Cochrane Summaries

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Assisted reproductive technology: an overview of Cochrane Reviews

Farquhar C, Rishworth JR, Brown J, Nelen WLDM, Marjoribanks J
Published Online: 
22 August 2013


As many as one in six couples encounter problems with fertility, defined as failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after regular intercourse for 12 months. Increasingly, couples are turning to assisted reproductive technology (ART) for help with conceiving and ultimately giving birth to a healthy live baby of their own. Fertility treatments are complex and costly, and each assisted reproduction cycle consists of several steps. If one of the steps is incorrectly applied, the stakes are high as conception may not occur. With this in mind, it is important that each step involved in ART is supported by good evidence from well-designed studies. Cochrane reviewers examined the evidence from Cochrane systematic reviews on ART published in The Cochrane Library.

Study characteristics

We included 54 Cochrane systematic reviews on various stages in the ART cycle. All were high quality. Reviews of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) were included in the overview. Reviews of intrauterine insemination and ovulation induction were not included. This overview provides the most up to date evidence from truly randomised controlled trials for ART cycles.

Key results

Thirty reviews identified interventions that were effective or promising, 13 reviews identified interventions that were ineffective or possibly ineffective, and 11 reviews were unable to draw conclusions due to lack of evidence. Use of the evidence from this overview to guide clinical practice should help to improve live birth rates and reduce rates of multiple pregnancy, cycle cancellation and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.