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Several factors may lead to in vitro fertilization (IVF) failure. However, many women who have had a failed cycle will have a subsequent successful cycle (live birth). While not all issues related to IVF failure can be corrected, some issues can be addressed in an effort to reduce the likelihood of another failed cycle. It’s important to understand what factors are involved in each individual situation.
Age is a very important factor in the success or failure of IVF. As women age, the number of eggs in the ovaries decrease, and the quality of the remaining eggs lessens. The decline begins in your 30s and increases rapidly after age 37. The chance of a live birth after IVF using fresh, non-donor eggs or embryos is approximately 32 percent for a 35-year-old woman, but only 16 percent for a 40-year-old woman.
Fertility specialists assess the quality of the egg based on the age of the woman, as well as the number of cells in the egg. The fertilized egg (embryo) starts as a single cell and continues to divide until it is multi-celled. Three days after egg retrieval and fertilization, most specialists prefer that some of the embryos have at least 6 or 7 cells. Eggs with fewer cells are less likely to fertilize and the chances of IVF failure increase.
In general, the more eggs you produce in a given IVF cycle, the greater your chance that the IVF cycle will be successful.
The ovaries of some women, however, do not develop many follicles because they do not respond to the IVF medication used to encourage the ovaries produce multiple eggs. (One egg develops in each follicle.) You are likely to have poor response to IVF medication if you are older than 37, have elevated FSH levels, or have a reduced number of eggs remaining in your ovaries.
IVF is likely to fail if fewer than three mature follicles are produced.
A pregnancy loss or miscarriage after IVF may be due to problems related to the uterus, such as polyps or fibroids. Many fertility specialists, however, believe that most implantation failures are due to the arrest of the embryo; in other words, the embryo stops growing. This may be the result of a genetic defect that interferes with the embryo's development.