Australia's IVF rates revealed: one in every 25 births an IVF baby

Just under 18 per cent of initiated cycles resulted in a live birth, the latest Australian and New Zealand data showed.
Just under 18 per cent of initiated cycles resulted in a live birth, the latest Australian and New Zealand data showed. Photo: Supplied

IVF success rates are climbing, with one in four embryo transfers resulting in a live birth, the latest IVF data from Australia and New Zealand shows.

More than 13,500 IVF babies were born in Australia in 2016/2017, the highest number ever recorded across the two countries, according to a new report released Sunday.

One in 25 Australian babies are now born via IVF, one in every classroom, said Professor Michael Chapman, President of the Fertility Society of Australia, which funded the report.

The success rate of IVF was driven by the age of the women undergoing the treatment
The success rate of IVF was driven by the age of the women undergoing the treatment Photo: File

The success rate of IVF was greatly dependent on the age of the mother, confirmed the data compiled by UNSW’s National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit (NPESU).

It also showed IVF mothers and babies having elevated rates of complications, including miscarriage, caesarean and premature births, though complication rates have decreased.

The rate of live deliveries per embryo transfer rose from 22.5 per cent in 2012 to 26.2 per cent in 2016.

The number of IVF treatment cycles rose by 4.3 per cent since 2015, with 81,062 cycles reported across Australian and New Zealand clinics in 2016. The report did not include individuals who travelled overseas for IVF.

Just under 18 per cent of all initiated IVF cycles resulted in a live birth.

The age of women undergoing IVF is creeping up, with patients aged over 40 now accounting for one in four IVF cycles. Their success rate had also crept up to 13 per cent.

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For the first time, there were more frozen embryo transfers than fresh cycles, with almost 60 per cent of IVF babies born via frozen embryo transfers in 2016.

For women in their 20s, the live delivery rate per embryo transfer cycle was 36.9 per cent for fresh cycles and 33.3 per cent for frozen cycles using their own eggs.

For women aged 40 to 44, the chance of a live delivery per embryo transfer cycle was 9.5 per cent and 18.6 per cent for fresh and frozen cycles respectively.

For women aged over 44, the live delivery rate was markedly low using their own fresh eggs: 1.3 per cent (six babies from 463 embryo transfer cycles).

For frozen embryo cycles among women 44 and over, the live delivery rate was 11.8 per cent (42 babies from 355 embryo transfer cycles).

IVF babies

More than half of births after embryo transfer cycles were caesarean sections. This was likely driven by IVF mothers being on average five years older than other mothers, as well as the anxieties of mothers and obstetricians because these births are considered high risk, Professor Chapman said.

One in seven babies was pre-term (14.8 per cent), significantly higher than the pre-term rate of all babies born in Australia in 2015 (8.7 per cent). Their average birth weight was also slightly lower than the national mean birth weight.

In 2016 there were 148 perinatal deaths (106 stillbirths and 42 neonatal deaths), 9.8 deaths per 1000 births, higher than the 9.2 deaths per 1000 births for all births in Australia in 2016.

But the authors warned this data should be interpreted with caution due to the small numbers and potential for variability in self-reporting among the clinics.

"Science" was to thank for the rise in success rates and drop in complications, Professor Chapman said. "We're getting better at it," he said.

"When I started 35 years ago IVF was an experiment. Today it is a standard medical treatment."

The UNSW report also found pre-implanatation genetic testing for embryos increased by 200 per cent since 2012.

"These results confirm Australia's place as a leading provider of safe IVF, with multiple pregnancy rates amongst the lowest in the world," Professor Chapman said.

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