Live birth rates after transfer of equal number of blastocysts or cleavage-stage embryos in IVF. A systematic review and meta-analysis

Evangelos Papanikolaou, Efstratios Kolibianakis, Herman Tournaye, C.a. Venetis, Hm Fatemi, Basil Tarlatzis, Paul Devroey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

201 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Both cleavage-stage and blastocyst-stage embryo transfer policies have advantages and drawbacks. The number of embryos transferred, however, is a crucial parameter that needs to be considered before attempting any comparison. METHODS: An extensive literature search yielded initially 282 studies from which 8 randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria: (i) truly randomized design (ii) policy to transfer equal number of embryos in both the cleavage-stage and the blastocyst-stage groups and (iii) published as full text in a peer-review journal. Primary outcome was the live birth rate and secondary outcomes were clinical pregnancy rate, multiple pregnancy rate, cancellation rate and cryopreservation rate. RESULTS: A total of 1654 patients were reviewed. Live birth rate per randomized patient was significantly higher (n = 6 studies) in patients who had a blastocyst-stage transfer as compared to patients with cleavage-stage embryo transfer [odds ratio (OR): 1.39, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10-1.76; P = 0.005]. Clinical pregnancy rate (OR: 1.27, 95% CI: 1.03-1.55; P = 0.02) and cancellation rate per patient randomized (OR: 2.21, 95% CI: 1.47-3.32; P = 0.0001) were significantly higher in patients with a blastocyst-stage embryo transfer as compared to patients in whom a cleavage-stage embryo transfer was performed. The cryopreservation rate was significantly higher in the cleavage-stage group (OR: 0.28, 95% CI: 0.14-0.55; P = 0.0002). CONCLUSIONS: The best available evidence suggests that the probability of live birth after fresh IVF is significantly higher after blastocyst-stage embryo transfer as compared to cleavage-stage embryo transfer when equal number of embryos are transferred in the two groups compared.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • meta-analysis
  • live birth rate
  • blastocyst
  • embryo transfer
  • cleavage stage

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