Number of Embryos to Transfer

How do doctors decide how many embryos to transfer? There are multiple variables which need to be considered while deciding how many embryos to transfer. When the doctors decide about the number of embryos to transfer they consider many aspects. Here they are.

Saiprasad Gundeti, Senior Embryologist, Malpani Infertility Clinic

How do we decide how many embryos to transfer ?

There are multiple variables which need to be considered while deciding how many embryos to transfer. When we decide about the number of embryos to transfer , our aim is to :

  • Select Top Quality Embryo(s) for transfer
  • Maximise the chances of pregnancy
  • Minimise the risk of failure
  • Minimise the risk of multiple pregnancy.

Each country has its own policies depending upon their patient population, their healthcare system and their laws. In Scandinavian countries , not more than one embryo is allowed to be transferred. In such countries, doing a Day 5 transfer is ideal.

Top Quality Day 5 Embryo

That's not the case in India where we can transfer multiple embryos. However, we need to individualise this decision for each patient ! More is not always better - and transferring too many embryos increases the risk of a high order multiple pregnancy.

We need to be flexible !

For example, when doing a Day 3 Embryo Transfer for a young patient who is doing her first IVF cycle, we need to think twice before transferring 2 embryos, as there are high chances of a twin pregnancy even with 2 embryos. We feel doing a single transfer is best !

2 Top Quality Day 3 Embryos

At Malpani Infertility Clinic, we use the following guidelines. These are rules of thumb - the patient needs to make the final decision ! While the present fashion seems to be to push for a SET ( single embryo transfer) for all patients, this is a complex decision - especially when patients are paying large amounts of money for their IVF treatment. And for many IVF patients, twins are a welcome bonus as they represent their chance to create an instant family , so this is a personal choice! However, even a twin pregnancy is at increased risk for preterm labour, which means children have an increased risk of having medical problems.

Read more-How many embryos should I transfer ?

While it's quite easy to make decisions when we have good quality embryos, it's much harder to do so when the embryos are of poor quality. While it's not necessarily true that transferring more embryos increases the chances of success when the embryos are of poor quality, patients are understandably reluctant to throw away their embryos !

This is especially true when patients have failed multiple IVF cycles in the past . Their logic is - even if the embryo has a poor chance of becoming a baby after transfer, at least it's better than the zero chance if I do not transfer it. This can be a difficult call to make and they don't always listen to us. We are happy to honour their preferences

While we recommend they transfer only a single blastocyst, we will allow patients to transfer more than 2. However, we will not transfer 3, because the risk of a high order multiple is very high.

We tell our patients - have as many babies as you like - but one at a time !

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.