(RxWiki News) When it comes to in vitro fertilization (IVF), new evidence suggests more may be better.
Although IVF is commonly stopped after three or four unsuccessful treatment cycles, a new UK study found that continuing IVF past this point may increase the likelihood of a live birth — especially for women younger than 40.
In an editorial about this study, Evan R. Myers, MD, MPH, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University, wrote, "These findings suggest that, for some couples, especially those in whom the female partner is younger than 40 years ... the incremental increase in cumulative pregnancy probability after 3 or 4 [IVF] cycles may be worthwhile, especially if financial resources are available."
For this study, a team of researchers led by Debbie A. Lawlor, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bristol, looked at 156,947 UK women who received IVF between 2003 and 2010. These women were followed up with until 2012. Half of the patients were age 35 or younger at the study's start.
In all women, the live birth rate for the first IVF cycle was 29.5 percent. This remained above 20 percent through the fourth cycle and continued to increase through the ninth cycle, with 65 percent of women achieving a live birth by the sixth cycle.
These researchers found that benefits of prolonged IVF treatment were greatest for women younger than 40 who used their own eggs.
In these women, the live birth rate for the first IVF cycle was 32 percent. This remained above 20 percent through the fourth cycle and continued to increase, with 68 percent achieving a live birth by the sixth cycle.
For women ages 40 to 42, the live birth rate for the first cycle was 12.3 percent, with 31.5 percent achieving a live birth by the sixth cycle. For women older than 42, all rates within each cycle were less than 4 percent.
Despite these findings, Dr. Lawlor and team noted that, for some couples, the emotional stress of repeat IVF treatments coupled with the financial burden of prolonging treatment, may be undesirable. However, the potential for success with further cycles should be discussed with couples so they can make informed decisions.
This study and editorial were published together Dec. 22 in the journal JAMA.
The UK Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and the Wellcome Trust funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.