddly absent from the HFEA website, are a crucial yardstick of clinic success. Since repeat cycles are sadly part of the IVF process, knowing you have, say, a 80% chance of success after three cycles is important. EU clinics provide this information. It’s not just marketing. It’s transparent and helpful.

Our advice? Consider published success rates alongside patient reviews and your interactions with clinics directly. You’ll quickly get a feel for the best clinics by checking the clinic boards on a forum like Fertility Friends. Just don’t rely on a regulator like the HFEA to tell you what success really means.

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