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HFEA publishes multiple birth report

16 May 2011

By Chris Chatterton

Appeared 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'.

HFEA | 13 May 2011
Daily Mail | 13 May 2011
Guardian | 13 May 2011
BBC News | 13 May 2011
Independent | 13 May 2011
Daily Telegraph | 13 May 2011
Better outcomes for fertility treatment | 13 May 2011
ScienceDaily (press release) | 15 April 2011


09 December 2013 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A high level of twin, triplet and other multiple births in the USA may be down to a rise in fertility treatments like ovarian stimulation being used independently of IVF...
11 February 2013 - by Matthew Thomas 
Figures released by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reveal the number of IVF cycles performed each year has continued to rise while the overall multiple pregnancy and birth rate has declined....
08 May 2012 - by Dr Rebecca Hill 
The increase in birth defects in babies born after assisted conception could be partly due to underlying fertility problems, according to an Australian study...
13 February 2012 - by Nishat Hyder 
The rate of multiple births resulting from IVF treatment is to be no more than ten percent, announced the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), in the final stage of its policy to reduce IVF multiple birth rates in the UK....
24 October 2011 - by Dr Djuke Veldhuis 
Should women who choose their career first, and children second, be allowed to receive IVF on the NHS at an age when some would consider it 'unnatural'? Now ask whether it's acceptable for young soldiers fighting in Afghanistan to store their sperm in case they don't come back. And the questions surrounding reproductive medicine don't end there: after insemination, how much screening or manipulation of genetic material is reasonable?...

18 April 2011 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
The authors of a new Canadian study have recommended a mandatory policy of single embryo transfer in an aim to reduce health complications arising from multiple births....
11 April 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
The maximum rate for multiple births following IVF treatment in fertility centres has been set by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) at 15 percent....
24 January 2011 - by Rosemary Paxman 
An international study has suggested elective single-embryo transfer (eSET) during IVF may improve chances of delivering a healthy baby compared to double-embryo transfer (DET), although women receiving DET are more likely to become pregnant in the first place....
10 May 2010 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
Rising IVF costs may drive up Australian multiple birth rates and put women's health at risk, according to some clinical specialists....
22 February 2010 - by Alison Cranage 
The percentage of IVF cycles using elective single embryo transfer has increased since 2007, according to a report released last week....

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