The high number of multiple births after fertility treatment, particularly after IVF, has been identified as a problem in many other countries. They have tried various different strategies to tackle this.
Broadly speaking, Northern European countries and Australia have adopted a wider use of single embryo transfer (SET) as a strategy for reducing multiple pregnancies. In a number of countries in Southern Europe and North America, professional organisations have recommended greater use of SET but this policy has yet to be widely adopted.
According to the 2008 IVF report from the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), covering treatments in Europe (2004), the top four countries for SET were Sweden 67%, Belgium 49%, Finland 47% and Denmark 27%. The lowest four were Bulgaria and Hungary, both 7.5%, UK 9.4% and Albania 9.8%.
In the countries that have adopted a wider use of SET, funding for IVF is more consistent than is currently the case in the UK.
In countries where a single embryo transfer policy was introduced, the number of multiple births was significantly reduced, while good management ensured that the impact on the live birth rate was minimised.
"In Belgium, since July 2003, every woman of 43 and under is entitled to 6 funded cycles of IVF/ICSI. The number of embryos transferred is limited by law, taking into account the woman’s age and her treatment history. This has led to a substantial reduction in the incidence of IVF twins from around 25% to around 10%, with no decrease in the overall pregnancy rate."
Prof. Dr Jan Gerris