Not every ART cycle leads to an embryo transfer, therefore the cumulative chance after an average of three completed cycles is higher – around 33%2. Success rates are higher among younger women or trans or gender diverse people presumed female at birth, and among those who require donor sperm but do not have any medical fertility problems themselves.
Certain complications have been found to be more likely during an IVF pregnancy, including bleeding during the pregnancy, high blood pressure and diabetes in later pregnancy, giving birth prematurely and by caesarean section. Multiple births are also more likely in IVF pregnancies, however in Australia this is becoming less common, reflecting the declining popularity of transferring multiple embryos.
Emotionally, women and trans and gender diverse people presumed female at birth who conceive following fertility treatment may feel anxious, particularly if they have tried several cycles of ART (or home insemination) or as though they shouldn’t complain about pregnancy being uncomfortable.
To learn more about IVF success rates and the health effects of IVF and ICSI (including in relation to pregnancy and babies’ health) please see ‘Further Information’ at the end of this page. Please note that information about clinics’ IVF success rates should be considered as a guide only.
1 Newman, J., Paul, R., & Chambers, G. (2021). Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2019. Sydney: National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit, the University of New South Wales, Sydney.
2 Chambers, G. et al. (2017). Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand: cumulative live birth rates as measures of success, Medical Journal of Australia, 207(3):114-118. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja16.01435
> Click here to view the transcript
Belle describes her experience of becoming pregnant on her fifth embryo transfer.
So for us at this stage of putting the fifth embryo in, we had one more, we had the fifth that was being implanted and then we had one more frozen. So I was 39, we had got to a point in our IVF journey where financially, we weren’t in a position to continue to commit to IVF. And emotionally and physically, I didn’t want to commit any further.
So we put the fifth one in, and I think at that stage mentally, I was like, ‘You know what, what will be, will be. If I am unsuccessful in being a mum in the future, I’m lucky to be a wonderful stepmum.’
And then started to plan, I guess, for my 40th. That’s in anticipation that if the fifth embryo implantation and the sixth embryo implantation weren’t successful, that we’d have a big, big bang 40th party and start to sort of mentally think about other things in life and look forward post IVF.
And then miraculously, the fifth embryo implantation was successful. They called after the two-week wait with my blood test results that afternoon. And there were three lovely nurses that worked to support my fertility specialist. Generally when it was bad news, there was one nurse who always called me because the other two nurses weren’t as good at delivering bad news, I suppose. And this particular day, one of the other younger nurses was down the end of the phone. And I could already tell as soon as she said hello that she had an element of excitement to her voice.
And she said, “Can you talk?”. And at this stage in your life, you’re seeing these nurses and you’re talking to these nurses every three days to five days, for what, two and a half years, they become friends. And they said, “We’ve got some good news, your result is positive.”
And so at this stage, you’re only two weeks pregnant, but it was the first time after five goes that we’d actually got a positive result. So I burst into tears, was extremely happy, obviously, but you are also at that point, so conscious of the fact that you’ve made it through a hurdle, but there’s still so many hurdles that you have to get through.
So it’s that moment of joy, but also you’re very cognisant of the fact that it doesn’t mean that it’s all over. You’ve still got a tall hill to walk up. So it was really, to be honest, only until we got to our 20-week scan, that I started to relax a bit thinking that the odds of this being a successful pregnancy are now in my favour, but up until 20 weeks, we didn’t count our chickens so to speak, we waited until that 20-week scan and then started to actually feel a bit more excited about the pregnancy.
Jacinta and her husband’s underwent IVF for their first baby but they conceived their second child spontaneously. While this was welcome news, Jacinta experienced feelings of ‘guilt’ when telling other people going through fertility treatment.
We thought we’ll give it two months so we chatted to our specialist and we thought we’ll try naturally for two months then we’ll start IVF in January. That was always the plan.
So when it got – took the test and it was positive in December that was a huge surprise because we’re very prepared to do IVF again. We really have come to peace with that’s how we have our family and we’re actually really proud now of doing IVF and feels a really special way that we have our daughter. We’re very, very grateful that we have that technology available to us. It feels very bizarre to now kind of get pregnant pretty easily and I feel, who are these people? You might have to be careful about pregnancy going forward. So a very strange space to be in.
