The initial thoughts about a European group of experts on early pregnancy started in 1989 as a Dutch-Spanish initiative during a Workshop on the yolk sac in Haarlem. The structure of organising workshops exclusively for scientists in the various fields on early pregnancy has been successfully used in Haarlem for many years. Niek Exalto (Haarlem, ob/gyn), Tom Eskes (Nijmegen, ob/gyn) and Francesco Nogales (Granada, pathol) decided to invite scientists to participate in a joined project that was tentatively called "Euro-Team Early Pregnancy" (ETEP).
It was intended to create a group of about twenty Europeans of different nationalities, who are experts in the various field of early pregnancy including: embryology, endocrinology, genetics, immunology, infertility, developmental biology, physiology, ultrasonography and teratology. The aim was to create a forum for discussion, the elaboration of projects, education and exchange of ideas between team which could collaborate in the future. ETEP should serve as a link between research in infertility and IVF on one side, and materno-fetal medicine on the other.
The formula of the ETEP meeting has been so far: a one-day Workshop for members only, followed a day dedicated to education in the form of a Postgraduate Course and ending with a social day for relaxation or further discussion. Sponsoring, Postgraduate Course subscriptions, specials local funds and pharmaceutical industries have helped to finance these ETEP meetings.
The first Workshop was organised in November 1990 in the Alhambra Palace Hotel in Granada, Spain. The Post Graduate Course for Spanish gynaecologists and pathologists was very successful. Our host, Francesco Gonzales (ob/gyn) presented the city to us and showed us the wonderful mix of quiet historic buildings and lively Spanish atmosphere. The second ETEP meeting was organised in June 1993 in O'Porto, Portugal with an identical formula (workshop, postgraduate course and social program). The Postgraduate course was overwhelming successful and our host Nuno Montenegro (ob/gyn) presented his department, his splendid city and of course we tried the famous Port wine.
In 1994 ETEP was invited by ESHRE to organise an Early Pregnancy session on implantation (Jean Hustin, pathol) and recurrent abortion (Niek Exalto, ob/gyn and Lesly Regan, ob/gyn) during its annual meeting in Brussels. In spite of the fact that not all ETEP members were members of ESHRE, we were invited to start a Special Interest Group Early Pregnancy within ESHRE. The first interaction was the publication, in 1995 of the ETEP "Recurrent abortion protocol in Human Reproduction (1).
Most members of ETEP also contributed in 1997 to nine chapters on Early pregnancy to be published this year in a textbook of perinatal medicine (2).
In 1996 the 3rd ETEP workshop was organised prior to the annual ESHRE meeting in Maastricht. Joep Geraedts (genetics) was our host and beside a very interesting scientific program, we learned a lot about Maastricht's wine and Belgian beers. The ETEP's postgraduate course was integrated for the first time in the ESHRE meeting as a Precongress Course, which was extremely well attended. ESHRE’s Special Interest Group on Early Pregnancy (SIGEP) officially started during a session on Early pregnancy with two keynote lectures: The yolk sac by Jean Hustin (IMPL, Belgium) and Embryonic medicine by Eric Jauniaux (UCL, UK)). This successful formula is now the basis of our SIGEP.
Since 1996 several pre-congress courses and winter courses has been organised, recently even on a yearly basis. The number of ESHRE members participating in SIGEP increased from 146 in 1996 to 808 in 2012.
The former editor of Human Reproduction, Professor Edwards, who has been the main promotor of our joint venture, has modified the subsection entitled Pregnancy into Early Pregnancy to offer a podium to the scientific work.
In the last couple of years SIGEP has discussed the importance and benefits of early pregnancy units. Furthermore, we stimulate multicentre randomized controlled trials and clinical guidelines for early pregnancy problems, especially in case of recurrent miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
1. The Euro-Team Early Pregnancy (ETEP) protocol for recurrent miscarriage. Human Reprod 1995; 10: 1516 - 1520. Berry CW, Brambati B, Eskes TKAB, Exalto N , Fox H, Geraedts JPM, Gerhard I, Gonzales Gomes F, Grudzinskas JG, Hustin J, Jouppila P, Lindblom BKA, Mantoni M, Montenegro N, Nogales Fernandes F, O'Rahilly R, Pedersen JF, Peters PWJ, Regan L, Rushton DI, van Straaten HWM, Tarlatzis BC and Wells M.
2. Textbook of Perinatal Medicine, Editor in Chief: A. Kurjak. Early Pregnancy chapters, Editor: N. Exalto, 1998, Partenon Publishing.