Doctors, embryologists, nurses, other clinical staff, patient groups and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have come together to launch a new national strategy to reduce the number of multiple pregnancies – the single biggest health risk of fertility treatment.
Focusing initially on IVF, the strategy will aim to reduce the rate of multiple births from the national average of 24 per cent of all IVF births to 10 per cent over three years. In the first year (from January 2009), all clinics will be expected not to exceed the 24 per cent maximum.
Launched today in support of the strategy are:
New professional guidelines published by the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE), setting out professional best practice, will be published in the journal Human Fertility in the next few weeks and will support professionals in their daily work.
Those involved in the development of the national strategy believe that change will only be facilitated through improved funding for assisted conception treatment.
Launching the strategy, Jane Denton, Director of the Multiple Birth Foundation, said:
“Infertility treatment requires dedicated professional teams to work together in helping patients make informed decisions about their treatment including the long term consequences of their choices. For many people who have gone through the emotional rollercoaster of fertility treatment, the prospect of having an instant family with twins is very appealing.
“Through the One at a Time campaign and its website, we hope to give professionals, patients and the public authoritative information about multiple pregnancy and births to help them understand the risks and consequences and why the aim with each IVF treatment cycle should be to give the best chance of having one live, healthy baby. “
Alun Elias-Jones, Consultant Paediatrician and Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
“As doctors we have a duty to promote health and this includes considering not just the immediate desire for a child but the long term consequences of fertility treatment to the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies. The risk of an adverse outcome for a multiple birth is much greater than for singleton births. Some children have a traumatic start to life, extended stays in neonatal units and others can have serious, long term health problems.
“For doctors like myself who care for these children through a lifetime of problems reducing the risks of multiple births is vital. With an increasing number of people undergoing fertility treatment each year it is important that all of us, professionals and patients, understand and address this issue.”
Rachel Cutting, Embryologist and member of the ACE executive committee, said:
“Latest advances in embryology now mean we can tackle the risks of multiple birth much more effectively than ever before. Professional guidelines written by the BFS and ACE will provide a clear, evidence based approach to judging embryo quality, the optimum time to transfer embryos and the importance of an effective cryopreservation programme. Embryologists are key to helping reduce multiple pregnancy.”
Dr Mark Hamilton, Chair of the BFS and Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, said:
“Whilst we must do what we can to reduce the burden of multiple births, it is important that we need to see the 2004 NICE guidelines implemented in full around the UK for elective Single Embryo Transfer to be carried out in as many patients as is appropriate and possible.
“There is no one size fits all and treatment has to be decided in partnership and based on what’s best for the individual. However, if patients did not have to worry about finding the money for their own treatment this would certainly be much easier to implement.”
Further information about the campaign is available on the One at a Time website at: http://www.oneatatime.org.uk/
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