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Fertility conference 2001 Monday, 2 July, 2001, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
IVF twin threat questioned
IVF
In the UK most women undergoing IVF receive two fertilised embryos
Thousands of women having fertility treatment may be running a pointless risk of multiple births, suggest doctors.

Most UK clinics try to increase the chances of pregnancy by implanting at least two fertilised embryos into the woman.

However, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Lausanne was told that, for younger women at least, the extra embryo might not improve their chances even slightly.


This suggests that certain women can have elective single-embryo transfer without any effect on the success rate

Dr Diane De Neuborug
Putting in two or more embryos does increase the chance that the woman will become pregnant with twins, which could raise the risks to mother and new-born child.

Single embryo transfer is becoming a more common choice in some parts of Europe, particularly Scandinavia, but has yet to catch on in the UK, where most clinics will routinely transfer at least two, even in very young women.

It is only in recent years that UK clinics have been persuaded to reduce from three to two embryos to cut the risk of triplets, which are even more dangerous.

A team from Antwerp in the Netherlands conducted a trial to test the effectiveness of putting back just one embryo.

They used a simple technique to assess the quality of the embryos, selecting the best one with which to proceed.

Identical results

A group of women, all aged under 38, chose to have the procedure as part of their first IVF or ICSI cycle.

The results for the one-embryo women were almost identical to those in the two-embryo group - just under half of the women conceived in the treatment cycle.

Dr Diane De Neuborug, from the Middleheim Hospital in Antwerp, said: "This suggests that certain women can have elective single-embryo transfer without any effect on the success rate."

Professor Lyn Fraser, the chairman of ESHRE, said: "In the UK the majority of clinics are looking very seriously at transferring only two embryos except in women over 38 years old.

"However, there is still scope for improvement for a number of patients who don't have very severe problems."

'More evidence needed'

However, Professor David Barlow, from the University of Oxford, who edits the journal Human Reproduction, told BBC News Online that the evidence was not yet firm enough to force a change in policy by UK clinics.

He said: "To be convinced, I think we would need more evidence.

"Although we are aware that the obstetric and neonatal outcomes are worse in twin pregnancy than in singleton pregnancy - but both are far better than in triplet pregnancy."

See also:

23 May 01 | Health
07 Dec 00 | Health
22 Jun 01 | Health
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