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Here's How Effective Fertility Treatment Really Is

Photographed by Tayler Smith.
Women are becoming more and more open about the many processes they undergo in order to become pregnant. But there's still so much that's unclear — and individual — about fertility treatment. Now, new research is helping to take some of the unknown out of that equation — and the results might be more encouraging than you'd think.

The study, presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, followed 19,884 Dutch women who got fertility treatment between 2007 and 2010. The researchers checked in with them for five years after their treatment.

Results showed that the majority of women (57%) gave birth within two years of their treatment. After three years, 65% had given birth. And that rose to 71% after five years. The researchers found that, predictably, participants' ages had an effect on birth rates: For women under 35, the birth rate was 80%. But that went down to 60.5% for those between 35 and 40, and down to 26% for those over 40. The fertility treatment itself also affected birth rates: Of those who tried in vitro fertilisation (IVF) as their first treatment method, 46% conceived. Another 34% had success when trying intrauterine insemination (IUI) first. And, interestingly, 14% of participants conceived "spontaneously" during the study — without the help of treatment.

These kinds of results are important because, for many patients, going through the fertility treatment process is still shrouded in mystery — and it's expensive. "At this point, couples have no idea how many treatment cycles they will need or have," said Sara Malchau, MD, first author on the study, in a press release. "So a prognosis based on fixed points in time [i.e. the number of years after treatment] better reflects their prospect of conception and delivery than...different numbers of attempts."

With more studies like this, those who hope to become pregnant will have a better idea of what to expect before they're expecting.