How many children are born thanks to assisted reproductive technology (ART)?

Assisted reproductive technology accounts for nearly 3% of births in France

In 2012, more than 142,708 ART procedures were conducted in France. They led to the birth of 23,887 children, according to the Agence de la Biomédecine. This represents 2.9% of births recorded for that year by INSEE, or one in 35 births. In France, ART is restricted to heterosexual couples of reproductive age who cannot conceive a child naturally for medical reasons. Depending on the source of a couple’s difficulties, different ART techniques are used, from artificial insemination to embryo cryopreservation (freezing).

In a few cases (5% in 2012 in France), couples have to use donated gametes (spermatozoa or oocytes [eggs]) or donated embryos, though this last situation very seldom occurs. One of the two “social” parents (both, in the case of a donated embryo) will therefore not be the child’s biological father or mother. In 2012 in France, 1,334 children were conceived by way of anonymous donations, mainly of sperm. There is a shortage of oocyte donations in France. But the vast majority of ART procedures are intra-couple, i.e., performed with the gametes of the two couple members. In 2012, these procedures resulted in the birth of approximately 22,553 children, 74% of whom were conceived by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and 26% by intrauterine insemination. Births by IVF are more frequent because more attempts are made and the success rate is higher (around 20%, as against 10% for insemination).

Over 200,000 children conceived by in-vitro fertilization in France in 30 years

IVF developed quickly in the years following the birth of the first “test-tube babies,” Louise Brown in Britain in 1978 and Amandine in France in 1982. In 1992, IVF was improved by the medical technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a micropipette is used to inject a spermatozoon into an egg. This technique enables men suffering from severe infertility to conceive a child that is genetically their own rather than using donated sperm. Today the technique is practiced in half of all intra-couple IVFs. In 30 years, then, from the birth of the first test-tube babies through 2008, more than 200,000 children were conceived by IVF in France. From 2009, the number of IVFs has continued to rise.

Proportion of children conceived by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in France since 1981

A medical undertaking that results in the birth of a child in nearly 50% of cases

Despite technical and medical advances, assisted reproductive technology, particularly IVF, has remained a long and in some cases physically or emotionally painful process. Taking into account all procedures performed, couples who turn to IVF have a near 50% chance of having a child. However, the probability of success falls sharply with age.

According to a survey by the DAIFI group (Devenir Après Interruption de la FIV, a mixed INSERM-INED research team), 48 out of 100 couples who undertake IVF will have a child through this procedure or a different one performed later (most of them have a child after the first or second IVF); 11 couples will have a child naturally; 11 will adopt; 30 couples will remain childless.


Agence de la Biomédecine, medical and scientific report for 2013, In-vitro fertilization in 2012:
« 200,000 “test-tube” babies in the last 30 years », Elise de la Rochebrochard, Population & Societes, n°451, décembre 2008.

  • « Quelles sont les chances d’avoir un enfant durant ou après une prise en charge pour FIV ?
    Une enquête de cohorte rétrospective en France », Élise de La Rochebrochard, Pénélope Troude, Estelle Bailly, Juliette Guibert, Jean Bouyer for the DAIFI group, Bulletin Epidémiologique Hebdomadaire (BEH), 14 June 2011. The DAIFI survey was done with 6,507 couples that had undertaken IVF from 2000 to 2002 in eight AMP (Assistance Médicale à la Procréation) centres.