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Expert reaction to HFEA fertility trends report

  • More treatment cycles than ever before; success rates remain constant
  • Multiple birth rate falls again
  • Number of women over 45 using donor eggs outnumbers those using their own
  • Number of IVF cycles using donated eggs and donated sperm more than doubles in five years
  • Number of same-sex female couples receiving treatment increases

New figures on fertility treatment released today by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reveal a continuing rise in the overall number of IVF cycles in the UK, with more undertaken in 2013 than ever before.

In 2013, 49,636 women had a total of 64,600 cycles of IVF and 2,379 women had a total of 4,611 cycles of donor insemination (DI), representing an increase in both categories from the previous year. Overall success rates have remained constant at around 25%.

Women over 40 represent the minority of all patients treated, with women aged over 45 accounting for just 2.% of all treatments. More than two-thirds of women undergoing treatment are aged 37 and under, while the average age for treatment remains static at 35. The report also shows that a majority of women over 45 are using donor eggs rather than their own when trying to conceive.

The number of IVF treatment cycles involving same-sex female couples has increased by nearly 20% year-on-year, rising from 766 treatments in 2011 to 902 in 2012. The number of donor insemination cycles involving same-sex couples (DI) rose by nearly 15%, from 1,271 in 2011 to 1,458 in 2012. These amount to a minority of all treatments undertaken in the reporting period.

Elsewhere, the HFEA's "One at a Time" campaign to reduce multiple births is shown to have had good impact, with multiple births continuing to decrease. The report shows that multiple births occurred in 16.9% of treatment cycles in 2012, down from 18.8% in 2011.

The report also shows that the number of IVF treatment cycles using both donor eggs and donor sperm has doubled over the last five years, while the use of frozen embryos is now involved in more than 20% of all treatments.

Sally Cheshire, Chair of the HFEA welcomed the publication of the report:

"At the HFEA we are committed to ensuring high quality care for everyone affected by assisted reproduction, and this report is key to that commitment. It offers unrivalled insight into one of the world's most advanced IVF sectors, helping to inform the decisions of patients and clinicians alike.

"We are very pleased to see that outcomes in most categories are improving each year, and are particularly heartened by the continuing downward trend in multiple births, something we've worked hard with professionals to achieve.

"But as well as providing data, over time these reports offer us a unique insight into the changing nature of social norms, whether that is same-sex parenting or older mums. In that sense they have become a fascinating resource not just for patients and clinicians, but for everyone."

Prof Daniel Brison, Scientific Director, Department of Reproductive Medicine, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Professor of Clinical Embryology, University of Manchester, said:

"It is very encouraging that live birth rates from IVF treatment remain stable while multiple birth rates are declining as a result of increased use of single embryo transfer.  It is also good news that the use of embryo freezing is increasing and success rates are also increasing, as this gives patients the best chance of a pregnancy from each IVF cycle and encourages single embryo transfer.  However the report also shows that the majority of embryo transfers in 2013 continued to replace more than one embryo and multiple birth rates at 16% are still too high, so there is still work to be done to promote safe practice in IVF."

The report contains key statistics on fertility trends in the UK. It covers treatment cycles and outcomes for treatments started in 2012 and 2013 and how these coincide with short and long term trends. It is the fourth of its kind to be published by the HFEA.

Other findings include:

  • Pregnancy rate (per embryo transfer) rises for all age ranges
  • The live births rate is at highest-ever level
  • Number of IVF cycles using fresh donated eggs up more than 50% in five years
  • London and South East account for over a third of all treatments