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Feature Medicine and the Media

Are new technologies in infertility treatment always good news?

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 04 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6004
  1. Richard Hurley, deputy magazine editor, BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

Couples desperate to conceive may want to try costly new techniques that they’ve heard about from the lay media—even if their success is unproved. Richard Hurley reports

When vulnerable couples trying in vitro fertilisation (IVF) learn of news reports about promising new techniques they may well demand them from their general practitioner or infertility clinics. They may be prepared to pay hundreds of pounds in the hope of improving their chances of a pregnancy. GPs and specialists too may be influenced by such coverage.

But these technologies might not actually work. The randomised controlled trials needed to show effectiveness can take years to perform. Many women near the end of their reproductive life, however, or after several unsuccessful cycles of IVF, and who are desperate for a child don’t have time to wait 10-15 years to find out.

A retrospective study of one such technique was published on 9 May this year in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.1 It described use of time-lapse imaging to spot embryos at high risk of genetic abnormality, a key cause of failure in implantation, or later miscarriage, in IVF. Professor Simon Fishel, part of the team whose work led to the first IVF baby and managing director of the UK’s largest private infertility clinic, the Care Fertility Group, was a coauthor.

The Times newspaper covered the story, headed, “New IVF technique could give 78 per cent chance …

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