When we sort of decided to start trying again after having our daughter, “Oh hopefully it’ll just work this time,” and I just was very much like, “Yes, or maybe it won’t. We’re really happy to do IVF again.” You hear lots of, “Oh but my friend so-and-so tried for ages, did IVF and then they got pregnant naturally” and I used to say, “Yes, you hear those stories but you never hear the stories of the ones that don’t work and the people that go back for IVF over and over and over and it doesn’t work again.”
So I’ve always been very realistic about that since we’ve started our IVF journey that it might not always work so to now be on the other side and to become part of that cliché is a really funny feeling that doesn’t really sit great with me to be honest. I actually do feel a lot of guilt about it. I’ve got a lot of – through really being really open with my experience of infertility and IVF and baby loss and now infant loss and miscarriage I’ve met a lot of people going through the same thing and some of which still don’t have a baby yet and I do carry a lot of guilt now that I have conceived really easily. Yes. I’m now the one tenderly telling people that I’m having a baby knowing that it’s hard to receive that message so it’s a difficult space to be in. It’s an exciting space but a difficult space to be in.
Sue had assumed she would not have children because of endometriosis and not conceiving in a previous relationship. However, she had had two children with her current partner, and said despite years of menstrual period problems, her pregnancies were ‘textbook’.
Sue: I was about maybe 35 and I’ve always had issues with my menstrual cycle and I eventually went and saw a gynaecologist and had a laparoscopy and he said that I had endometriosis. I think you take for granted your fertility. I thought, ‘Well, I suppose I’m at the wrong end of the fertility age and I should do something about it sooner rather than later,’ and that is what started.
I was in a relatively new relationship at the time and we decided we’d try and have kids together.
We had actually already spoken about kids and she already had children, so that was – well, it really didn’t stop anything, it more or less made us go full steam ahead. Rather than, “Okay. We’ll do this in a year or six months or 12 months”, it was, “Well, we’d better get onto this straight away.”
We did IVF together and that was the first round and that was unsuccessful. Anyway, down the track, I think that ended up being – I suppose it was over a span of about a year. With the unsuccessful insemination and the unsuccessful IVF, I think we just went our own way. It was all too hard. So went our own way and I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. I’m too old. There’s no point in going any further.’ Yeah, I put it to bed really.
So then I was in another relationship and sort of six months into it, we discussed how in the past when we had tried to have children, both of us independently, and it hadn’t been successful and we just started to talk again about the possibility of doing it and my partner, who is still my current partner, is a couple of years older than me so we decided that I would possibly be the right person to try and we were successful.
Interviewer: How did that feel, it not having worked previously and then having two out of two successes?
Sue: Well, that was a little bit mind-blowing really because I think I’d taken it for granted that I wasn’t going to have kids and then to have two just literally dumped on me – it was good. I was really happy. I had ideal pregnancies, even though I’d had dreadful menstrual cycles. My pregnancies were perfect. They were textbook.
I think I was really fortunate physically. I think maybe it was just the years of torture of my menstrual cycle gave me a bit of a break. And somebody was shining down on me because my pregnancies were very, very easy. I was 40, so I think it’s very fortunate.
Sue-en’s IVF-assisted pregnancy was considered high-risk due to her history of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia*. Her baby is healthy and well, but was born at 31 weeks during a COVID-19 lockdown, which meant a challenging start to parenthood for Sue-en and her husband.
Interviewer: What was the pregnancy like after that long, long lead up?
Sue-en: Well that’s another thing. I am high risk because of all the issues I have and my cervix. So I saw an obstetrician every week at the hospital. But I didn’t have any issues at all which is really good, until 29 weeks. So potentially I had a weakened cervix so that’s why I was seeing the specialist every week. As it turns out that wasn’t the problem. I have major placenta previa. Well, I’m not sure whether it’s true or not – actually placenta previa actually helped the cervix support my uterus. So my cervix was fine but my placenta was fine until 29 weeks and I have massive bleeding and I end up in hospital.
