Australian researchers have discovered that the rate of perinatal deaths in IVF (in vitro fertilisation) can be considerably reduced when only one embryo is used in the fertility treatment.
Researchers at the University of NSW say Australia is leading the world in single embryo IVF transfers and they are using a conference in Istanbul to get the message out to the rest of the world.
They studied the records of more than 50,000 women from Australia and New Zealand between 2004 and 2008 and found the risk of an IVF baby being stillborn or dying within the first month of life was 53 per cent higher when two embryos were implanted instead of one.
Dr Michael Chapman from the NSW University School of Women's and Children's Health says Australia established the ideal of single embryo transfer in its code of practice seven years ago.
"Because we have a database which includes all cycles ever done in Australia, we can look back and see those outcomes and that's the decision around the table of all the IVF directors," he said.
Dr Chapman says using the database of IVF records, the university has found more evidence to back up that decision.
"Compared with babies who were born after a double embryo transfer, the single embryo transfer babies fared much better in terms of birth weight, in terms of still birth, in terms of complications of pregnancy," he said.
Dr Chapman says Australia is leading the world in single embryo transfers.
"In the United States, for instance, single embryo transfer occurs in about 12 per cent of all transfers. The rest are double or triple embryo transfers," he said.
"In the United Kingdom they've moved from around about 4 per cent 10 years ago to 15 per cent and they're patting themselves on the back for that.
"We're up to 70 per cent in Australia."
Dr Chapman hopes releasing the university's study internationally will help get that message across - a message he is continually trying to get across to his patients as well.
"Every day I do an embryo transfer, probably one-in-five patients says 'I want two', and when I explain the potential for increased cerebral palsy, increased multiple pregnancy, 99.9 per cent of them accept our approach of a single embryo transfer," he said.
Single embryo transfers
Selina Moscatt was 35 when she had her first child through IVF after using a Sydney clinic.
During the IVF treatment she discussed with her doctor the prospect of implanting more than one embryo.
"I didn't like the idea of a high-risk multiple birth, but in our particular case he didn't feel that that was anything we really needed to look at," she said.
She says that is because she responded so well to the program.
The Sydney clinic, Genea, says it has been promoting the use of single embryo transfers for about 16 years.
"In 1996 we saw very strong improvements in pregnancy rates due to improvement in our laboratory conditions," clinic scientific director Steven McArthur said.
"What came with that improvement in pregnancy rates was an increase in multiple pregnancies; straight away we recognised that that was not an ideal way to progress and moved very quickly to single embryo transfers."
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