IVF milestone: Almost one in 20 babies in Australia born through IVF

Close up couple expecting a baby - pregnancy test positive, hands on female's tummy
Close up couple expecting a baby - pregnancy test positive, hands on female's tummy Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As we celebrate 40 years of IVF, a brand new report has shed light on Australia's latest IVF numbers, success rates and trends. 

The study, compiled by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has revealed that a record one in 20 babies are now conceived via IVF. That represents about one in every classroom. 

It also showed that nearly two thirds of all IVF babies were from a frozen embryo transfer.

A new tool will help Australian couples considering IVF treatment to calculate the chance of success for them.
A new tool will help Australian couples considering IVF treatment to calculate the chance of success for them. Photo: Fairfax-Production

The Assisted Reproductive Technology in Australia and New Zealand study, which contains data submitted by all Australian and New Zealand IVF clinics, revealed that the live birth rate per embryo transfer has increased from 24.3 per cent in 2014 to 27.3 per cent in 2018 (the most recent year with data available). 

"The birth rate following frozen embryo transfer cycles was higher than fresh embryo transfer cycles," says lead report author, UNSW Medicine's Professor Georgina Chambers.

Professor Peter Illingworth, the medical director of IVF Australia, said he found the latest statistics very interesting. 

"I'm surprised it's that high," he told Essential Baby. "And the fact that 60 per cent of the births are from frozen embryo transfers means that 30 per cent of Australians born today have been in a freezer before they were born." 

The proportion of twins and triplets born following IVF treatment is also now sitting at 3.2 per cent - a record low in Australia and New Zealand's 40-year IVF history.

According to the researchers, this low figure is due to the increased proportion of IVF cycles where only a single embryo is transferred, up from 79 per cent in 2014 to 91 per cent in 2018. 

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"By comparison, the percentage of multiple births from IVF treatment was eight per cent in the UK and 13 per cent in the US during the same period," explains Professors Chambers. 

It's a sentiment echoed by Professor Illingworth, who says Australia has led the world on single embryo transfers. 

"It's amazing," he said. "It's one of the biggest myths about IVF that many of my patients say to me - that they are more likely to have twins. But this report shows the chance is very low."

According to Professor Luk Rombauts, President of the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA), IVF could help bolster Australia's fertility rate.

"IVF represents a significant number of babies, and importantly the majority of these babies were singletons, which is safer for mothers and babies," he says. 

"It is estimated that in the last 40 years, more than eight million babies have been born through IVF globally, a significant contribution to the population."

Australia's very first IVF baby, Candice Thum, recently spoke to Essential Baby about the 'miracle' of IVF as she celebrated her 40thb birthday. 

"When my parents went through IVF, it was actually a case of collecting a single egg on a natural cycle and hoping," Ms Thum (nee Reed) said. 

"IVF was miraculous then and despite the technological advances, IVF is miraculous now."

The study also showed that the average age of women undergoing IVF is 35.8 years, which is similar to previous years.

Also of note, the average age of women using donor eggs or embryos is 40-years-old - and the average age of male partners of women undergoing IVF was 38.1.

The federal government will soon launch a new website - the 'My IVF Success' website -  to give hopeful parents statistics from independent fertility providers and help determine their likelihood of conceiving.