The XX Factor

Can Your Phone Help You Do IVF?

Could a new Web tool and phone app make it a little easier to get pregnant with IVF?  A British research group says yes. The team has trawled through data from more than 140,000 IVF cases to create a Web tool and app that it says can predict, with extreme accuracy, the likelihood that the procedure will work for any given infertile couple.

Tools to predict IVF success have been around since the 1990s, when Allan Templeton and colleagues from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London uncovered certain variables – such as reason for infertility or age of the mother – that seemed to affect the odds of assisted reproduction.  But IVF has changed in the last decade, and a new study conducted by Scott Nelson and Debbie Lawlor , published this month in the journal PLoS Medicine , suggests that the Templeton model needs an update.

Nelson and Lawlor recalculated, counting recent data on IVF births resulting from newer techniques like intracytoplasmic sperm injection , which can help overcome stubborn problems like low sperm mobility or impenetrable eggs.  The new model almost flawlessly predicted whether a couple using IVF in the U.K. between 2003 and 2007 would deliver a child.  Now these researchers have teamed up with Tom Kelsey and Chris Jefferson , computer scientists from the University of St. Andrews, to open their experimental methods to the public.  Here’s their Web-based prediction tool .  Coming soon, a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones called IVFPredict.

By answering nine questions about pregnancy history, the source of the eggs, and the types of fertility medications used, couples can find out their odds of successful IVF, as well as learn how each variable affects their risk profile.  For instance, imagine a 33-year-old woman who’s never been pregnant and is using IVF for the first time after a year of trying to get pregnant on her own.  Her fertility problems are caused by cervical issues, but she’s still using her own eggs (and has had gonadotropin hormone therapy treatment).  According to IVFPredict, her chance of having a baby with her partner via in vitro fertilization is 13 percent.  If the couple decides to go with intracytoplasmic sperm injection instead of the normal IVF method of combining multitudes of sperm and eggs in a dish, their odds jump to 42 percent, according to the model.

This won’t help the couples who spend lots of money on IVF and fail, or those who can’t afford the procedure in the first place .  Still, it’s scientifically backed information you can find out about yourself easily, on your own-a form of patient power.

Photo of iPhone 4 courtesy Wikimedia commons.