Page URL:

US fertility expert condemns policy limiting embryo transfer

21 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 331

Figures released this week by the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology (ICMART), show that IVF success rates in America are almost double those in Europe. The finding was reported at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) conference that took place in Montreal, Canada. American fertility specialists pointed to the figures as an indication of how European women with a poor chance of conceiving were being unfairly penalised. In the US, fertility treatment is more often undertaken by higher income groups that demand greater numbers of embryos to be implanted, leading to greater success from the treatment.

The results in the report were compiled from 1,429 clinics in 49 countries in the year 2000. Researchers found that 31 per cent of IVF cycles in the US led to babies being delivered, compared to 19.4 per cent in Britain and 16.4 per cent for Europe as a whole. Britain's figures compared well to Germany, at 14.8 per cent, but fell short of Denmark at 21.9 per cent. The world average for IVF cycles leading to live birth is 18.6 per cent.

Last year in the UK measures were introduced by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), that allow women under forty to have a maximum of two embryos transferred, while older women are allowed a maximum of three. Currently in Britain three quarters of women having IVF have two embryos transferred, nine per cent have a single embryo transferred and the rest have three. The current practice is under review as the HFEA recently announced a public consultation on whether to follow other European countries that place a limit on numbers of embryos transferred per treatment cycle.

Doctors and the HFEA warn that the higher the number of embryos transferred per IVF cycle the greater the risk of multiple births, which in turn increases the possibility of premature births, cerebral palsy, low birth weight and other complications for both mother and child. Research has shown that twins are four times more likely to be stillborn or die in their first week than single births, the risks for triplets are seven times higher. In Britain, 26 per cent of successful fertility procedures results in twins, compared with 31.7 per cent in the US.

Dr David Adamson, the vice-president of ASRM and chair of ICMART, criticised Britain and other European countries for their current policy. He commented, 'I think it has probably resulted in having fewer multiples but also results in some women with poorer prognosis receiving fewer embryos than would be appropriate to optimise their chances of pregnancy.' Dr Adamson believes the decision as to how many embryos to implant should be left to doctors, 'Single-embryo transfer can be an excellent option for younger women with a good prognosis, but setting a limit of one embryo is not appropriate clinical care for all patients.'

John Paul Maytum, of the HFEA, responded by saying that, 'Our primary role as fertility regulator is to ensure that IVF treatment is as safe as possible. We know that having multiple births is the single biggest risk of IVF, both to mothers and to the children. The actions we have taken over recent years have reduced this risk dramatically.'

The ICMART study also highlighted the rising popularity of fertility treatment. There are now more than 2000 fertility clinics in the world, an increase of 20 per cent since the committee reported in 1998, with 20 per cent of the total number in the US. The US also saw 19 per cent of the world's IVF cycles and 47 per cent of the world's egg donor cycles. Overall, the report estimates that assisted reproduction resulted in between 197,000 and 220,000 babies born in the year 2000, which shows a 28 per cent rise in two years.

British limit on embryos for IVF is unfair, says US expert
The Daily Telegraph |  18 October 2005
Older women 'denied a baby by strict IVF laws'
The Times |  18 October 2005
29 October 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the US Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) have issued new guidelines limiting embryo transfer during IVF procedures to reduce the occurrence of multiple births. Announced at the annual ASRM meeting, held in New Orleans last week, the revised...
6 February 2006 - by BioNews 
A new study on the effect of single embryo transfer (SET) on pregnancy rates has triggered further calls for the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to stick with its existing policy on this issue. The research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, shows that imposing a single embryo...
16 January 2006 - by Professor William L Ledger 
Many years ago the then Minister of Health, Frank Dobson, drew attention to the unfairness of the 'postcode lottery' of provision of infertility treatments in the UK. Following his initiative, a subsequent Minister, Alan Milburn, later commissioned the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to look into this...
16 January 2006 - by BioNews 
UK researchers say that an additional 10,000 cycles of IVF per year could be provided free on the National Health Service (NHS), if clinics took action to reduce the number of multiple births following IVF. It is common for women undergoing IVF to have two embryos implanted at a time...
2 December 2005 - by BioNews 
One of the key obstacles to getting human embryonic stem (ES) cell therapies 'from the bench to the bedside' has been overcome, according to UK researcher Roger Pedersen of the University of Cambridge. Speaking at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s annual research conference, Professor Pederson said that...
20 August 2005 - by Professor Ian Craft and Dr Alan Thornhill 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recently announced that it is to review its rules on how many embryos can be implanted during IVF treatments. Transferring fewer embryos to all patients inevitably results in fewer multiple pregnancies, and we fully support measures making IVF safer. However, we recommend...
29 July 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to review its rules on how many embryos can be implanted during IVF treatments. Currently, over 90 per cent of IVF cycles in the UK involve transferring two or three embryos to increase the chances of success. However, this also leads...
7 January 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has published a revised Code of Practice, the sixth since the establishment of the authority in 1991. The code provides guidelines for HFEA-licensed fertility clinics on the provision of IVF and related services. The most significant addition to the new edition of...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.