- 19 October 2009 09:26 UK
Egg screening 'ups IVF success'The test boosts the odds of success
A screening technique can double the chance of IVF success, giving hope to tens of thousands of women struggling to have children, say experts.
Doctors at an annual US fertility meeting heard for the second year running of the merits of a test that screens embryos for genetic faults.
So far more than 20 babies have been born using the technique.
The UK researchers say they are now able to back the method with "great confidence".
They hope it will eventually be available to all. Currently, it is offered in a few private UK clinics.
Doctors believe the £2,000 test, called comparative genomic hybridisation or CGH, will be particularly useful to older women, whose embryos have a greater risk of carrying genetic errors that cause conditions like Down's syndrome.Embryology is really crying out for something like thisUK fertility expert Allan Pacey
The screening checks chromosomes in the developing embryo when it is a few days old, meaning only those embryos with the best chance of success are used in fertility treatment.
Dr Dagan Wells from Oxford University, who led the study, described the latest results on 115 women - six times as many as last year - as "astonishing".
The results are particularly impressive as many of the women were on their "last chance" at IVF - they were typically aged 39 with two failed IVF cycles behind them.
Raising the odds
In total, 66% of the women fell pregnant after screening - more than double the number (28%) who typically fall pregnant without it.
Dr Wells told the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's annual conference: "We were taken aback by the impact it had on the success rates.
"I think it's at the point now that we can say with great confidence that we are seeing a positive effect of this."
Around 37,00 women undergo IVF every year in the UK and less than one in four of these procedures is successful.
Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society said: "Embryology is really crying out for something like this.
"We really haven't moved on from the science of just looking down the microscope and seeing if an embryo looks good on the basis of some rather loose criteria."
Susan Seenan, from Infertility Network UK, said: "We welcome all new research which may ultimately improve the success rates of IVF for patients.
"Although this is still in very early stages, it could be of great benefit to older women whose chances of success with IVF treatment is lower and it is also welcome given the move towards single embryo transfer in the UK and the lack of NHS funding which often, unfairly, means that patients are being denied access to the three cycles which the NICE guidance recommended in 2004.
"Improvements in success rates are always important but even more so where patients are receiving only one, or in some cases, no NHS cycles, and we look forward to seeing if further research confirms these results."20 October 2009 00:06 UK
IVF couples warned over drinkingCouples trying to conceive are urged to think about their lifestyle choices
Couples trying to conceive through IVF could be significantly harming their chances if they share the equivalent of a bottle of wine a week, experts warn.
If both partners drink six units a week - equivalent to half a bottle of wine each - their chance of a live birth is cut by a quarter, a study suggests.
Doctors said couples may want to "play it safe" and not drink at all to maximise their chances of IVF success.
The findings are based on a US study of more than 2,500 couples.
The study was presented at a fertility conference in Atlanta.
In the study, men and women who each had six UK-equivalent units a week - the equivalent of two strong pints of beer or two large glasses of wine - or more "significantly reduced their likelihood of pregnancy".It may be that if you are trying for a baby with IVF and want to maximise your chances of success, you may want to 'play safe' and not drink at allTony Rutherford of the British Fertility Society
For women, it cut their chances of getting pregnant by 18%, while men reduced their chances of a live birth by 14%.
Overall, half of the women and a third of the men drank less than one alcoholic drink a week, while 4% of women and 5% of men drank at least once a day.
Women who had between one and nine units of white wine a week were 24% less likely to have a live birth and had a 23% greater chance of failed implantation of the IVF embryo.
Men who drank a beer daily contributed to a 30% lower chance of a live birth and a 38% greater chance of failed implantation.
Dr Brooke Rossi, who led the study at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, told doctors at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference: "In general, women are told they should stop drinking when they are trying to achieve pregnancy."
Tony Rutherford, of the British Fertility Society, said: "This is further evidence to suggest that alcohol does have an impact and that those women who try for a baby should think about their lifestyle choices.
"Eggs and sperm take at least three months to develop so women have got to stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption or, if you are overweight, correct that weight that far ahead if you want to maximise your chances of conception."
He said the couples in the study had fertility problems, so there might be other reasons why alcohol affects their chances of a live birth.
But he said: "It may be that if you are trying for a baby with IVF and want to maximise your chances of success, you may want to 'play safe' and not drink at all."
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said the advice to abstain applied to both partners in a couple if they were having difficulty conceiving.