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What Went Wrong? – Common Reasons for IVF Failure

By Published On: July 19th, 2012

If a couple goes through the time and expense (not to mention all the stress) of an IVF treatment that then fails its only natural that they should want to get some answers about just why it all went wrong, especially if the signs had been encouraging.

The problem is that very often the only answer that their doctor can give them is a simple “I don’t know.” Infertility medicine has come a long, long way as a specialty over the last few decades but there is still a great deal that needs to be researched and learned and IVF doctors really don’t have all the answers yet.

There are some common reasons though that an IVF treatment may not succeed. Here is a little information about some of them:

The Embryos Failed to Implant – One of the most common reasons that IVF fails – also why sometimes a natural conception never quite works out as well – is that embryos simply stop developing and die off before they make it to the implantation stage. This is something that can happen to any woman undergoing IVF but it is more commonly seen in older women.

The Embryos Were Damaged Before Implantation – Although every good IVF facility takes a great deal of care to try to ensure that the embryos that are to be transferred during an IVF procedure are as healthy as possible occasionally embryos can be accidentally damaged during the whole delicate process and at the time of the damage there is no real way to know that anything is wrong. Anything that is  man made is never going to be quite as good as something that was created by nature and that certainly may be the case sometimes with embryos that are cultivated in a lab rather than in the womb.

There is also an additional complication in that embryo will naturally continue to change after the transfer process is completed . Before the procedure, usually some embryos will appear to be stronger and more viable than others and then in the end they fail to thrive as it had been expected that they would.

The Embryos Were Not Healthy – Many women who experience a miscarriage do so before their pregnancy has reached more than a couple of weeks gestation because the body will often reject an embryo that is not viable – an embryo that is not going to ever have a chance to become a baby. Many defects in an embryo are impossible for scientists to detect and rapid spontaneous abortion after IVF is not unusual in the same way it is not unusual in natural pregnancies.

The Uterine Lining Was Not Healthy – Many women who deal with infertility are also dealing with other issues such as fibroids or polycystic ovarian syndrome and the condition of their uterine lining may not be optimum. In many cases there are certain treatment options that are put into place before IVF to try to improve the condition of the uterine lining and increase the chances that an embryo will implant itself correctly.

The difficulty is that a uterine lining test cannot be carried out during the cycle leading up to the implantation procedure because that involves a biopsy which may in itself prevent successful implantation. This means that if there are new problems with the uterine lining they will not be discovered until after the IVF has failed.

The Embryo Transfer Process Did not Go Smoothly – If bleeding or cramping occurs during the embryo transfer process then the chances of a successful pregnancy resulting from the procedure are significantly reduced. In the case of cramping alone severe cramping may move the embryos to a spot where they cannot implant themselves successfully, resulting in the failure of the treatment.

The Timimg Was Off – One of the “hot” debates in infertility medicine at the moment centers around when the best time is for an embryo transfer to take place. Traditionally the standard in IVF treatment was three days after the egg retrieval process. New studies undertaken by the Center for Disease Control in the USA have brought that practice into question though.

That long term data study found that the chances of success with IVF were slightly higher with a day five transfer than a day three transfer. The research is still ongoing but it has brought the timing of IVF into question and different clinics follow different protocols according to their medical teams personal views and experiences in the matter.

These are a few of the reasons why IVF fails, there are others and then there are many times, as previously mentioned, when the reason for IVF failure is simply unknown. Many of the couples who experience one IVF failure will then go on to have success on their second attempt while for others it may take many attempts before the result is a successful pregnancy.

IVF can be a long, expensive and very frustrating process. It helps if a couple is working with a supportive staff, especially if they meet with an IVF counselor, who, while they may not have all the answers, can provide support, information and encouragement along the way.