16 May 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 607
The UK's fertility regulator published a report on 13 May that it says indicates its success at reducing multiple births from fertility treatment by promoting elective single embryo transfer (eSET).
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) 'Improving outcomes for fertility patients' report showed that since January 2008, the percentage of multiple pregnancies from IVF and ICSI treatment decreased from 26.7 to 22 percent. The HFEA says these findings vindicate its 'One at a time' policy – introduced in 2007 – to reduce multiple births by 24 percent in 2009/10, 20 percent in 2010/11, and 15 percent in 2011/2.
Professor Lisa Jardine, HFEA Chair, said in a press statement: 'It is excellent news that the number of multiple births is coming down whilst overall success rates for patients are still being maintained. This shows that the policy is proving successful'.
According to HFEA statistics from 2008 over 24 percent of births after IVF or ICSI treatment in the UK were of two or more babies. This compares to around one percent for twins born naturally, according to Multiple Births Canada.
Previously, IVF cycles involved transferring two embryos to maximise the chance of a successful pregnancy. But the HFEA claims that the introduction of SET has no overall effect on success rates, while also being safer, because it reduces the risk of a multiple birth.
Multiple births have been linked to increased health risks to mother and baby. A recent Canadian study by Dr Keith Barrington and colleagues published in the Journal of Paediatrics, for example, suggested that introducing mandatory SET would significantly reduce death and serious health problems.
The HFEA's eSET policy is backed by professional organisations, including the British Fertility Society, and patient groups such as the Multiple Births Foundation and Infertility Network UK. But Susan Seenan of Infertility Network UK told the Daily Mail that while the organisation were 'big supporters of single embryo transfer…it needs to come with full funding' otherwise 'patients are always going to struggle'.