Millions of embryos created for IVF 'thrown away unused'

Unused embryo
Millions of human embryos created for in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) pregnancies in the UK are being thrown away unused, according to official figures.

The shocking figures show that for every woman who conceives a child through IVF, 15 embryos are made, and almost half of them are discarded during or after the process.

More than 1.7 million embryos prepared with the aim of helping women become pregnant have been thrown away since records began 21 years ago, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

The figures were gathered by the UK fertility industry regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which has recorded IVF processes since 1991.

Embryos are created from female eggs and male sperm during the IVF process. Some are then introduced into the womb of the prospective mother. Others, however, are put into storage, discarded as unwanted, or, in some cases, used in scientific experiments, the report said.

Statistics released by UK Health Minister Lord Howe show that 3,546,818 human embryos have been created since August 1991. These have produced only 235,480 "gestational sacs" - evidence of successful implantation.

As a result, 93 per cent of all embryos created more than 3.3 million in all are never used to generate a pregnancy.

Among the embryos created, 839,325 were put into storage for future use and 2,071 were stored for donation to others. A further 5,876 were set aside for scientific research.

Over all, 1,388,443 embryos were implanted in the hope of beginning pregnancies. Just under one in six resulted in a pregnancy.

Of the rest, 1,691,090 were discarded unused and a further 23,480 were discarded after being taken out of storage.

However, the figures do not show how many of the successful implants resulted in pregnancies that went to term.

"Over the 20 years since the HFEA was established, more than half a million people have had IVF treatment and around 200,000 babies have been born to couples who would not otherwise been able to have a family," a HFEA spokesman said.

"IVF involves the creation of more embryos than are transferred to the patient so that the best ones can be chosen to start pregnancy.

"Those embryos that are discarded may no longer be needed by the individual or couple for treatment," the spokesman added.

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