IVF pioneers in Malta agree embryo freezing is a ‘must’

St James Hospital lab head Paul Sultana says that egg freezing is not enough to give couples a fair chance to have a child • Infertile couples are suffering in silence

Successful pregnancy rate through IVF in Malta is a mere 21%
Successful pregnancy rate through IVF in Malta is a mere 21%

Embryo freezing is necessary to ensure improved success rates for couples dealing with infertility issue, according to the medical lab director of St James hospital, Paul Sultana.

A pioneer of in-vitro fertilisation in Malta, Sultana said the statistics to date show that egg freezing on its own is not the most successful of techniques.

Sultana said figures from the Embryo Protection Authority showed that only 21% of IVF processes resulted in pregnancy during 2016 and 2017 – an average of only two couples out of 10.

“The percentage from frozen cycles is even less, 14% for the same period,” Sultana wrote in a Facebook post. “I don’t think we can get any lower than this, and we can’t accept the status quo.”

The current restrictions on IVF in Malta do not give a good chance for successful pregnancy, he explained, adding that not everyone can afford to go abroad for the process. “Embryos need to be protected, agreed, but what about the couples? Who is protecting their interests?” Sultana wrote.

Read also: An idiot’s guide to how Maltese IVF law will change

While some embryos do not survive the thawing process, Sultana said this was no different from what happened naturally.

“Embryo freezing is a must... It has been said that some embryos do not survive the process, but these would probably not have survived the implantation or the pregnancy anyway. Thousands of embryos are similarly aborted naturally every month," Sultana said.

He said very few were speaking or writing in the media about the couples who are "suffering in silence". "They stay way from the limelighjt and can’t fight for their rights," he added.

Sultana said that as one of the main stakeholders and pioneers of IVF in Malta with 27 years experience, “no-one bothered” to request their views on the matter.

The post was also shared by Mark Brincat, the former head of gynaecology at Mater Dei hospital and a fellow pioneer of the IVF law in Malta.