What is single embryo transfer, or eSET?
When many people think about in vitro fertilization (IVF), they immediately think of having twins or triplets. However, there are many technologies and treatment paths available for those struggling to conceive, including those that reduce the risk of multiples.
One such option is eSET or elective single embryo transfer.
eSET requires the standard procedure of IVF, but it involves the transfer of a single embryo (a joined egg and sperm). Historically, during an IVF cycle, a fertility specialist would transfer two or more embryos into the uterus at one time to improve the likelihood of at least one embryo implanting and resulting in a successful pregnancy. However, this also meant that there was a chance that more than one embryo would implant, resulting in twins or a higher-order multiple birth.
eSET, while the same basic procedure as IVF, uses just one embryo. This dramatically decreases the risk for multiple births. It’s actually the number-one thing in our control to lower the risk of complications in pregnancy for our patients.
With eSET, the risk of more than one embryo implanting is eliminated; and while it is still possible for a single embryo to split, resulting in identical twins, it is rare. Approximately one in 200 embryos will split after transfer, usually due to factors out of our control.
Aside from the fact that many couples do not desire twins or higher-order multiples, there are also health risks associated with multiple births. These risks include premature birth and low birth weight; the need for a cesarean section; and complications during pregnancy, at birth or after birth, for both the mother and babies.
eSET is not a new procedure; we’ve always offered it at Midwest Fertility. But in recent years, more information has become known about embryo development and implantation, and significant improvements have been made in culturing conditions and cryopreservation (embryo freezing) techniques.
eSET has now become a treatment option we confidently encourage for our patients in most scenarios. A consultation with a fertility specialist can help determine if it is the right fit for you.