There was a six percent rise last year in the number of fertility treatments carried out in the UK, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
The HFEA's annual report, which was released on 16 November, shows that 45,264 women received fertility treatment in the UK in 2010, compared to 42,593 in 2009. This equates to 57,652 cycles of both IVF and ICSI in 2010 – an increase of 5.9 percent on the previous year.
'The register of all licensed treatments and outcomes for assisted reproduction held by the HFEA puts us in an unrivalled position to inform people about the performance of the fertility sector', said Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA. 'We are now committed to publishing regular analytical reports, twice a year, one in the spring and one in the autumn'.
According to the report, the use of sperm and egg donors is also increasing. Clinics carried out 1,963 cycles of treatment using donor sperm last year compared with 1,615 in 2009. The number of cycles where women used eggs from a donor reached 1,320 last year, an increase from the previous year's figure of 1,254. Three percent of cycles involved donor eggs, and six percent donor insemination (DI) in 2010.
Furthermore, despite notable changes to clinical practice, the figures show that the overall pregnancy rate per embryo transfer and live birth rates have remained steady. However, the overall multiple pregnancy and multiple birth rates have fallen slightly, with just under a quarter of live births being twins compared with nearly a third in 2008.
The average age of women undergoing IVF in 2010 was 35.1 years, up from 33.6 in 1991. The majority of women were aged 37 years or under, with thirty percent aged between 38 and 42, four percent between 43 and 44 and only around two percent of cycles were to women aged 45 and over.
Fertility support groups welcomed the figures but cautioned that women still faced a lottery over accessing treatment.Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said: 'The fact that only a minority of treatment cycles in 2010 were funded by the NHS continues to highlight the difficulties faced by many patients in trying to access NHS treatment. The recent suspension of funding by many PCTs means that the number of NHS-funded cycles will no doubt decrease in 2011 and we are also concerned that, if responsibility for commissioning of fertility services is passed to GPs, there will be even more variations in access to treatment'.