One of the most important factors to consider when comparing fertility clinics that offer treatment abroad is their success rate in producing healthy babies. Most clinics perform the same fertility treatments, with the same mix of clients, and so generally produce success rates that are roughly similar. However, the skills of the specialist and their technical team can have a significant influence, so it is always worth asking for the data.
Even if you are a fertile couple, having regular, unprotected sex, it is still a matter of chance whether you conceive or not. In your twenties and early thirties, the chances of conceiving are around 20–25 % each month. In your late thirties and early forties, this drops to around 5 % per month. These chance factors will naturally play a part in the success rates for your treatment, whichever fertility clinic you eventually choose.
Success rates for fertility treatments are measured in a number of ways, and the more specific the data, the more useful it will be in helping you choose your fertility clinic.
Most fertility clinics will have a headline success rate, usually expressed as the number or percentage of live births per fertility treatment cycle. This can then be broken down into success rates for individual treatments, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and success rates for different client groups, such as age ranges or infertility problems.
Another available measure of success rates may be that of clinical pregnancies achieved per fertility treatment cycle. This is a measure of the number of women who become pregnant, with a detectable fetal heartbeat. These data, however, do not always accurately represent the success rates for live births, as problems may occur later in the pregnancy.
One of the biggest factors affecting success rates of fertility treatments is age. However, it is important to note that this is the age of the eggs, not the mother, so if you are using donor eggs, your own age is less relevant.
Success rates will also be affected by the complexity of your infertility problems and the techniques used to overcome them. Fertility clinics that only perform simple treatments on selected age groups will have higher success rates than clinics who take on more challenging patients. Clinics that treat fertile women with donor sperm will have significantly higher success rates, for example, than fertility clinics that specialise in using surgical sperm retrieval techniques to treat male infertility, as there are far fewer obstacles to overcome.
Even the most accurately calculated success rates are just a statistical average, and every client is an individual with their own unique characteristics. A success rate of 20 %, for example, does not automatically mean that you are guaranteed to get pregnant within five cycles, however it does mean that it is statistically likely that this will happen.
Most clinics will offer success rates as a range, based around the average chances of becoming pregnant per cycle of treatment. The larger the number of treatments performed by the clinic, the smaller this range will be. A clinic performing a thousand cycles per year will be able to offer a narrower, more accurate range than one performing just a few hundred. Even so, the average success rate will usually be nearer the middle of the range.
Naturally, the more embryos that are implanted, the greater the success rates for a given treatment. However, this also increases the risk of multiple births and the associated problems for both mother and babies. You should always check the fertility clinic’s policy on embryo transfer to ensure that their success rates are not being manipulated in this way.
Many countries have laws or regulations in place limiting the number of embryos transplanted in an attempt to limit the issue of multiple births with fertility treatment.
When comparing success rates, it is important to ensure that you are comparing like for like. Average success rates are all well and good, but it is far more relevant to ask for details of the success rates for your specific age group, condition and treatment. Read our associated article for more details on how to compare success rates between clinics.