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Sunday, 24 June 2007

A question of multiple births?

Yesterday myself and Chris went up to London to meet with the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority on their consultation about multiple births.

The meeting was good - it was a consultation that HFEA were holding on this whole issue of single embryo transfer. It started at 10am and ended at 3, with a few sarnies in between. It started with a short talk from 3 different people, Shirley Harrison who is the lady who heads up HFEA, Roger Neuburg who is a consultant from a Leicester IVF clinic and Jane Denton from the Multiple Births foundation. Then there were questions, followed by us being split into 2 groups for discussions, then back to present the discusssions before it ended.

It was an interesting day and I'm glad we went - there weren't that many people there - most of them seemed to be professionals or HFEA staff, but there were a dozen or so people who were IVF patients.

We went with an open mind, and made sure we read all the documentation before hand - I felt ready for a fight but we came to realise that this wasn't necessary as HFEA have a good overview of the issue and are looking for a way to resolve the problem of multiple births. I must admit that while I say that they are looking to come to a fair conclusion for their policy - I still am wonderfing what all the fuss is about and why they are making such a HUGE deal about this as my research led me to believe that while there are risks to having twins - they describe it as a significant problem, but the stats show that it's not as big a problem as they would have you believe (I'll talk about that in a bit).

To see their side, I would recommend you read the documentation which is here:

It seems that they are NOT looking to blanket ban 2 embryos being put back, but to find a workable solution that will lower the multiple birth rate. I really hope that our input will help them realise that this effects people's lives and emotions and that people should be allowed to choose if they want one or two - but that patients really need more information to make that choice.

With regards to the stats - they say that 1-2% of natural pregnancies and that 24% of IVF pregnancies result in multiples. This is true (You can find this info on the HFEA site and on the governments National statistics site) so this makes it look like IVF is a bigger problem in the scale of things. However as I pointed out to them (I went prepared and did several hours of reasearch on stats before we went) that the ACTUAL number of pregnancies that this accounts for is (based on 2004 figures as HFEA is out of date!) 18,786 Total multiple births of which 1748 IVF multiple births)from fresh and frozen cycles) which means 17,038 are from natural pregnancies.

So in fact the cost to the NHS is far greater for natural pregnancies than for us IVFers. When I asked the question why are they trying to penalise people who have fertility problems by reducing our success chances they answered becuase we can control this - we can't control natural pregnancies - fair point but doens't that make you feel angry?

Anyway, we went thinking it was going to be one big fight, but we saw that HFEA are looking at all angles and I rally really hope that they take our comments into consideration when they make the policy. This will be complete by October this year.

Stats can be found here - although some of them seem to differ so I don't know how correct these numbers are!

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