Fertility doctors are claiming that a new method of treating women over the age of 37 could give them a much improved chance of having healthy children through in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The success rate of IVF drops in women as they reach their mid-30s - as the quality of their eggs deteriorates.
But last week, at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in France, an Italian fertility specialist Anna Ferraretti announced that her clinic is now achieving pregnancy rates in older women of 41%. By carrying out genetic tests on a patient's embryos before selective transfer, Dr Ferraretti's team at the Sismer Reproductive Unit in Bologna was able to establish whether each embryo has the chromosomal abnormalities that would prevent it from implanting into the womb or that might cause a miscarriage or birth defect.
The chance of aneuploidy - a condition in which an embryo contains the wrong number of chromosomes in each cell - increases up to 70-fold the older an IVF patient is. Aneuploidy plays a critical role in the decline of fertility with age. But Dr Ferraretti claimed that 'Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is able to overcome the natural reproductive failure that occurs due to their eggs ageing,' Preimplantation genetic testing was offered to all women over 37 arriving at the clinic since September 1996. Of the 128 women who underwent the test, 41% have become pregnant with a 4% miscarriage rate. The study also included 182 women over 37 years old who opted for IVF treatment without testing. This group only achieved a 25% pregnancy rate and were more likely to miscarry, with 15% losing their babies.
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