Despite its hefty price tag, genetic screening of embryos prior to implantation using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) does not increase women's chances of successfully carrying a baby.
In a recent study published by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, researchers found that pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT) found no difference in women's chances of giving birth within a year after having PGT or IVF on its own.
Many fertility clinics in the UK offer PGT to women of advanced maternal age, claiming that it is able to screen out embryos with genetic abnormalities, therefore giving them the best chance of carrying a baby to term. Many women over 40 encounter genetic issues with their eggs, which often contain fewer or more than 23 chromosomes - ultimately resulting in abnormalities. In fact, this affects over 50 percent of eggs in women over 40.
PGT comes at a cost, however, with some prominent UK clinics charging women up to £2,000 per cycle, or approximately $2,500 US. But a major study published in the Oxford Academic journal, Human Reproduction, confirmed that there is no difference in live birth rates between women who receive PGT, and those who pursue IVF without it. The randomized controlled trial - the largest of its kind to date - followed 396 women from around the world between the ages of 36 and 40 and allocated them into two groups. One group received PGT-A (pre-implantation testing for chromosomal abnormality), and the other did not.
The results were surprising.
Within 12 months of the study, the percentage of women who had a live birth in both groups was identical: 24 percent - indicating that there is no benefit to PGT's ability to increase live birth rates, or even that it works. In fact, some experts believe that it's all just a cash grab, and takes advantage of couples who may be struggling to start a family. Jan Brosens, professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Warwick strongly disagrees with the way clinics handle these controversial treatments.
“All too often couples requiring IVF treatment are taken for a ride when it comes to a bewildering array of unproven tests and adjuvant treatments,” he said.
While the study did not confirm benefits relating to an increased live birth rate, it did, however, show that women who received PGT screening were less likely to experience a miscarriage (7% versus 14%), however experts warn that this is a secondary end-point, and should be interpreted "with caution," according to Ying Cheong, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Southampton.