Survey says Australians overestimate IVF success

Tuesday, 13 October, 2020

Survey says Australians overestimate IVF success

A survey conducted by Your Fertility reveals that most Australians are unaware of how early their fertility starts to decline, with many placing too much faith in IVF as a backup measure. The release of the study findings coincide with Fertility Week, which runs from 12–18 October.

The survey of more than 700 Australians found most respondents (58%) believe a woman’s fertility begins to decline from age 35 onwards. Only 31% knew the decline starts at around 30 years of age and just 14% understood that male fertility also declines from about the age of 45.

“Australians are pretty good at knowing how to avoid pregnancy, but they don’t seem to know enough about how to get pregnant,” fertility expert Dr Karin Hammarberg said.

“Age is the biggest factor affecting a woman’s chance of having a baby. Women younger than 30 have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month, but this drops to about a 5% chance at age 40,” she said.

“A man’s age is also relevant. When a man reaches his mid-40s there is an increased risk of miscarriage and some conditions in the baby including autism, so if men know they want to have a child at some point, the sooner the better.”

The survey found that most respondents overestimated success rates for IVF, which works for about half of all people who try it. Most respondents thought a woman in her 20s had a 35–50% chance of having a baby following one cycle of IVF, when the actual chance is closer to 30%.

Similarly, most respondents overestimated the chance of IVF working for a woman in her 40s, with many estimating success rates of 20% and over.

“IVF cannot work miracles. The chance of having a baby after one IVF attempt is about 30% for women aged under 35, but it’s only about 10% for women aged 40–44. For women over 45 there’s almost zero chance,” Dr Hammarberg said.

Looking back, Australian netball champion Liz Ellis wishes she understood the facts about fertility and age when she was in her 20s and early 30s — a time when she mostly ignored conversations about having children.

After having her first baby when she was 38, Ellis struggled with infertility, IVF and miscarriages for five years before having her second baby at the age of 43. Ellis has written a book, If At First You Don’t Conceive: Your Friendly Guide to Tackling Infertility’ to help others struggling with infertility.

“I really beat myself up for not trying sooner,” she said. “I just didn’t understand the ramifications of putting it off.

“If you want to have a baby at some point, talk about it, research it and investigate your options.

“I just assumed we’d try for six to 12 months and if it didn’t work we’d go to IVF, spend the money and have a child. It’s not until you do a few IVF cycles and it fails that you think, ‘Wow, there is no guarantee’.”

Your Fertility is a national public education program presented by the Fertility Coalition and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services.

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