IVF change win for health, costs

by Jacqui Jones (The Newcastle Herald)

New technology and a policy shift has led to a 20 per cent drop in Hunter IVF’s multiple birth rate, improving patient safety and reducing health costs, specialists say.

A Medical Journal of Australia study, published yesterday, examined single-embryo transfer, where only one embryo was transferred during assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF.

The University of NSW, University of Sydney and IVF Australia study found the procedural change saved about $47.6 million nationally between 2002 and 2008 in north admission hospital costs.

The transfer of multiple embryos used to be common as it offered women a higher chance of conceiving, the journal said.

But it resulted in more multiple births, significantly increased health risks, and mothers and babies required more hospital services.

Clinical Director Andrew Hedges said Hunter IVF had pursued singly-embryo transfer for several years.

"That’s resulted in our multiple pregnancy rate of 4.2 per cent” he said, “Which is incredibly low.

“The reason for that, if you look back probably four to five years ago, if you put back two embryos… our twinning rate reached 27 per cent.”

Dr Hedges said this was a concern in the Hunter, which provided public health services for premature babies throughout NSW.

Technological improvements had increased chances of success with a single embryo transfer, Dr Hedges said.

Jean Boyd-Smith, of Nelson Bay, supports the policy change, but she and husband Lyle used a double-embryo transfer to conceive Ashton, now aged 19 months, after several attempts with single embryos.

“I think the best thing is to trust the team there at Hunter IVF, they know what they’re doing”, Ms Boyd-Smith said.

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