Israel Remains an IVF Paradise as Number of Treatments Rises 11% in 2016

In vitro fertilization is popular in the country that provides generous funding until women are 45

An illustration of the IVF process.
Dreamstime

Israel, the only country that funds IVF costs without limits for women up to 45, remains a mecca for the procedure, with 11 percent more treatments done last year compared with 2015.

Last year, 37,270 in vitro fertilization treatments were carried out in Israel, the Israeli Fertility Association said Tuesday, up from 33,447 in 2015 and 25,576 in 2014.

Among women under 35, 31.3 percent of IVF treatments resulted in a birth, but due to the procedure’s declining success as women age, only 3.8 percent of attempts among women 43 or older were successful.

Because of Israel’s generous funding for women up to 45, the treatments for older women drag down the country’s overall success rate.

“About a third of fertility treatments in Israel are among women over 40,” said Prof. Talia Adler-Geva, the chairwoman of the Israeli Fertility Association and head of the endocrinology and genetics of fertility unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

She noted that the success rate among women over 43 is very low, and that the success rates in every age group are similar in Israel to those in the rest of the world.

“It’s important for us to inform the public of these figures so women can consider moving up the age of parenthood to increase the chances of success with both a natural pregnancy and fertility treatments if they’re needed,” Adler-Geva said.

According to the national IVF database, among the 37,270 IVF treatments performed in Israel last year, 37.4 percent were carried out on women no older than 35, 26.2 percent were for women 35 to 39, 23.7 percent for women 40 to 42, and 12.7 percent for women 43 or older.

The database was established in 2014 and is based on information sent from the IVF units at the country’s hospitals. The increase in the number of procedures in recent decades in part reflects the trend of Israeli women having children later. In recent years, 4 percent of live births – 6,500 to 7,000 a year – have resulted from IVF.

According to recent figures, for women no more than 35, their chances of having a baby were 31.3 percent per treatment. This number was 22.8 percent for women 35 to 39, 11.4 percent for women 40 to 42, and 3.8 percent for women 43 and older.

The process also involves risks of complications. In recent years, there has been a lively debate in the medical community about the advisability of IVF in some circumstances also considering the cost to the state budget.

In April 2015, the Israeli Fertility Association published a paper recommending that doctors not perform IVF when the chance of the woman having a baby is below 1 percent. The association’s ethics committee believes that such a chance renders IVF a futile process that raises false hopes and precludes other options.

The paper acknowledged the emotional, social and societal baggage that IVF patients bring with them, “but miracles are not part of the medical world,” it said. The recommendation is similar to that by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine regarding the futility of treatment when success rates fall below 1 percent.

Until the law in Israel is changed, however, doctors and the country’s four health maintenance organizations cannot refuse requests for treatment even when doctors deem the cases futile.