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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Calls to cut IVF twins

19th October 2006

05042006_baby_ward.jpgCalls to cut the number of IVF twin and triplet pregnancies are being made today amid fears over the safety of multiple births.

The Expert Group on Multiple Births After IVF is expected to advise fertility doctors to place just one embryo in the womb due to the risks involved with multiple births.  Rates of twin and triplet pregnancies have risen and fears are mounting over the health risks these pregnancies pose to woman and babies and the financial burden they place on the NHS.

Twins are four times more likely to have problems after birth and cost the NHS £3,000 more than a single birth as they are more likely to need intensive care.  Triplets are 10 times more likely to suffer complications and cost £21,000 more than a single birth. The rate of cerebral palsy is five times higher in twins and 18 times higher in triplets.

Figures have shown that nearly 75% of all IVF cycles involved placing two embryos in the womb and almost a quarter of all live births were of twins.  However, research has also shown that there is no significant difference in successful pregnancy rates whether one or two embryos are used.

But the recommendations will alarm some patients who don’t want anything to affect the success of their treatment.  Currently, doctors are allowed to put two, and occasionally three, embryos in a woman's womb to give couples the best chance of a successful pregnancy. At present, infertile couples are entitled to one free IVF cycle on the NHS and the expert group is expected to say that couples should be given more free NHS treatment if the move to single embryo transfers goes ahead.  They argue that the move would save money in the long run because of the reduced need for intensive care for twins, who are often born prematurely.

Britain has one of the highest rates in Europe of IVF multiple births. Other countries have brought their rates down through agreements to only place one embryo in the womb.


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