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IVF success could be predicted
[Posted: Sun 06/07/2008 www.irishhealth.com]
A new method may be able to predict with 70% accuracy whether a woman undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) will become pregnant, US researchers have said.
IVF is a treatment given to women to increase their chances of getting pregnant. During treatment, a woman is given drugs to stimulate ovulation and her eggs are removed from the ovaries. The eggs are then combined with sperm in a culture dish in a laboratory, before being implanted back into the woman.
A typical IVF cycle produces five to 12 embryos, and doctors aim to transfer the ‘best quality’ one or two into a woman’s uterus. Doctors use a variety of criteria to identify which embryos are most likely to result in a live birth, including how the embryo looks and whether it has hit certain milestones, such as having reached the eight-cell stage by its third day of existence.
Dozens of additional factors are also taken into account, such as the age of the woman and the quality of her eggs. However, according to Dr Mylene Yao of Stanford University in California, who led the research, until now there has not been a consistently accurate test to determine whether an individual woman will have success with IVF.
This new method involves using four factors to determine a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant from an IVF cycle. The factors are the total number of embryos, the number of eight-cell embryos, the percentage of embryos that stopped dividing and would die and the woman’s follicle-stimulating hormone level - a measurement that estimates ovarian function.
The researchers said these four factors combined are able to determine with 70% accuracy whether an IVF cycle would result in a pregnancy.
They insisted that this new method would prove ‘critical in counselling patients, improving treatment, and ultimately in developing more customised treatments’.
Currently in Ireland, the IVF success rate is around 28%. In other words, a woman has a 28% chance of becoming pregnant after a standard IVF attempt.
This new development may mean that in the future, patients will have a better idea of their chances of becoming pregnant from the outset.
The researchers said that their findings call for a ‘shift from strictly focusing research efforts on selecting the ‘best’ embryos, to identifying methods that would improve the quality of the entire embryo group’.
Dr Yao said she hopes that using these factors will help doctors counsel patients who are trying to decide whether to go for another IVF cycle. IVF is expensive - both financially and emotionally - and she believes that many couples would embrace information that would better inform their decision.
“People make decisions based on probability. At that point, it’s really important to give a more accurate prediction,” she said.
Dr Yao added that more information is needed before clinicians adopt the new method. She and her collaborators are now analysing results from a follow-up study.
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