A Challenge to Our Article: “A Christian’s Questions and Answers about IVF”

A challenge to our article here.

“A Christian’s Questions and Answers about IVF”

On April 12, 2017, a reader contacted us with the following comment: “‘In general, of those who enter IVF programs, success rate is 8 percent.’ <- that is wildly inaccurate. See this article in the New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0803072 success rate is roughly 65-85%. I’m not commenting on anything else in the article but don’t make up statistics to help your case.”

We take exception with the suggestion that we “make up” statistics to help our case. In fact, the cited NEJM article substantiates our case.

The reader uses the NEJM article to say that IVF has a “success rate” of 65-85% of the time. Balderdash! If you closely read the article, it takes 6 IVF cycles to possibly reach that nebulous statistical 20-point spread.

According to Table 3 in the NEJM article, out of the 6,164 patients only 4,825 had an “embryo transfer procedure.” Nearly 22% who entered the program didn’t undergo an embryo transfer procedure. How many embryos were involved? The study indicates that the number varied throughout the study, but that statistic was not being tracked. We can correctly assume there were more living embryos involved than the 4,825 that were transferred, but we will only look at the statistics we now have from this study.

The study reports that of the 4,825 embryos that were selected from the unknown number of eggs that were fertilized, only 2,025 were classified as “pregnancies.” That means that a blood serum test of the mother revealed the embryo had successfully attached to the endometrium lining and it was able to create a detectable elevated HCG reading. What became of the other 2,800 embryos that were transferred? They died.

And then, of the 2,025 pregnancies, 1,511 resulted in a live birth. Again, what became of the 514 babies that were growing in the womb?

In summary, with just the first single cycle, only 24.5% of the 6,164 women had a live birth – a baby in the arms. That means 4,653 women (75.5%) tracked in this study of women from 2000 to 2005 at Boston IVF did not have a baby in their arms at the completion of the first cycle. Meanwhile, the study quantifies that 3,314 babies (embryos that were transferred and those that were later diagnosed as “pregnancies”) died in order to give 1,511 women their babies – and that does not include embryos created and disposed in the IVF process that were not tracked in this study.

OK – now that is just cycle 1. The person who contacted us, and apparently the study authors, want us to think cumulatively over six cycles about this effort. So let’s do that.

Our concern is not only for the women but for each human life that is creating from the embryonic stage forward. Therefore, while the six cycles were performed on declining portions of the same 6,164 women in the study, the embryos, with each cycle, were new.

According to Table 3 of the report, the 6,164 women underwent a cumulative total of 14,248 cycles in an attempt to have a live birth. Again, we do not have statistics in this study of the number of embryos created through IVF and destroyed prior to implantation. We will only look at the embryos that were implanted.

Of the 14,248 cumulative cycles, there was reported a cumulative total of 11,517 embryo-transfer procedures. Of those, a cumulative total of only 4,365 were diagnosed as “pregnancies.” That means 7,152 of the children in embryonic stage were lost.

Of the cumulative total of 4,365 “pregnancies,” only 3,126 resulted in live births. That means another 1,239 unborn children died.

So, to tally it all up: 3,126 cumulative live births resulted from 14,248 cumulative cycles (21.9%). In the process it can be verified statistically from this report that 8,391 unborn human lives were lost to create the 3,126 live births. By most standards, that is deplorable.

In fairness, the 21.9% success rate is much greater than 8% but now look at our article more closely. We say in our article: “There is an approximate 20 percent success rate for IVF based on embryo transfer.” The NEJM article supports that conclusion.

We go on to say: “In general, of those who enter IVF programs, success rate is 8 percent.” There is nothing in the NEJM article which contradicts that conclusion because the NEJM article did not track follicle stimulation, sperm purification and the like. The NEJM article tracks women from the oocyte-retrieval process (harvesting the eggs). There is much that already happens prior to retrieving oocytes. Other studies that cover pre-oocyte retrieval would prove the validity of our 8% statistic.

One more point worth mentioning: A February 6, 2014 article in Forbes Magazine stated: “On average, nationally, a ‘fresh’ IVF cycle costs $12,000, before medications, which typically run another $3,000 to $5,000.”

So, at an average of $16,000 for the cycle and average medication costs, multiplied by the 14,248 IVF cycles referenced in the NEJM study, the total costs for those cycles was about $228 million.

We thank the reader who contacted us with the link to the referenced NEJM article. We had the article already in our files but bringing it to our attention again gives us the opportunity to verify our position that IVF is astronomically expensive and has a deplorable success rate to the heartache of many infertile couples and at the cost of many unborn children’s lives.


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