What Is a Single Embryo Transfer?

A single embryo transfer is one part of a fertility treatment, most often part of in vitro fertilization (IVF). When opting for IVF, you can choose from a single embryo variation of the procedure as well as double, triple, quadruple or even more embryo transfers. Understanding the differences will help you choose the right variation for you.

The Procedure

During single embryo transfer, your fertility specialist will select the embryo that she believes is most likely to succeed out of multiple embryos she fertilizes in a laboratory. Your specialist will then implant that one embryo into your uterus. In other variations of the procedure, she will implant more than one embryo.

The Advantage of the Procedure

The primary advantage of single embryo transfer is that it significantly reduces your risk of multiple births. Implanting more than one embryo at once often results in twins, triplets, quadruplets or more. The more children you're carrying, the greater the risk to your own health and to your unborn children. If there are too many children, you may have to consider partial abortion in order to save your remaining children.

However, as with all fertility treatments, there is a slight increased chance of multiple births, even with the single embryo variation compared to traditional pregnancies. (This is due to a splitting embryo and increased hormones.)

The Drawback of the Procedure

However, the reason why doctors typically plant more than one embryo at once is because the majority of embryo transfers often do not result in a successful pregnancy. Although advancements in the field have made single embryo variations more successful, at one point, IVF procedures only resulted in successful pregnancies about 35% of the time, even with multiple embryos. Fewer implanted embryos decreases your chance for success.

If you decide to undergo single embryo transfer, you may have a reduced chance of success, but you also significantly reduce your risk of multiple births. Plus, the success rate of the option is no longer as low as it once was.

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