More people in the UK are undergoing IVF, but the reasons for treatment are gradually changing as more same-sex couples, single women and surrogates make use of fertility treatment, a report shows.
Research by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reveals that in 2017 more than 54,000 patients underwent around 75,000 fertility treatments, with IVF treatment cycles increasing by 2.5% since 2016 and resulting in over 20,500 babies being born.
The cost of IVF is not routinely covered by most private medical insurance schemes, although it is thought that an increasing number of treatments are being paid for through self-funding corporate healthcare trusts.
Success rates continue to improve, with the average birth rate for women of all ages using their own eggs reaching 22%. Women under 35 using their own eggs have the highest birth rates with 30% for a fresh embryo cycle and 27% for a frozen embryo cycle.
The report also indicates that IVF is becoming safer as fewer patients are having twins. The figures show that multiple births, the single biggest health risk from IVF, has reached an all-time low of 10%, a sharp decline from 24% in 2008.
HFEA chair Sally Cheshire CBE said fertility treatment has come a long way over more than 40 years and is now safer whilst helping more people to create their much longed for families.
“We know that multiple births carry higher risks to mothers and babies and cost more to the NHS. That’s why, it is a great achievement that all our hard work with fertility clinics has paid off as we have now achieved the lowest ever multiple birth rate while continuing to see success rates rise,” she added.
Although patients in heterosexual relationships still account for more than 91% of all fertility treatments, this only saw a 2% increase between 2016 and 2017. This is in stark contrast to the increases in treatments for patients in female same-sex relationships which rose by 12% to 4,463 cycles, single women by 4% to 2,279 cycles, and treatments for surrogates by 22% to 302 cycles.
“While the increases in same-sex couples, single women and surrogates having fertility treatment are small, this reflects society’s changing attitudes towards family creation, lifestyles and relationships and highlights the need for the sector to continue to evolve and adapt,” said Cheshire.
The use of frozen embryos has gone up by 11% since 2016, which indicates an increased uptake in freeze cycles.
Frozen cycles success rates (23%) have overtaken fresh embryo cycles success rates (22%) for the first time since records began.
The report also shows 62% of treatment cycles are
NHS-funded in Scotland, 50% in Northern Ireland, while only 39% and 35% are
NHS-funded in Wales and England.