Fiddling the figures: can Australians trust IVF success claims?


For many couples, IVF success turns out to be a little less within their reach than they imagined. Here’s why. 

For Australians facing the threat of a childless future, IVF can seem like a dream come true. And it’s a dream that’s made to seem so much more attainable, thanks to the media.

Women’s magazines loudly proclaim the unimaginable joy of female celebrities becoming first time mothers late in their forties; high profile couples welcoming into the world their little bundles of joy after an ‘IVF struggle’; and profiles of the amazing doctors and clinics achieving these amazing results.

For many couples, IVF success turns out to be a little less within their reach than they imagined.

Shot of a beautiful pregnant woman with the sun drawn onto her belly against the background of the oceanNow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is getting involved, investigating the claims made by IVF clinics about their successes.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that currently there is no standard in measuring the success rates of IVF clinics.

There are many variables involved in the IVF process, including the health and age of the couple, the number of embryos successfully created in one cycle, and at what stage a transfer is considered to be successful.

The problem is, clinics can use whatever data they like to determine their claims of success.

And even if figures are not ‘fiddled’ so they appear particularly attractive, success rates may vary wildly depending on whether a clinic has a younger clientele, for example.

What concerns the ACCC though, are claims by some IVF clinics they believe may be deliberately misleading.

“We certainly have found instances of information being put on the websites and being given to consumers that we think is misleading,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims told ABC’s 7.30 programme recently.

The industry watchdog has launched a major compliance exercise looking at how Australia’s IVF clinics present their success rates.

With 34,000 Australian women undergoing fertility last year, IVF is big business and competition fierce.

“I think they are, in many cases, quite desperate to get people’s business and I think, on the receiving end, the consumers, many of them are quite vulnerable,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

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