Since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority set new guidelines aimed at reducing the number of IVF multiple births to just 15 per cent by April this year, infertility clinics – both private and NHS – and actively been working to achieve a reduction through Single Embryo Transfer (SET).
SET is where only one embryo is transferred per cycle in good IVF prognosis patients. And at Manchester Fertility, we’ve always reached this decision in consultation with our patients. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach simply because everyone’s circumstances and medical history is different.
For example, if you’re a younger woman, and there’s a good chance of IVF working, then SET is the right choice. But if you’re an older woman, multiple embryo transfer is still the best option because your age affects your chances of getting pregnant. We take into account a number of factors, including your age, your medical history and the quality of your embryos to reach the right decision for you, which has the best outcome of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Now a new study by the Medical Research Council in Bristol has appeared to confirm that in women over 40, transferring two embryos could be the right choice. Multiple births present a great deal of serious health risks for both mother and baby, including prematurity and a higher chance of miscarriage, but the study showed that in older women, the risks of pre-term birth and low birthweight were lower than in younger women.
The study examined more than 33,000 live births, from 124,000 cycles of IVF treatment carried out in UK clinics, and researchers are now calling for clinics to have more flexibility in how many embryos are transferred.
What’s important to bear in mind however is that transferring more than one embryo does not mean you have a greater chance of successful IVF treatment. Dependent on your age and medical history, transferring only one embryo does not limit your chances of success if the embryo is of high quality.
Indeed, the HFEA has confirmed that overall success rates for IVF have been maintained since the SET guidelines were introduced. And if there are multiple good quality embryos from your cycle of IVF, these can be frozen and stored for future use so you can try and have more children, meaning there would be no need to go through ovarian stimulation and egg collection again.