AN ADVANCED form of IVF that costs £1,000 more than standard treatment may actually slash the odds of having a baby.
Doctors warn vulnerable couples are being exploited by some clinics, which promote the newer method as more reliable.
It comes as a study found it can lower the chances of success by 35 per cent if used when the fella has good quality sperm.
With traditional IVF, which costs around £3,500 a time privately, sperm and eggs are put in a dish and left to find each other.
But the newer method, known as ICSI, costs around £4,500 and involves injecting sperm directly into an egg.
It is best suited for couples where the man has a low sperm count or poor quality sperm, which is a factor in half of cases.
But experts warn some clinics are now using ICSI in 90 to 100 per cent of the time, even when the man’s sperm is healthy.
More couples are having to seek private treatment because rationing means the NHS is increasingly refusing to pay.
The Centre for Infertility and Human Reproduction in Barcelona analysed data on 956 couples with “normal” sperm.
The live birth rate among the 479 who had IVF was 36.2 per cent but just 23.4 per cent among the 477 who had ICSI.
Clinics have previously focused on the higher fertilisation rates achieved with ICSI, rather than the more meaningful birth rate.
Researcher Dr Karinna Lattes Altamirano said: “ICSI has been advocated in non-male factor infertility to increase fertilisation rates and to prevent fertilisation failure.
“Our data shows that adopting a systematic ICSI policy yields significantly worse reproductive results.” The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said ICSI was used, 23,822 times in 2017.
Dr Roy Farquharson, of Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said: “Opportunists see this as an income generator and it has compromised the integrity of reproductive
“You are dealing with a very susceptible group with infertility. They’ve exhausted avenues of success, and their confidence is poor.
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“They are willing to spend a lot of money.”
Prof Allan Pacey, from the University of Sheffield, said: “What worries me is that there are clinics in the UK where all they do is 90 or 100 per cent ICSI, and it’s the standard. From an advertising perspective, it’s perceived that it gives them a technological edge.”
A second study in Spain and Belgium involving 5,000 couples with normal sperm found IVF and ICSI were equally successful.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna, Austria.
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