More than eight million people have been born from IVF since it was first used 40 years ago, according to research. Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, was born on July 25 1978 at Oldham General Hospital in Greater Manchester. Since then millions more families around the world have used IVF – in which a woman's egg is fertilised in a lab instead of inside her body – to conceive children. It is used as a method of conceiving for couples when the man or woman is infertile.
An estimated half a million babies are now born from IVF every year worldwide, and Spain and Russia have the highest rates of IVF in Europe. About 36 per cent of women in Europe who have IVF or similar treatment fall pregnant, and around 14 per cent of those have twins. In vitro fertilisation, in which a woman's egg is removed from her ovary and fertilised with a sperm in a lab, may be available on the NHS or can be paid for privately. Another advanced fertility treatment is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a sperm is injected directly into the egg, whereas in IVF they are mixed together. Louise Brown's in vitro conception was led by the Cambridge reproductive biologist Robert Edwards, a later founder of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Now, 40 years on, an international committee reports the global total of babies born as a result of IVF and other advanced fertility treatments is 'more than eight million'. Studies from data collected between 1991 and 2014, represents a steep rise in the use of IVF in the treatment of infertility. Estimates are that more than a half million babies are now born each year from IVF and ICSI – known together as assisted reproductive technology (ART) – and more than two million treatment cycles are attempted. It was announced at a congress in Spain by the International Committee for Monitoring ART.
Dr David Adamson said: 'Based on [the] annual collection of global IVF data, it is estimated that since Louise Brown's birth in 1978 over eight million babies have been born from IVF around the world.' Europe, Spain remains the most active country in assisted reproduction. The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has found that a record 119,875 treatment cycles were performed in Spain in 2015. Second in Europe are Russia (110,723 cycles), followed by Germany (96,512) and former front runner France (93,918). The cycles monitored by ESHRE include treatments with IVF, ICSI, and egg donation. The report covers a total of almost 800,000 treatment cycles performed in Europe in 2015, from which 157,449 babies were born.
IVF treatments are rising by about seven per cent a year
The total number of cycles is now increasing by about seven per cent per year, and the ESHRE has recorded almost nine million cycles since its formation in 1997 and seen more than 1.6 million children born. ESHRE's Dr Christian de Geyter says the figures do not include the UK, which usually performs around 60,000 treatments a year. The findings show clinics in Europe continue to favour ICSI over IVF by around two-to-one, a pattern seen around the world. ICSI was developed in the early 1990s as a specific treatment for male infertility - low sperm counts, poor sperm quality – but is now used for fertilisation in non-male cases
IVF is successful in just over a third of attempts
Pregnancy rates, as measured per embryo transfer are about 36 per cent for both IVF and ICSI in Europe. Pregnancy rates are higher with five-day old embryos, known as blastocysts, than with three-day. Pregnancy rates from egg donation continue to rise and are now at about 50 per cent, according to the findings. It shows that the rate of twin pregnancy continues to decline in Europe, in 2015 to around 14 per cent. Similarly, the rate of single embryo transfers continues to rise – from 11 per cent in 1997 to 38 per cent in 2015. Dr de Geyter added: 'Success rates have stabilised, although outcome in egg donation and with use of frozen embryos is still moving upwards. 'The biggest upwards movement, however, is from treatments with frozen eggs, which have been revolutionised by the widespread introduction of vitrification.'
Embryo freezing is also on the rise
Embryo freezing is also on the rise, according to the findings. All embryos in 15 per cent of all treatment cycles monitored in 2015 were frozen before thawing and transfer in a subsequent cycle. Uptake of the 'freeze-all' approach increased by seven per cent on the previous year. Embryo freezing would also explain the increase in egg donation treatments, no doubt made possible by egg banking and the greater availability of donor eggs. Dr de Geyter noted that the availability of assisted reproduction treatment remains very patchy in Europe, with Denmark and Belgium each offering more than 2,500 treatment cycles per million population, while others – such as Austria and Italy – offer considerably fewer. A study calculated that the global need for advanced fertility treatments was around 1,500 cycles per million population per year. Dr de Geyer added: 'Only a minority of European countries meet this need.'
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