Background: IVF and embryo transfer has become an established and increasingly successful form of treatment for infertility, yet significant numbers of couples discontinue treatment without achieving a live birth. This study aims to identify major factors that influence the decision to discontinue IVF treatment.
Methods: Questionnaires were sent to 1510 couples who had undergone IVF treatment at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, Scotland, between January 1995 and December 2001. The main outcome measure was the number of couples who discontinue treatment and the reasons for discontinuation including live birth, lack of success, lack of funding, psychological stress, medical advice, physical discomfort, personal and other reasons.
Results: The response rate was 55% (732/1327) with 183 questionnaires returned as address unknown. A total of 515 couples had discontinued treatment at time of response, with 266 (52%) having achieved a live birth. Achieving a live birth was the reason for discontinuation where a single reason was given. Those who did not conceive gave a combination of reasons. Lack of personal and/or National Health Service funding was cited by 23% of couples as a reason. Lack of success and psychological stress were reported as factors by 23 and 36% of couples respectively. These two factors are very strongly associated (P < 0.001), both being reported by 18% of couples with a reciprocal increase in those quoting lack of success and psychological stress as reasons for discontinuation with increasing number of attempts (P < 0.0005). Changes in personal circumstances were reported by 30% and <10% gave general discomfort or advice from medical staff as reasons.
Conclusions: Though funding is an important issue, factors including lack of success and psychological stress play a greater role in influencing the decision to discontinue treatment. Better information and support are needed to improve the continuation rates.