‘At least 12 million babies’ since the first IVF birth in 1978

PR23 Adamson

Published 28 June 2023

The calculation made with a ‘high degree of confidence’ by ICMART was based on all registry data collected up to 2018, the addition of recently reported data from China, and estimates of the number of babies born from 2019 through 2022.

The global ART monitoring report, presented by David Adamson on behalf of ICMART, opened with the remarkable disclosure that cycles monitored in the 81 countries now supplying data totalled almost 3.5 million in 2019 and continue to grow. Right now, said Adamson, or at least in 2019, global cycle numbers are going up by around 6.7% per year.

The ICMART preliminary data also record that around 750,000 babies were born from IVF in 2019, which has now prompted a renewed calculation of IVF births with a total now culminating in more than 12 million. ‘We can say with a high degree of confidence that there have been at least 12 million IVF babies since the world’s first in 1978,’ Adamson said in an interview with ESHRE.

The calculation, he explained, was based on the complete ART delivery data collected by ICMART up to 2018 (around 10 million babies) and since then a reliable estimate of annual IVF births of some 750,000 births per year.

What has made the estimate calculation more robust is the inclusion of China’s registry data in the global total. Before 2020, IVF activity in China was known to be prolific, but no-one had any precise understanding of the extent. But then in 2020 came a registry report from the China CDC recording over 900,000 cycles in 2016 and which in 2019, according to ICMART’s latest figures, had become more than 1 million cycles. The result is that ICMART’s global data and later world treatment estimates are now based on records representing ’90-95%’ of global activity. Which is why, said Adamson, his estimate of at least 12 million IVF babies could now be disclosed with such a high degree of confidence.

What inclusion of the China data also means is that China and Japan (455,000 cycles in 2019) now account for almost one half of all global IVF cycles, and far outstrip former treatment front runners (USA approximately 280,000 cycles, Spain 129,000 cycles, France 117,000, and Germany 107,000).

The Chinese data also mean - at least for 2019 - that global multiple pregnancy rates are somewhat higher than they might otherwise have been. Overall multiple delivery rates were calculated at approximately 15%, while China was at approximately 20%. Japan, Australia and New Zealand still set the standard for elective SET and rock bottom multiple rates of less than 3%. Multiple transfer and delivery rates continue to fall.

The other important trend identified by the ICMART report was the continuing increase in freezing IVF cycles. In 2019, for example, 40% of embryos were transferred fresh and 60% were FETs, while around 38% of all aspirations were freeze-all cycles.

Meanwhile, there seems no sign of any slow-down in the uptake of ART and its application in a greater variety of patients. In commenting on the historic total of 12 million IVF babies since the world’s first, Adamson remarked how IVF had become such a routine procedure and broadened the range and possibilities of family structures and family life in such a relatively short time. All it took was 12 million babies and the never-wavering example of one dedicated man.


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