STUDY QUESTION: What is the cumulative incidence of live birth and mean time to pregnancy (by conception after IVF/ICSI or natural conception) in women experiencing unexplained recurrent implantation failure (RIF) following IVF/ICSI treatment?
SUMMARY ANSWER: In 118 women who had experienced RIF, the reported cumulative incidence of live birth during a maximum of 5.5 years follow-up period was 49%, with a calculated median time to pregnancy leading to live birth of 9 months after diagnosis of RIF.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Current definitions of RIF include failure to achieve a pregnancy following IVF/ICSI and undergoing three or more fresh embryo transfer procedures of one or two high quality embryos or more than 10 embryos transferred in fresh or frozen cycles. The causes and optimal management of this distressing condition remain uncertain and a range of empirical and often expensive adjuvant therapies is often advocated. Little information is available regarding the long-term prognosis for achieving a pregnancy.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Two hundred and twenty-three women under 39 years of age who had experienced RIF without a known cause after IVF/ICSI treatment in two tertiary referral university hospitals between January 2008 and December 2012 were invited to participate in this retrospective cohort follow up study.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: All eligible women were sent a letter requesting their consent to the anonymous use of their medical file data and were asked to complete a questionnaire enquiring about treatments and pregnancies subsequent to experiencing RIF. Medical files and questionnaires were examined and results were analysed to determine the subsequent cumulative incidence of live birth and time to pregnancy within a maximum 5.5 year follow-up period using Kaplan Meier analysis. Clinical predictors for achieving a live birth were investigated using a Cox hazard model.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: One hundred and twenty-seven women responded (57%) and data from 118 women (53%) were available for analysis. During the maximum 5.5 year follow up period the overall cumulative incidence of live birth was 49% (95% CI 39-59%). Among women who gave birth, the calculated median time to pregnancy was 9 months after experiencing RIF, where 18% arose from natural conceptions.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Since only 57% of the eligible study cohort completed the questionnaire, the risk of response bias limits the applicability of the study findings.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This study reports a favorable overall prognosis for achieving live birth in women who have previously experienced RIF, especially in those who continue with further IVF/ICSI treatments. However since 51% did not achieve a live birth during the follow-up period, there is a need to distinguish those most likely to benefit from further treatment. In this study, no clinical factors were found to be predictive of those achieving a subsequent live birth.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This study was funded by the University Medical Center Utrecht, in Utrecht and the Academic Medical Centre, in Amsterdam. NSM has received consultancy and speaking fees and research funding from Ferring, MSD, Merck Serono, Abbott, IBSA, Gedion Richter, and Clearblue. During the most recent 5-year period BCJMF has received fees or grant support from the following organizations (in alphabetic order); Actavis/Watson/Uteron, Controversies in Obstetrics & Gynecology (COGI), Dutch Heart Foundation, Dutch Medical Research Counsel (ZonMW), Euroscreen/Ogeda, Ferring, London Womens Clinic (LWC), Merck Serono, Myovant, Netherland Genomic Initiative (NGI), OvaScience, Pantharei Bioscience, PregLem/Gedeon Richter/Finox, Reproductive Biomedicine Online (RBMO), Roche, Teva, World Health Organisation (WHO).None of the authors have disclosures to make in relation to this manuscript.