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IVF Fails to Improve Pregnancy Odds After 5 Failed Cycles

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Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- IVF is unlikely to be successful for any woman regardless of age after five failed rounds, researchers in Australia found in the first national study of pregnancy rates from in vitro fertilization.

The chance of delivering a live baby over the first five cycles reaches 40 percent for women of all ages and about 50 percent for women younger than 35, a study by the University of New South Wales’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit found. The probability of a live delivery was negligible beyond five cycles, or rounds of drug-treatment used to achieve an IVF pregnancy.

The findings may help identify the point at which costly assisted reproductive technologies is no longer feasible. U.S. couples spend an average of $12,400 on each cycle of IVF treatment and cycles may need to be repeated to be successful, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The Australian study, based on data pooled from 35 fertility centers from Australia and New Zealand, found that women 40 years or older represented the fastest-growing group undergoing IVF -- or a quarter of patients in 2011. The average age of women undergoing IVF using non-donated gametes was 35.9 years in 2011.

In IVF, eggs that are surgically removed from the ovary are fertilized outside the body, such as in a Petri dish, with sperm. They are examined 40 hours later for signs of fertilization. Embryos are later transferred directly into the uterus or frozen for later use.

The U.K.’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommends that as many as three IVF cycles should be offered to eligible couples if the woman is 23 to 39 years, and one cycle should be offered if the woman is 40 to 42 years, provided she has never previously had IVF and has enough eggs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ketaki Gokhale in Mumbai at kgokhale@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at j.gale@bloomberg.net