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Fertility, IVF and Egg Donation

SET, Single Embryo Transfer for IVF – Pros and Cons

by on Nov.06, 2010, under IVF Cost, Number of IVF Embryos to Transfer, Single Embryo Transfer

Single embryo transfer is an up-and-coming more commonly utilized procedure in the field of in vitro fertilization in recent years. There has been a push for several years to reduce the number of multiple pregnancies by reducing the number of embryos transferred with IVF. However, the push to do elective single embryo transfer is opposed by most couples that do IVF in the US.

It is a simple problem without a simple solution:

  • Single embryo transfer success rates are lower than when 2 are transferred
  • Couples want a baby (or twins) ASAP, and they don’t want to pay for multiple IVF attempts
  • They fear failing to become pregnant more than they fear the risks from a twin pregnancy

This dilemma is often due to the fact that the large majority of patients in the US are self-pay for all costs associated with IVF. In the US the average cost of IVF is about $10,000 (for monitoring and procedures) and about $3500 for the medications. With these high costs, couples will often push for at least two embryos for transfer – even if the female partner is young.

Guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) were established many years ago for the maximum number of embryos to transfer (see table below). These guidelines take into consideration the age of the female and other criteria that help predict risks for having a multiple pregnancy.

ASRM guidelines have been modified over the years – with the recommended maximum number for transfer being reduced each time. I believe that the ASRM guidelines on the maximum number of embryos for transfer are excellent.

ASRM guidelines on maximum number of embryos to transfer
See PDF document with ASRM transfer guidelines

Currently the guidelines suggest a maximum of 1 to 2 embryos to be transferred for a female partner under 35 years old if the transfer is being done on day 2 or 3 – and a maximum of one embryo to be transferred for that age group if the transfer is being done on day 5. These maximum numbers are for patients considered to have a “favorable prognosis”.

When female age is over 35, the maximum number of embryos allowed increases. Everyone knows about the Octomom mess – a situation where a physician went way overboard – with a patient that was just as far out there…

Favorable prognosis would be couples having their first IVF attempt, good embryo morphology scoring, left over embryos available for freezing, or a previous successful IVF cycle. The guidelines allow transfer of additional embryos for patients that have a less favorable prognosis.

When single embryo transfer is performed, blastocyst embryo transfer on day 5 after fertilization appears to be the best method. Embryos that have continued developing normally to the 5th day have a higher chance of implanting than do day 3 embryos (on the average).

Day 5 blastocyst embryo

(continue reading…)

Richard Sherbahn

Richard Sherbahn, MD is a fertility doctor practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. Connect with me on Google+


Welcome to the
Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago Blog

Richard Sherbahn, MD is a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist.

Dr. Sherbahn founded the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago in 1997.

He will post regularly about fertility issues.

Dr. Richard Sherbahn
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