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Screening Method Could Mark Major Improvements for IVF

January 27, 2009 01:28 PM
by Cara McDonough
A 41-year-old woman is pregnant after using an egg screening method that could significantly improve the success rate for in vitro fertilization.

Improving IVF

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The CARE Fertility Clinic in Nottingham, England, has announced the pregnancy made possible by the new technique, which involves testing a set of chromosomes inside a woman’s eggs to determine whether in vitro fertilization (IVF) will work. The screening is being heralded as a major accomplishment because researchers believe that the main reason IVF fails is due to chromosomal abnormalities in the eggs, reports the BBC.  The abnormalities are more commonly found in the eggs of older women.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous and had undergone 13 failed cycles of fertility treatment previously, is now seven months pregnant, reports the Daily Telegraph. The screening method has been used before with frozen eggs, but this is the first time it has been used with fresh eggs.

The screening treatment could make IVF much more successful by allowing doctors to weed out faulty eggs; according to the American Pregnancy Association, IVF has approximately a 25 percent success rate for women ages 35–37, but only a 6–10 percent success rate for women older than 40.

Furthermore, the screening could help address the issue of multiple births, which are more common when a woman is using fertility treatments. In IVF, for instance, multiple embryos are implanted in a woman’s uterus, in the hopes that at least one will result in a successful pregnancy, but sometimes a multiple pregnancy is the outcome.

According to a February 2008 New York Times article, the rate of twins climbed 70 percent from 1980, when in vitro became available, to 2004. Laurie Tarkan reported in the story that “It is not that twins or triplets are undesirable, doctors say. But multiple pregnancies often lead to risky preterm births and other complications. With that in mind, fertility centers are trying to lower the odds of such pregnancies, even at a cost of slightly lower success rates.”

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The new egg screening method could help by perfecting the IVF method, however, because the screening determines which eggs have a high potential for success before multiple eggs are implanted.

“Ultimately we could reach the holy grail of one cycle of IVF, one egg, one embryo and one baby,” said Dr. Simon Fishel, director of the CARE fertility group.

The screening comes after many attempts to improve IVF. In May,
Australian researchers released results of a study that involved 48 women in Greece who were undergoing IVF. They studied cells from the woman’s fertilized eggs, trying to determine which were the healthiest and likely to result in pregnancy. The scientists then matched “DNA fingerprints” from the embryos to the babies born from the IVF treatments, and noticed genes that may help predict the chances of an embryo developing into a baby.

Related Topic: Octuplets born in California

A California woman gave birth to eight babies Monday, making her the second woman ever to give birth to surviving octuplets, ABC reports. Officials have not disclosed the woman’s name or whether or not she used fertility treatments such as IVF.

Doctors did report, however, that the eighth baby was a surprise. They had expected seven babies total, but one last baby, that had been hiding behind the others, appeared after the 46-person team assisting in the birth thought she was done. “It was a shock, especially finding the eighth baby,” Dr. Karen Maples of California’s Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center said. “My eyes were wide.”

Reference: Infertility and in vitro fertilization

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