The number of multiple births from IVF treatment has reached an all-time low, according to the fertility watchdog
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has said an average of six percent (one in 20) of all IVF births are a multiple in a new report has revealed. This is a significant decrease from the 1990s when around 28 percent (one in four) of IVF births were twins.
The HFEA multiple births in fertility treatment report shows that the multiple birth rate has reduced most among patients under 35 (from 27 percent in 2007 to 6 percent in 2019) and patients over 44 (from 31 percent in 2007 to 5 percent in 2019).
The decrease in multiple births has been achieved alongside a steady improvement in IVF success rates. The number of babies born per year from IVF treatment grew from 1,238 in 1991 to 390,000 30 years later while multiple birth rates have fallen.
Chairwoman of the HFEA, Julia chain, said: “This is a major success for UK healthcare. Multiple births can be dangerous for both patients and unborn babies and can put an additional burden on the NHS. Multiple births were the biggest single health risk from IVF treatment and that is why we have campaigned for this since 2007 working closely with health professionals and fertility clinics.
“The numbers of babies born from IVF have continued to rise, confirming that implanting more than one embryo does not decrease a patient’s chance of having a baby.”
The report highlights those patients aged 37 and under who are privately funded have a higher multiple birth rate in their first IVF cycle compared to NHS-funded patients
It highlights the risks brought to both the patients and babies as about 60 percent of IVF twin births were preterm (under 37 weeks) compared to 9 percent of singleton births from 2015-2019 according to the report. Multiple births cause an increased risk of health problems for patients and their babies, such as late miscarriage, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, haemorrhage, stillbirth, and neonatal death.
Multiple births and multiple embryo transfers were more common among Black patients than other ethnic groups between 2015-19. The average multiple birth rate for Black patients was 12 percent, compared to 10 percent across all ethnic groups which means more Black women and their babies are at an increased risk of health problems.
Julia concludes: “The lower number of multiple births should be celebrated but we cannot be complacent as we know this is not the case in every fertility clinic. We will continue to monitor multiple birth rates from fertility treatment and encourage clinics to review their multiple birth strategies, particularly in relation to patients from ethnic minority groups as we want to achieve a level playing field for all patients.”
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