Gathering vital statistics from fertility clinics is an important task completed yearly for the last two decades by the CDC. These statistics are made available to the public in several different forms. Some of the statistical data is extremely helpful to those looking toward fertility treatments, others are not as useful. Actually when it comes down to the heart of the matter, some of the statistics published by the CDC are downright harmful.
The set of statistics published by the CDC which can be considered harmful to women seeking medical aid from a fertility clinic is referred to as the success rate by clinic. The success rate by clinic is a simple calculation: number of single births divided by the number of attempts, multiplied by 100. After this percentage is calculated for all clinics in the United States, it is used to compare the ‘success’ of the different clinics. That is where the problem lies, as this calculation does not truly point to the overall success of a fertility clinic, only the successful single births. That doesn’t mean to say that the rates are wrong, exactly. They are simply skewed, for instance they do not consider the birth of healthy twins to be a success. And because the rates are published by a noted authority like the Center for Disease Control, it encourages clinics to try and ‘look’ better than other clinics – sometimes by what could be considered unethical means.
But unethical procedures and methods in clinics are not the only problem. Simple numbers like the success rate currently being calculated and attributed to each specific fertility clinic are problematic in medicine. One reason is the public often sees the rate as an all encompassing number which shows all clinics starting out as equal. It forces the person reviewing the number to think that the rate is measuring the same thing in every clinic. That misconception creates a skewed look at the success of the clinics as it is not the truth at all.
It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Different fertility clinics treat different types of fertility problems and offer different procedures. So that the clinics offering the simplest procedures to the easiest cases and do not offer anything to more difficult cases are going to look like they are much more successful than those clinics that take on the more difficult patients.
Keeping your success rate higher than other clinics is actually very easy to do if a fertility clinic was looking to do so. Simply by screening their patients by age and only offering procedures to those patients that are under the age of 40-years-old would work as statistics show women ages 35 years old and younger have a higher percentage of live births then women who are older than 44 years of age. While the age difference does not seem significant to the average woman, it is a considerable difference when it comes to this fertility procedure; 27% to a 1.1% respectively. Worse case scenarios exist where doctors will prescribe medicines like heavy antibiotics before starting treatment in case of an infection. Because if there is an infection the first round of treatment will not work, thus bringing the clinics success rate down.
The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology is the principal society of specialists for fertility medicine. It is in charge of placing limits on how fertility clinics are able to use the success rates put out by the CDC in the advertising of their clinics. But, there are loopholes to get around such limits. For example, clinics are not allow to discuss the rates of other clinics nor are they allowed to publish comparisons of their success rates. But they can get around this merely by asking their prospective clients to ask for the rates or do their own research by printing things like ‘check out our success rates’ or by using the straight forward approach ‘ask us about our success rates’ in their advertising pamphlets.
Fertility clinic statistics done on a national scale can be beneficial to woman who are making the tough choices of trying to conceive through these methods. But making a success rate available to the public on a clinic level without publishing what types of procedures are done at that clinic and what kind of patients are taken at the particular clinic is at best, wasteful – at worst akin to fraud.