How many embryos are destroyed in IVF?

The most ethically contentious issue in the IVF industry is the destruction of embryos. But how many are being destroyed is difficult to assess. A recent study in the US journal Fertility and Sterility by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine offers an answer. It appears that of every 100 eggs fertilised in an IVF laboratory, only 5 will become live births. In other words, 95% of all IVF embryos are discarded, perish in the Petri dish or die in the womb.

What explains the "dramatically low oocyte to baby rate"? The first losses occur at fertilisation. Only about 31% of the fertilised eggs become usable for transfer or freezing. One reason could be that only a few of the oocytes retrieved after ovarian stimulation are actually viable. Another reason may be that the culture medium in which the embryos are nurtured adversely affects their ability to develop.

The researchers conclude that more is not better in IVF. It is not the number of eggs retrieved that counts, but their quality. In fact, in women over 40, only 1 in 100 embryos becomes a live birth. "Our data show that an overwhelming majority of oocytes retrieved, fertilized, and fully utilized do not result in the birth of a baby and are thus wasted," the authors write. ~ Fertility and Sterility, April

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