IVF: Why Such a High Loss Rate?

I am currently in an IVF program. I have had two embryos implanted. They both took, but one died by six weeks. Why is there such a high rate of loss with IVF?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a process whereby eggs are removed from the ovary, which has been hyperstimulated with hormones, and mixed with a high concentration of healthy motile sperm. Fertilization occurs and then the embryos (in this case two) are placed into the uterus through the cervix by the use of a thin catheter.

Some estimates of embryo loss in a "normal" pregnancy cycle go as high as two-thirds. For IVF, the overall pregnancy rate of 25 to 30 percent per embryo transfer is similar to the pregnancy rate following one month of exposure during normal reproduction.

Damage may occur with handling, transfer, or in any of the normal ways it does it the uterine cycle itself. The thing about infertility treatment is that, of course, you are literally "counting" on every egg. Although it seems like a high rate of loss, it is about the same as it would be if nature were taking care of the process -- it's just that we aren't so aware of the loss then.

It is perfectly normal and right for you to grieve this loss, even though you may not get the support you need due to the nature of the fertilizaton. People are confused about what to say and the temptation is to tell you to be happy you have one baby or to pass judgment on the impact of reproductive technology.

The bottom line may be that your body may have been unable to accomodate a twin pregnancy at this time. Twin pregnancy carries a much higher risk of preterm labor, miscarriage, and maternal and fetal complications. But what you have experienced is still a loss.

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