BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Copenhagen: Data presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has shown that the quality and effectiveness of assisted human reproduction technologies (ARTs) across Europe is improving year on year.
Professor Karl Nygren, chair of ESHRE's European IVF Monitoring Programme, spoke of data collected for 2002 on ARTs in 24 countries. This shows that in the six year period up to 2002, there was a decline in the number of twin births following the use of ARTs, and a fall from 3.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent of triplet births. He said that this reflected the choice of doctors and patients to implant fewer embryos - in particular a move towards elective single embryo transfer (SET). Seventy per cent of all patients treated with IVF or ICSI in that period had only one or two embryos transferred per cycle. However, he said, 'despite the reduction in numbers of embryos transferred in one cycle, the pregnancy rate has remained the same or, in fact, in some countries actually improved'. He added: 'This is good news for mothers and babies, because multiple births are dangerous for both and can cause congenital problems in the offspring'.
Dr Anders Nyboe Andersen, of the Rigshospitalet at Copenhagen University in Denmark and co-ordinator of the monitoring programme, said that data from some Scandinavian countries shows that pregnancy rates can be maintained even if SET is introduced on a national level. 'More than 50 per cent of cycles in Finland and Sweden are single embryo transfer and the multiple delivery rate is approximately only 10 per cent compared with about 25 per cent in Europe as a whole', he said.
Professor Nygren continued by saying that preliminary data relating to Sweden in 2004 was even more encouraging. Sweden was moving towards SET before 2003, when the transfer of more than two embryos was formally banned. According to Professor Nygren, 'the 2004 data show that 70 per cent of all Swedish cycles were single embryo transfers, but the pregnancy rate per embryo transfer remained constant around 30 per cent, while the number of twin births has plummeted to just 5 per cent and there were no triplet deliveries at all'.