Often people assume that they can increase their chance of success by having more than one embryo transferred at a time but this isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not when people travel abroad for treatment and you hear (horror) stories of people having 8 or even more embryos transferred at a time. These are obviously extreme scenarios but I do often find myself having to explain why we believe in a single embryo transfer policy (where possible). 

The HFEA (the governing body in the UK over all fertility treatment and every clinic must work within their guidelines), introduced the multiple birth policy in 2009 which suggested that where possible, single embryo transfers should be performed. These guidelines were introduced to bring down multiple birth rates as multiple births come with a lot higher risks than singleton pregnancies. 

Often people are so focused on achieving the positive result that they don’t think about the affects it could have to their pregnancy further down the line. I get a lot of questions from patients about having more than 1 embryo transferred at a time, as there is a common belief that if you transfer more than 1 embryo, you increase the chance of a positive result, but this unfortunately isn’t always true.  

Performing multiple embryo transfers however, does increase the risk of having a multiple birth and this in turn increases the risk of miscarriage, especially during the first and second trimester of pregnancy. It also increases the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, impaired foetal growth, and having a still birth is 7 times more likely than having a single embryo transferred. This is even before you consider the risk or premature births and prolonged stays in neonatal units for multiple birth babies. 

So before you ask about transferring 2 embryos, it is always good to take into account the effects it could have further down the line and be aware of some of the reasoning behind it. The other important thing to consider is that the success rates of frozen embryo transfer cycles have been increasing year on year and are now comparable to rates using fresh embryos so by having a single embryo transfer, this may offer you the opportunity to have a further embryo transfer down the line. 

Holly Scott, Patient and Clinic Liaison Manager


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