Doctors fight to reduce twin birth rate

Doctors fight to reduce twin birth rate

Many would argue that twins bring twice the joy, twice the happiness and twice the love to melt mommies’ and daddies’ hearts. But now more than ever, fertility experts are warning parents that twins can also put moms and babies at higher risks of serious complications.

With In vitro fertilization (IVF), multiple births are much higher than they used to be. