The importance of transferring one embryo at a time

Doctor performing B mode ultrasonography

Often our patients say to us they would love to have twins – dressing them in matching outfits, a double stroller, and passers by commenting on how cute they are.  But, when it comes to treatment with assisted reproductive technology (or ART) our goal is for you to take home a healthy baby.  Experience and research shows us that to achieve this goal the best approach is to transfer one embryo at a time.  Recent success rates show that transferring one embryo is just as effective as multiple embryos. And, transferring multiple embryos is risky – with potential health considerations for the baby and the mother.  

Risks for the children

Twins or multiple babies may be born prematurely, have low birth weight or may need special care at birth. They may also suffer long-term health issues such as developmental delays, gastrointestinal dysfunction, respiratory (lung) distress, cerebral palsy and other health problems.

Risks for the mother

The mother carrying the multiple babies can suffer increased morning sickness, weight gain, higher risk of blood pressure issues, chance of developing gestational diabetes, heightened possibility of a stillbirth, and higher rates of caesarean section delivery. 

Not to mention when the babies are born – fatigue, sleep deprivation, and marital / family stress is higher for those caring for more than one baby at a time.

Westmead Fertility Centre’s single embryo transfer policy

For those patients under 35 years who are undergoing their first cycle, Westmead Fertility Centre feels so passionate that our patients should transfer one embryo at a time we have created a ‘single embryo transfer policy’.  This policy helps us to:

  • Decrease the risk of a multiple pregnancy.  While there is always still a risk an embryo can split resulting in twins, the rate of multiples is reduced if only one embryo is transferred at a time.  
  • Keep additional embryo(s) for transfer in a later (frozen) cycle.  This maximises the benefit of the original fresh IVF cycle and offers more attempts at pregnancy.  

It’s important to note that in certain, controlled circumstances a maximum of two embryos may be transferred.  This will only be offered with the careful consideration by your fertility specialist of your individual situation and possibly if the excess embryos aren’t of good quality.  It will remain extremely important to be aware of the short and long term implications involved with transferring two embryos.

You will have ample opportunity to discuss embryo transfer throughout your treatment with your fertility specialist, embryologists and nurses and our expert team will support you along the way.  

All content should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have.