Although expensive and invasive, IVF is a widely used treatment, despite potential complications, including a multiple pregnancy rate of about 25 percent.
According to the analysis by Dr. Zabeena Pandian of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and colleagues, the rate of babies born from IVF procedures is not significantly different from the rate of live births from artificial insemination and a procedure called gamete intrafallopian transfer.
The review appears in the April issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
"There is insufficient evidence at present to suggest that IVF is more effective than the other treatment options available for unexplained infertility," Pandian and colleagues conclude.
However, pregnancy rates were significantly higher with IVF than with "watchful waiting" and with IVF compared to gamete intrafallopian transfer, or GIFT, the researchers found. In one study comparing IVF with no treatment, 20 of 68 women receiving IVF became pregnant, while only one of 71 women were pregnant after three months of no treatment. In two studies comparing IVF with GIFT treatment, 39 of 84 women became pregnant with IVF, compared with 24 out of 85 women with GIFT.
The researchers note, however, that the studies in the review were small and varied considerably in their quality, definitions of unexplained infertility and follow-up periods.