I’m at birth unit every night for a week and then at some point I lost two litres of blood and I have a blood transfusion and everything at some point. Baby was fine. They were like, “Oh my God, it’s amazing to see your baby’s totally fine regardless of what’s going on in your body.” But at some point they decided, “All right – you keep bleeding and it’s not going to do any good for both of you, we have to take her out.” I said, “Okay.” Then she’s out and, we were very lucky, she was a healthy baby. She stayed in the hospital for eight weeks because of her prematurity, nothing else wrong.
Interviewer: That’s a bit of a stressful start though.
Sue-en: Yes. But it’s always a blessing in disguise because we get a lot of help from the nurse and with the COVID-19 restriction we’re pretty lucky to have the support from the hospital and the nurses.
Interviewer: So did you have a Caesarean?
Sue-en: Yes. Yes. I had an emergency Caesarean. So she was in for two weeks and because she didn’t have any problems we requested to transfer to which is close to our place. She stayed there another six weeks and I was struggling with breastfeeding because of delivering baby early and my blood loss, everything, and my milk supply wasn’t really good. But I was told, “You have to try,” so I just kept trying. So I visited hospital every day.
Interviewer: So she was born in the middle of the lockdown?
Sue-en: Oh, yes. I think it’s the day after stage four started or something. It’s full of dramas this year.
Interviewer: That’s right. You couldn’t have had more challenges really.
Sue-en: No. It was interesting because the hospital had restrictions with the visits. Well we could visit as much as we can but it’s just only one parent at a time and because I had a C-section I couldn’t drive so my husband had to drive me to the hospital, waited for me for hours and we’d swap. Yes. It wasn’t really pleasant at all.
Sarah, a solo mother by choice, described her experience of giving birth to her first child, conceived following Intra-uterine Insemination (IUI) using donor sperm.
Sarah: I did have a Caesarean. It was a planned Caesarean, because my blood pressure was a little bit high, and my specialist always was erring on the side of caution, and I probably more preferred a Caesarean. You know, it’s planned, and I was happy to go with that. I did actually go into labour the day of my Caesarean, and so I did actually labour naturally; and then it turned into an emergency C-section anyway, because she wouldn’t come out. She was posterior, and I just couldn’t push her out, so it ended up being an emergency C-section anyway.
Because by the time I got to hospital, and they checked me, I was already five centimetres dilated, or something. So I tried naturally, laboured for… I think six o’clock that night I was finally ready to push, and just tried to push, and she wasn’t coming out, and I was getting a bit distressed. She just wasn’t budging, and they did give me the option of the forceps; but I just did not want to take that option, because I had heard horror stories about forceps and birth injuries, and I’m like, “No, I just want to go straight to the C-section now”, and they’re like, “Yep, that’s probably a good idea.”
Interviewer: Could you talk a little bit about what it was like meeting your daughter for the first time, and that early parenthood period?
Sarah: So, it was a little bit surreal, I suppose, after everything. I suppose my journey to become a parent had been relatively quick. It was only the end of 2015 that I’d had the ovary removed, and then I was pregnant by February 2016. So it happened quite quickly, and then all of a sudden I was meeting my daughter. I very much loved her, and I did have that feeling of rush, but it was also very surreal. I’m like, “Oh. Oh my gosh, I’ve actually got a child, now. She’s here, she’s safe.” So yeah, I had that very much rush of love, but also relief that she was there, everything had gone okay.
But because I had laboured, I was actually quite out of it by the time I did have my C-section. I was very much out of it. I had been vomiting, and I wasn’t really aware of too much going on. Because I remember my mum was with me, so when I had my C-section, my mum was there; so she cut the cord, and I remember her showing me my daughter, and saying, “Look how much hair she’s got”, and I think I even said, “I just don’t want to look right now”, because I was just trying to focus so much on not vomiting, and I wasn’t feeling very well. But then once we got back to the ward and everything settled down, I just had that “Oh, I’m a mum now.” It just felt surreal, but very much a very beautiful moment.
1 For this resource we interviewed 25 people who were chosen to reflect a wide range of experiences of infertility and fertility treatment. They are not a statistically representative sample, and therefore the proportion who conceived following fertility treatment is much higher than the in the wider population of people who undergo ART.
Australia and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database (ANZARD)
Your IVF Success
Five traps to be aware of when reading success rates on IVF clinic websites (2016) – article by Karin Hammarberg in The Conversation
Possible health effects of IVF and ICSI – VARTA information sheet