If you don’t want twins or triplets (multiple births), then you need to be very careful with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Research shows IVF increases the chances women will give birth to more than one baby.
Some mothers and couples may hope for twins through fertility treatments, says Dr. Eli Y. Adashi, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University. But, most of the time multiple births are not desired. In those cases, he said, the new parents and children incur unwarranted medical risk and long-term financial costs that doctors should strive to prevent.
Here’s a summary of a recent study from Brown University, describing how in vitro fertilization increases the chances of multiple births. Fertility technology and treatments in the United States has a huge influence on the frequency of twins, triplets, and other multiple births.
IVF Increases the Chances of Twins and Triplets
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) practices have improved to produce fewer twins, triplets or multiple births. However, more than one in three twin births and three of four multiple births in the United States arise from fertility treatments, according to this study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Current in vitro fertilization (IVF) guidelines discourage implantation of three or more embryos, because of the increase of twins, triplets, and multiple births. IVF has also improved enough that single embryo transfers now often succeed in producing healthy pregnancies.
But in the meantime, non-IVF fertility treatments such as ovarian stimulation and ovulation induction — for instance, with the drug clomiphene citrate — have increased to become the predominant source of medically assisted multiple births. In vitro fertilization is increasingly producing twins.
“IVF is moving, in a sense, in the right direction and cleaning up its act, whereas the non-IVF technologies are at a minimum holding their own and possibly getting worse,” says Dr Adashi . “We do have a real problem with way too many multiple births in the United States with consequences to both mothers and babies. It’s an unintended consequence of otherwise well intentioned and remarkable technology.”
The contribution of fertility treatments such as IVF over the last 40 years is unmistakable: Between 1971 and 2011, the percent of U.S. births that were multiples rose from 1.8 percent to 3.5 percent. Even after adjusting for maternal age, the rate of twin births rose 1.6 times between 1971 and 2009. And while triplets or more due to IVF have dropped to 32 percent of cases from 48 percent between 1998 and 2011, the percent of triplets or more due to non-IVF procedures rose to 45 percent of cases from 36 percent during that same time.
“From a policy point of view what that means is that [we] need to focus on the non-IVF technologies,” Dr Adashi said, “which really hasn’t been done in a concerted way because they weren’t considered all that relevant to this mix.”
Dr Adashi also said it may be harder to decrease multiple births from non-IVF treatments than from IVF.
While multiple births from IVF are a direct result of the number of embryos that are fertilized and intentionally implanted, non-IVF therapies involve medications that stimulate ovulation and follicle growth in ways that cannot be precisely predicted or controlled.
Increased awareness of the increase of twins, triplets, and other multiple births resulting from non-IVF fertility treatments may lead to improved medical practice patterns and a decrease in the rate of multiple births.
What does this mean for you? Be prepared for twins or triplets if you’re having a fertility treatment such as IVF – or a non-IVF fertility treatment such as ovarian stimulation. Talk to your doctor about the chances of having more than one or two babies, and make sure you’re up for the challenge!
If you’re thinking about fertility treatments, read 5 Reasons In Vitro Fertilization Fails to Result in Pregnancy.
Source: IVF IS Improving, But Fertility Treatments Keep Multiple Births High.