At the start of this month, it was reported that a group of academics have come up with an application which will calculate, with 99% accuracy, the likelihood of success of any IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) cycle.
I make no secret of the fact that both my kids were conceived via IVF. The geekdaddy and I were told it was our only chance at having kids, following years of trying and a number of other fertility treatments. We feel hugely lucky that our first cycle resulted in the geekdaughter, and our second cycle (using embryos frozen from our first cycle) resulted in the geekson.
I’ve tried the online IVF success calculator, which tells me that the geekdaughter was 25.5% likely and the geekson was 28.9% likely (the main reason for the difference being that we already had one successful cycle under our belts when we did the geekson’s cycle).
My question is how useful is this information, and more importantly can it be misused? Would it have helped us in any way to know these figures before undergoing treatment. More importantly, are people going to start relying on these figures to make policy or funding decisions on IVF treatment?
When we started our IVF treatment, we were told our chances of success were about 30%. We didn’t hesitate. We wanted to make sure we had taken all the chances we had at having children. In fact I think if we’d been told our chances were less than 10% we’d have still wanted to give it a go. If nothing else, your first IVF cycle is great for diagnostic reasons – it’s the first time you can verify that your eggs and your husbands sperm can fuse together to produce an embryo. In fact I made our consultant laugh because I went through our cycle saying it was just a trial run, and I wasn’t expecting it to work anyway!
We were lucky. We were in a position to fund our own IVF treatment, and it really is the best money we’ve ever spent. But many couples are not. Many couples rely on the NHS for that last chance of their own child. We are very fortunate here in the UK that we have our health system, but it is already facing a funding crisis, and there are those who say that the NHS should not be funding fertility treatment. What are those people going to do with a tool like this – will they look at a couple like us and say “sorry, your chances are less than 30%, we’re not funding your treatment”.
At the end of the day, statistics can be a useful tool, but they shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all. And these statistics are based on what has been, not necessarily what will be. Every financial investment plan comes with a disclaimer that says “past performance is no guarantee of future success” and I think this tool should have the same. By all means input your data into it and see what it says. But remember, everyone’s cycle is different, and this tool can not say for sure what the outcome of your cycle will be.