UI fertilization center committed to one-embryo policy


In October 1987, the UIHC’s Center for Advanced Reproductive Care was the first program in the state to perform in vitro fertilization. Twenty-one years later, the clinic has marked yet another achievement in this procedure: its 5,000th egg retrieval.

“It’s a milestone. For a Midwest program of our size, this is quite an accomplishment,” said Amy Sparks, the director of In Vitro Fertilization and Reproductive Testing Labs.

But the UIHC clinic is not only celebrating the milestone, it is also celebrating its commitment to standards.

“The importance for us in doing 5,000 retrievals is that it demonstrates that we’ve long been a successful program,” said Bradley Van Voorhis, the director of the UIHC family clinic.

And a key element of this high-quality program is the UIHC’s single-embryo transfer policy, which mandates that any woman under 38 years old who shows a good prognosis for becoming pregnant will receive only one embryo.

The UIHC initiated the policy in June 2004 after the clinic reviewed its data and discovered it was recording a very high multiple-birth rate.

“They were going through the roof,” Van Voorhis said.

In 1998, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology had recommended that member clinics only transfer a maximum of three embryos after noting a similar trend nationally.

The rise was the result of improvements in embryo selection — and therefore an increase in implantation rate — without a corresponding decrease in the number of embryos transferred, according to a 2007 report by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

However, the UIHC chose to go beyond the assisted-reproductive society’s guidelines with its 4-year-old policy, Sparks said.

And this policy has not sacrificed the success of the UIHC’s program.

According to assisted-reproductive society data from 2006, the UIHC records an 18.6 percent rate of multiple births in women under 35, which is nearly half the national percentage of 34.3.

Further, Craig Syrop, a UI physician in the obstetrics/gynecology department, said the UIHC has one of highest single-embryo transfer rates in the country.

Despite UIHC’s adherence to guidelines, not all clinics follow the recommendations.

Such deviation is what led to the recent birth of octuplets in California. According to the Associated Press, Michael Kamrava implanted 33-year-old Nadya Suleman with six embryos, two of which ended up splitting.

“That seems very irresponsible to me and certainly nothing that would never happen in this clinic,” Van Voorhis said, and he believes at one time people celebrated multiple births, though now there seems to be a bit of a backlash.

Indeed, Sparks believes in vitro trends are headed in the right direction, though it may be a while before it reaches the desired standards.

“The number of embryos transferred is going down, but it’s perhaps not going at the rate we would like to see it,” Sparks said.

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