updated 1/6/2004 3:34:45 PM ET 2004-01-06T20:34:45

In an effort to reduce the number of “test tube” twins and triplets, Britain’s regulator of fertility treatment told clinics Tuesday they no longer can implant more than two embryos in women under 40.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

The Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority set a limit of three embryos for women over 40, who have a harder time getting pregnant.

The new regulation reflects a general trend across Europe and elsewhere to reduce the number of embryos in fertility treatment.

Doctors have long believed implanting more embryos would improve the chances of a successful pregnancy, but that practice has also led to more multiple births, which are risky for mother and baby.

Recent studies, however, show that the chances of getting pregnant with one embryo can be just as good as with two or three embryos.

“Women are designed to have healthy babies, one at a time, and with natural conception this is what usually happens. But over half of babies born as a result of fertility treatment are twins or triplets,” said Suzi Leather, chairwoman of the British regulating agency.

“The aim ... is to bring the number of multiple births from fertility treatment closer to that which occurs naturally.”

Experts believe the future of fertility treatment is to use one embryo, but select it more carefully.

In some countries, such as Belgium, Sweden and Finland, fertility treatments using a single embryo already are common practice.

Among developed Western countries, the United States has been slowest to adopt the new thinking, said European fertility expert Dr. Karl Nygren, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sofiahemmet Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.

American guidelines recommend the transfer of between three and five embryos, depending on the mother’s age.

“They are also coming along, but it goes more slowly. It’s not that they are uneducated, it’s that fertility treatment there is so expensive,” Nygren said.
In the United States, patients particularly want to maximize their chances of a quick pregnancy to keep costs down, while their doctors are anxious to show results in the competitive fertility field, experts say.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments