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IVF treatment safer, more available and more successful than ever before, new report shows.

The UK fertility sector is at its strongest, 40 years after the first IVF child was born, official data reveals today. More people are having safe and successful treatment than ever before.    

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s (HFEA) latest trends and figures report for 2014-2016 shows that in 2016 there was a 4% yearly increase in IVF treatments performed, to over 68,000, with over 20,000 babies born. This continues the upward trend in treatment and success rates, with current treatments now 85% more likely to succeed than when records began in 1991.

Age remains the single most important factor for successful outcomes from fertility treatment. The average birth rate for women of all ages is 21% (using our new headline measure of births per embryo transferred), maintaining its highest ever rate for the second year, while women under 35 now have a 29% chance of a successful birth

Treatments involving donor eggs and sperm are becoming more popular. In 2016, 4,306 treatment cycles involved a patient using their own eggs and donor sperm, up from 3,749 in 2015 (+15%). There were 3,000 IVF treatment cycles using donor eggs and partner sperm – a year-on-year rise of 6%, and 49% since 2011.

Sally Cheshire CBE, Chair of the HFEA, welcomed the most wide-ranging trends report so far, and its usefulness to patients and clinicians: 

Assisted reproduction has come a long way in the 40 years since British doctors pioneered IVF with the birth of Louise Brown. With well over a million treatments performed in the UK since records began, and more than 300,000 babies born, as a country we remain at the forefront of fertility treatment.

“At the HFEA it is our job to help UK clinics provide the best possible care to the thousands of diverse patients who walk through their doors every day. The information in this report, the most extensive we’ve ever produced, helps do that by showing what works and what doesn’t and helps patients get the best quality treatment in pursuit of their much longed-for families.

Despite a general increase in treatment and birth numbers, the multiple birth rate continues to fall. Multiple births carry significant risks for both mother and child and the HFEA has worked hard with clinicians to reduce its number from more than one in every four IVF births (28%) in 2008 to 11% in 2016 - its lowest ever - without impacting overall success rates.

The number of cycles using eggs frozen for later treatment rose by 10% in the last recorded year, with 1,170 freezing cycles in 2016. There were 519 treatment cycles using frozen eggs in 2016, an increase of 16% from 2015. The overall success rate for these cycles rose to 19%, from 14% in 2014, with 156 births.

And for the first time ever, we detail the number of surrogacy treatments taking place in UK clinics, with 232 surrogate cycles, and 79 births in 2016.

Sally Cheshire continued: 

We have worked hard to reduce potentially harmful multiple births to their lowest rate ever of 11%. This is a fantastic achievement which has increased the safety of IVF for mothers and their babies, and reduced the burden on NHS maternity and neonatal services.

“I am delighted to see that more people than ever before are able to have successful treatment. But the same level of care must be shown to those patients whose treatments do not result in a birth. In that way, the UK will lead not just in clinical treatment, but in the provision of vital emotional support from the beginning to the end of each patient’s journey”.

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The report also updates fertility trends data across a wide range of topics, including:

Reasons for treatment:

The report reveals that the most common reasons for IVF treatment were male infertility (37% of recorded reasons), unexplained (32%), ovulatory disorder (13%), tubal disease (12%) and endometriosis (6%).

Egg and sperm donation:

In 2016, there were 4,306 treatment cycles where a patient used their own eggs and donor sperm (OEDS), up from 3,749 in 2015 (+15%). Cycles of this type make up around 6% of all IVF treatment cycles.

Further, In 2016, there were 3,000 IVF treatment cycles using donor eggs and partner sperm (DEPS). While cycles of this type make up around 4% of all IVF treatment cycles, they have increased by 49% since 2011.

In 2016, there were 924 treatment cycles where patients used donor eggs and donor sperm (DEDS), up from 849 in 2015 (+8%). These cycles make up around 1% of all IVF treatment cycles.

61% of all IVF treatments using donor eggs involve women aged over 40, with women aged under 35 accounting for only 18%.

Age:

In 2016, 42% of patients undergoing IVF treatment cycles were under 35. 23% were aged between 35-37, 14% aged 38-39, 14% aged 40-42 and 4% aged 43-44. Of all IVF treatment cycles, 3% were for women over 44 (1,812), up from 2% in 2014.

The age profile for women having egg thaw cycles is very different from standard IVF treatment, with the largest group aged over 44 (27%). Only 17% of patients using thawed eggs in treatment were aged under 35.

48% of surrogates were aged under 35, a higher proportion than for IVF overall (42%). The birth rate for surrogates is also higher than IVF overall, at 26% when using fresh embryos

Relationship status:

The report also shows that, since 2014, the number of IVF treatments for patients with a female partner has increased by 30% and the number of IVF treatments for patients with no partner increased by 35%. IVF treatments for patients with a male partner increased by 6% over the same period.

However, heterosexual couples still account for the vast majority of all treatments. In 2016, 64,903 IVF treatments were for women who registered with a male partner (95%), 1,683 for women who registered with a female partner (3%) and 1,272 for women who registered with no partner (2%).

Funding:

In 2016, 41% of IVF treatments across the UK were funded by the NHS, a ratio which has remained broadly stable since around 2010.

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Read the full report on our website.

For interviews and questions please email press.office@hfea.gov.uk or call 02072918226 / 07771981920 (out of hours).

Notes to editors:

Change to headline measure from per treatment cycle (PTC) to per embryo transferred (PET):

The HFEA website was relaunched in July 2017 following the HFEA’s decision to change the way it presents data on Choose a Fertility Clinic.  The new Choose a Fertility Clinic (CaFC) replaced live births per treatment cycle started (PCT) as the headline figure, with live births per embryo transferred (PET).

In the view of the Authority live births per embryo transferred places greater emphasis on the clinical and embryological practices of the clinic and promotes the Authority’s policy on single embryo transfer.

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Publication date: 20 December 2018

Review date: 20 December 2020