Pregnancy is a complex process — whether it’s via a natural conception or through assisted reproductive technology (ART). There are various things that can happen along the way. In some cases, this can lead to a failed IVF cycle, which can bring about an emotional and stressful time for the intended parents. However, understanding why a previous cycle of IVF wasn’t successful can help you and your medical team make changes to your treatment plan.
In this article, we outline the various reasons why IVF fails and what you can expect in terms of IVF success rates. Keep in mind that a failed IVF cycle doesn’t mean that it won’t succeed in the future. Almost 20% of women who had a failed IVF cycle become pregnant within five years.
IVF Success Rates
IVF success rates depend on many factors, such as age and the reasons for infertility. Overall, first-time IVF success rates often fall between 25-30% for most intended parents. However, this probability tends to increase after multiple IVF cycles.
Let’s take a closer look and examine the reasons why IVF cycles fail. From there, you can make an appropriate plan with your fertility team to achieve your baby dreams.
Reasons Why IVF Cycles Fail: Cancelled IVF Cycle
Your fertility team may choose to cancel an IVF cycle if there are signs the cycle will not be viable. This is due to several reasons, as outlined below.
Issues with Ovarian Stimulation Process
The ovarian stimulation stage refers to the phase of an IVF cycle where the woman takes fertility drugs to stimulate follicle development. If the ovaries do not respond well and too few follicles are developed, your physician may recommend cancelling this IVF cycle. Without enough follicles, the egg retrieval process will prove difficult or there may not be enough eggs worth retrieving.
Diminished Ovarian Reserve and/or Poor Quality Eggs
A diminished ovarian reserve refers to a condition where a woman’s ovaries have lost their reproductive capacity or are not producing enough quality eggs. This is common in women over 35 years of age. The chances of failed IVF are much higher in someone with diminished ovarian reserves.
At the same time, you may have an adequate amount of eggs but have low egg quality. Egg quality is an indicator of success when creating a viable embryo. Therefore, your fertility team may recommend postponing or cancelling your current IVF cycle if your egg quality is too low.
Reasons Why IVF Cycles Fail: Failed Embryo Implantation
IVF cycles can fail, rather than be cancelled, for many reasons. Often, this comes down to failed embryo implantation, which can happen due to the quality of the embryo, a thin endometrium, and/or PCOS.
Quality of Embryo
Poor egg quality often leads to poor-quality embryos. This means that embryos with low-quality eggs frequently fail to fully develop. If by the third day in the lab the embryo has not achieved a six to eight-cell stage or doesn’t have a regular shape, these embryos can’t be used for the embryo transfer phase of IVF.
Chromosomal Abnormalities in the Fertilized Egg
In addition, embryo quality may refer to chromosomal abnormalities. While an embryo may reach a six to eight-cell stage and have a regular shape by the third day in the lab, it may have chromosomal abnormalities, which carry a higher risk of miscarriage.
The embryo is often unable to implant properly on the endometrium in the uterus if it is less than 7 millimetres thick. In other words, a thin endometrium means that implantation will likely fail. If this is the case, there are many ways your fertility team can address this issue, helping you successfully create the family of your dreams.
PCOS and IVF Failure
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a hormonal condition that impacts a woman’s reproductive system. With PCOS, women often have hormonal imbalances relating to androgens, progesterone, and insulin in the body. Symptoms of PCOS may include missed periods, irregular periods, prolonged periods, painful periods, hair loss or hair in new places, mood changes, weight gain, and infertility.
PCOS and IVF failure are common. Frequently, this involves implantation failure or issues with the growth and development of eggs in the ovaries. However, there is hope. Many women with PCOS have faced IVF failure but also had a successful IVF cycle after more than one attempt.
Recurrent Implantation Failure
Recurrent Implantation Failure (RIF) is when a woman under 40 years of age has experienced three IVF failures with quality embryos. There are various reasons IVF implantation failure can happen, including age, increased body weight, stress, smoking status, and more. This can take a mental and emotional toll on the individual or couple. Your fertility team may recommend taking a break before trying again. However, in this case, there are various methods that can be tried to increase the odds of success, including hormonal therapy, blood-thinning medications, and more. Discuss your options with your fertility team to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
Unexplained Infertility and IVF Failure
Unexplained infertility can be frustrating, especially when it results in IVF failure. However, IVF has some of the highest success rates when it comes to treating unexplained infertility in particular.
Occasionally, unexplained infertility may be caused by Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This condition happens due to excess hormones, which may occur during IVF when taking medications to stimulate egg development. This may cause the ovaries to become painful due to swelling. However, OHSS is rare during IVF, occurring in fewer than 5% of cases.
Failed IVF can happen for various reasons. Understanding the reasons why IVF fails and why this cycle didn’t work out for you can help you navigate the next best step. That way, you can continue to work toward building the family of your dreams.
At ELITE IVF, our team is here for you every step of the way. With over 15 years of helping individuals and couples achieve their baby dreams, we know every fertility journey is different. We create a plan unique to you and your situation, guiding you through the entire process. Call us today for more details or complete our online intake form to get started.