Multiple births are the single biggest risk to the health and welfare of children born following fertility treatment and present significant health risks to mothers and babies. Over recent years, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has worked to drive down multiple birth rates whilst maintaining consistent treatment success rates.
To minimise the risk of multiple pregnancies, there has been a growing trend for IVF providers to only transfer one embryo, even when more are available, in patients who have a good chance of successful treatment. Elective single embryo transfer is the most effective way of reducing multiple pregnancies. The HFEA has advised that most clinics have shown significant progress in reducing multiple births without compromising pregnancy rates. In 2008 nearly one in four IVF births resulted in a multiple birth but now, with a concerted multiple births reduction policy, this number is one in six.
Although progress has been made, this number is still higher than the rate in conceptions that do not involve assisted reproduction treatment. The overall goal is to reduce multiple births to one in ten.
The level of provision of infertility treatment, as for all health services they commission, is decided by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and will take into account the needs of the population overall. The CCG’s decisions are underpinned by clinical insight and knowledge of local healthcare needs. As such, provision of services will vary in response to local needs.
Information about CCGs approach to commissioning or compliance with the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidelines regarding IVF services is not collected centrally.