Researchers at the University of Aberdeen developed the tool using national data obtained by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from over 113,000 women who had undergone IVF or ICSI between 1999 and 2008, using their own eggs and their partner's sperm.
The calculator is able to estimate a woman's cumulative chance of a live birth over a course of treatment of up to six cycles of IVF, offering users the opportunity to estimate their chances of having a baby before and after their first cycle of treatment. Based not only on a couple's circumstances but also treatment information, the tool is able to adjust the initial estimate prior to first treatment for subsequent IVF cycles.
Dr David McLernon, who led the research, said the tool would help 'keep [patients] better informed and help them prepare emotionally and financially for their treatments', adding that it could also help clinicians communicate the chance of having a live birth over an entire package of treatment.
Other calculators that are currently available tend to estimate the chance of success after one cycle; the new tool is the first to adjust such an estimate over a number of cycles. It is also able to take into account the use of frozen embryos. The researchers explain that this could help patients prepare for a complete course of treatment since the first cycle does not always succeed.
The new tool is able to take into account certain factors identified by the study that are relevant to a person's chance of having a baby by IVF, including the woman's age and duration of infertility, but also factors associated with treatment itself, such as the number of eggs collected, the health of the embryos, their storage and the stage of embryo transfer.
The calculator is not, however, able to take into account all factors that may affect IVF success rates, including the woman's BMI (body mass index), ethnicity, smoking and alcohol intake. The researchers also state the calculator should not also be used to decide whether or not couples should have IVF treatment until further research is conducted to examine its effects in clinical practice.
Susan Seenan, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, which was involved in the development of the latest tool, told BBC News that she hoped the calculator would help patients make more informed decisions about their treatment, but stressed that it should not be used in isolation. 'Anyone considering fertility treatment should discuss their individual chances of success with their clinician,' she said.