New IVF technique: greater success rate, fewer multiple births

Doctors have found a way to boost the success rate of IVF in a ground-breaking study that halved the incidence of multiple births, by far the biggest hazard of fertility treatment.

Fertility specialists at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital who tested the new technique say they hope it will be adopted as a standard approach by IVF clinics that are striving to reduce the burden of twin and triplet births.

The technique involves growing the fertilised embryos for a couple of extra days in the laboratory and identifying the best single "blastocyst" – as the embryos are then known – to increase the chances of success.

Using the technique, the Guy's and St Thomas' specialists transferred one blastocyst to the womb, instead of the usual two or three, yet increased the pregnancy rate from 27 per cent to 32 per cent. At the same time, they cut the incidence of twins and triplets from 30 per cent to 17 per cent (some multiple births still occur because a single embryo can split to form identical twins). In all, 2,451 IVF cycles were performed comparing the two approaches between 2004 and 2007.

Yakoub Khalaf, who led the study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), said: "It is a myth that single embryo transfer lowers the success rate for pregnancy. If the right patients are selected for blastocyst transfer, success rates can be maintained and multiple pregnancy can be reduced."

About 90 per cent of IVF cycles in Britain currently use two embryos because clinics and couples fear that using only one will reduce the pregnancy rates. Many couples see twins as a way to an instant family without recognising the dangers, specialists say.

Twin births have risen from 6,000 a year in 1975 to 10,000 a year today, driven by IVF. But they carry increased risks of premature birth, intra-uterine growth retardation and pre-eclampsia. The chances of complications in the mother increase sixfold and the risk of death of the babies in the first month sevenfold.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has told clinics to cut IVF twin and triplet births from one in four to one in 10 by choosing couples with the best chance of pregnancy – often the youngest – for single embryo transfer. Even so, many couples insist on using at least two embryos because they want to maximise their chances. Dr Khalaf said half of the parents in his study refused to accept a single embryo when they heard their chances would be better with two. "But this is not just about success. The risks of multiple pregnancy are substantial. I would encourage every IVF clinic to look at our results," he said.

"We are very mindful of parents' desire for a family and the cost of private treatment and that under the NHS they only have one shot. If despite our best efforts to advise parents they choose to have two blastocysts replaced, that is their choice."

Professor Philip Steer, editor of the BJOG, said: "The results of this study suggest that single embryo transfer can be the way forward for many women undergoing IVF. It is important that IVF units develop the skills to ensure that only the best blastocysts are used and women should be better educated about the high risks of multiple pregnancy."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back