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Cheap fertility drugs need to be controlled

Fertility expert comments on the need for fertility drug control to help keep multiple birth numbers down

Posted: 21 April 2010
by Cassandra Kempster-Roberts

Leading fertility expert Professor Bill Ledger has commented about cheap fertility drugs and the need for tighter control of them on the BBC’s weekly health piece Scrubbing Up.

The problem lies in the chances of having a multiple birth. Multiple births can pose more of a health risk to the mum and babies, and can result in the need for extra medical assistance.

Professor Ledger explained to the BBC, “Rates of twin and triplet birth were too high in the UK the 1990s because well-meaning fertility specialists were transferring too many embryos after IVF.”

Since then, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has worked to stop three embryo transfers for women under 40. This has lead to a decrease in the number of triplets. The HFEA is now attempting to reduce the number of two embryo transfers.

Whilst IVF multiple births have declined, Professor Ledger explained there’s a new issue: “Many women conceive after simple and effective treatment with drugs designed to induce ovulation. This might be with tablets such as clomifene (Clomid) or injections of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone).

“These drugs need tighter control.

“Whilst the high tech end of fertility medicine is highly regulated in the UK, any doctor can prescribe these drugs, although the recommendation is that they are used only in a hospital practice by experienced staff.”

The Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology warns against any “clamp down” though, telling the BBC this would result in more TTC couples just heading overseas for unregulated fertility treatment.

He feels informing couples, close monitoring of patients and a simple ultrasound to identify those most likely to have a multiple conception (and then postponing sex) could all help.

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HFEA, health, infertility, fertility drugs, IVF, embryo transfers, trying to conceive, multiple births, FSH, pregnancy, Clomid, conception, Professor Bill Ledger, BBC, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

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