Is eSET The Best New Approach in Fertility?
Elective single embryo transfer (eSET) is a procedure where just one embryo is used during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. This approach reduces the risk of multiples, such as twins and triplets, and increases the chance of having a successful healthy pregnancy. Couples who have struggled to get pregnant may be hesitant only to transfer one embryo at a time. However, eSET is an increasingly popular option that benefits the mother and baby’s health.
Just one embryo
In the United States, approximately 30% of IVF pregnancies result in twins, and 3-4% result in triplets or more. While the thought of getting two babies from a single pregnancy can be tempting for many, multiple pregnancies are associated with known risks. When more than one embryo is transferred, there is a higher risk for low birth weight and preterm delivery. Babies born early are more likely to have long-term health problems such as cerebral palsy, lung issues, and gastrointestinal problems. Most experts in the field of fertility agree that transferring just one embryo is usually the best approach.
How many is too many?
Everyone’s fertility goals are different, and each individual should meet with a healthcare provider to discuss the available options. That said, eSET should generally be considered for women under the age of 35 with good quality eggs or embryos. When single embryo transfer is unsuccessful after multiple cycles with quality embryos, transfer of an additional embryo may be considered. As women age, the chance of pregnancy decreases, so more than one embryo may be transferred in older patients. However, these women should be made aware of the known risks of multiples, especially if underlying health conditions are present.
Risks vs. benefits of eSET
A recent study showed that patients who chose eSET were slightly less likely to experience a live birth. However, complications such as C-section, postpartum hemorrhage, preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission were also less likely to occur. These findings support the idea that eSET can result in more favorable health outcomes for both mom and baby. By transferring just one embryo, pregnancy complications are reduced, and these babies are given a healthy start to life.
A single solution
Research shows that pregnant women with a single baby are less likely to experience complications than those pregnant with multiples. While twins or triplets may be enticing to some couples undergoing IVF, in most cases, the benefits of eSET outweigh the risks of multiples. Experts agree that a healthy singleton infant is the desired outcome when using assisted reproductive technology. Single embryo transfer is more likely to result in a healthy pregnancy and delivery and should be considered by patients undergoing IVF to build their family.