Having blastocyst culture significantly increases the success rate, even when single embryo transfer is used routinely, according to the most recent data on NHS patients released by Cambridge’s Bourn Hall Clinic.
The East of England was the first commissioning group to implement the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines in full. The recommendation is for three fresh cycles of IVF. In addition, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority also set stringent requirements on clinics to reduce the numbers of multiple births.
In response, Bourn Hall increased the proportion of embryo transfers at five days, rather than within a couple of days, and created an algorithm to predict the optimum number of embryos to transfer. Together these measures have been found to significantly increase “take home” baby rates.
Now, with three years of data available for thousands of NHS patients treated, the Clinic has been able to analyse the factors that boost success. It predicts that if the national fertility guidelines were adopted throughout England then seven out of 10 women would return home with a baby.
The results were announced to coincide with National Infertility Awareness Week, coordinated by Infertility Network UK. The patient support group is campaigning to have infertility recognised as a health issue and not considered a lifestyle choice.
Clare Lewis-Jones, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK, comments; “One in six couples will experience fertility issues and this may be a symptom of an undiagnosed health condition.
“The consistent patient pathway introduced in the East of England means that patients with symptoms of infertility are properly investigated and the causes diagnosed. Where IVF treatment is required, the data from Bourn Hall demonstrates clearly the benefit of full adoption of the NICE guidelines.”
Before the NICE guidelines were introduced, some patients had the chance of only one cycle of IVF and many like Norfolk patient Tania Peacock, considered that the risk of failure was too great an emotional strain.
She explains, “I thought long and hard because I knew we could not afford to pay for extra cycles if we didn’t succeed at the first attempt. We had friends in similar situations whose marriages had come under stress and I didn’t want that to happen to us.
“Then miraculously I saw something about an increase in NHS funding for eligible couples in the region. I knew then that we were going to have more than one chance and felt we should take it.”
As things turned out,Tania and husband Duane were successful on the first cycle of treatment at Bourn Hall and baby Scarlett was born in June 2010.