Cumulative live-birth rates after in vitro fertilization

N Engl J Med. 2009 Jan 15;360(3):236-43. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0803072.


Background: Outcomes of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment are traditionally reported as pregnancies per IVF cycle. However, a couple's primary concern is the chance of a live birth over an entire treatment course.

Methods: We estimated cumulative live-birth rates among patients undergoing their first fresh-embryo, nondonor IVF cycle between 2000 and 2005 at one large center. Couples were followed until either discontinuation of treatment or delivery of a live-born infant. Analyses were stratified according to maternal age and performed with the use of both optimistic and conservative methods. Optimistic methods assumed that patients who did not return for subsequent IVF cycles would have the same chance of a pregnancy resulting in a live birth as patients who continued treatment; conservative methods assumed no live births among patients who did not return.

Results: Among 6164 patients undergoing 14,248 cycles, the cumulative live-birth rate after 6 cycles was 72% (95% confidence interval [CI], 70 to 74) with the optimistic analysis and 51% (95% CI, 49 to 52) with the conservative analysis. Among patients who were younger than 35 years of age, the corresponding rates after six cycles were 86% (95% CI, 83 to 88) and 65% (95% CI, 64 to 67). Among patients who were 40 years of age or older, the corresponding rates were 42% (95% CI, 37 to 47) and 23% (95% CI, 21 to 25). The cumulative live-birth rate decreased with increasing age, and the age-stratified curves (< 35 vs. > or = 40 years) were significantly different from one another (P<0.001).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that IVF may largely overcome infertility in younger women, but it does not reverse the age-dependent decline in fertility.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology
  • Birth Rate*
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Fertilization in Vitro / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Maternal Age*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome