Sunday, February 15, 2009

IVF Success rates and the Suleman Octuplets

There is an interesting letter to the editor in today’s San Diego Union Tribune regarding the octuplets. An infertility patient wrote in to say that the mother of 14 IVF babies discredits the typically wonderful work done by the infertility industry.
As a former fertility patient, I'm outraged at the mother of octuplets and her fertility physician. I hope people will realize that she, without a doubt, is the exception to the rule in the world of fertility medicine and treatment.

I volunteered for years with a national infertility support organization and have met dozens of couples for whom treatment was expensive and miraculous when it was a success. The vast majority of people who seek fertility treatment are people who want to have one baby, possibly a second, but I find it interesting that my husband and I, both professionals, had to scrimp and save to pay for our in-vitro fertilization, and after five attempts, we were blessed with one healthy embryo that resulted in a healthy son born.

Our health insurance didn't cover it and because we were both hard-working and gainfully employed, we did not have state disability payments or welfare to supplement our fertility treatment, like the octuplets' mother. I am appalled that she has cast a negative light on the world of fertility medicine, which has helped so many thousands of women give birth around the world.

This brings up an interesting point: what is the success rate for infertility treatment for couples who are actually infertile?
The nice lady who is a mother of 14 was not in fact infertile. She had perfectly healthy eggs. She did not have, as far as I can tell, a history of miscarriages. She was using IVF, not primarily because of a medical infertility problem. She was using IVF because of a social problem: she doesn’t have a husband.
I view the fertility industry’s claims for success with great skepticism. They inflate their success rates by including people like Nadya Suleman. Her success rate has nothing to do with the success rate likely to be achieved for a couple who is actually infertile.

1 comment:

Rob Taylor said...

Given the cost of IVF, I would imagine that the vast majority of patients undergoing the procedure have some form of difficulty conceiving naturally. The obvious exception would be same sex couples.

The two factors for determining the "success" of a fertility doctor are the live birth rate and the average number of embryos transferred to achieve those results.

Octo doc has a horrible record with respect to both of these. Here you can see, based on 2007 data, he has a dismal 10% success rate with 4.1 average embryos transferred for women 34 and younger. The national average is 46.1 and 2.2 respectively.

Without a doubt, this case IS the exception and not the rule. It is unfortunate that it casts a shadow on a legitimate doctors who are really doing good for couples having difficulty conceiving.

For a list of the top IVF clinics in America based on live birth rate and average number of embryos transferred please see: