Currently, United Kingdom fertility treatments involve transferring two embryos into the womb. Consequentially, 1 in 4 IVF births in the UK results in twins or triplets, compared to 1 in 80 births following natural conception. Eighty seven percent of those IVF related multiples occur in the first cycle of treatment with women younger than 37.
Clinical follow up reveals that multiple pregnancy is associated with miscarriage and death, prematurity and low birth weight in the infant. Further, it can lead to long term health problems for children, such as cerebral palsy, and risks to mothers such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes and heart disease. Of course, a major concern to the government is the increased strain on the health care system from IVF related morbidity and mortality. The obvious response to reduce IVF multiple pregnancy rate is single embryo transfer.
So now the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) have issued new guidelines in the journal Human Fertility to help UK clinics introduce an elective single embryo transfer (eSET) policy for IVF treatment. The guidelines also set out that eSET be used for under 37 year old women who are in their first cycle having high quality embryos.
The anticipated problems include a need for maximizing an egg harvesting and frozen replacement program, establishing a standardized set of embryo grading and reeducation to allow patients accept eSET without feeling their chances of success are being compromised.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this paradigm shift will be coming to an IVF Clinic in your area soon.