How many eggs do you need for successful IVF treatment?

Almost one in six couples will experience a fertility problem and seek help at some point in their lives. Nearly one-third of these couples will partake in complex infertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilisation. It is a difficult decision that patients have to make.

The world’s first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978 following a natural IVF. To improve the success rates of the IVF treatment, stimulation drugs were introduced. The idea was to collect more eggs and allow the loss of the numbers of eggs/embryos at fertilisation, cleavage, and implantation. However, the use of stimulation fertility drugs increased the risk of complications, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome or OHSS.

Every patient undergoing an IVF treatment wants the best possible success rates. It’s important that your fertility specialist tailors your IVF drugs based on your medical history and fertility test results. The goal is to maximise IVF success rate, while minimising the risk of the complications.

Assessing successful IVF and egg count

When counselling patients about an IVF treatment, I am often asked if there is a certain number of eggs needed to give them the best possible chance of success. While it’s still not entirely clear, a large study published in 2011 in ‘Human Reproduction’, tried to answer this question.

The authors looked at more than 400,000 IVF treatment cycles that were undertaken in the UK. These procedures were recorded with the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA).

They analysed the data to understand the relation between the number of the eggs collected and the live birth rate. They made some interesting observations. They noted that in a fresh IVF treatment cycle, the live birth rate increased as the number of the eggs at the egg collection increased to up to 15. The live birth rate then remained steady up to 20 collected eggs. However, there was a drop in the live birth rate when the number of the eggs collected went beyond 20. This appeared to be the case irrespective of the age of the women undergoing IVF treatment.

In conclusion, from the current research evidence available, fertility specialists should tailor the IVF drug protocols and aim to retrieve fifteen eggs at egg collection. Obviously, this will only be possible when you have a good ovarian reserve and antral follicle count. Besides the ovarian reserve, it will also depend on many other factors such as:

  • Response to the fertility drugs
  • Egg Maturity
  • Quality of the eggs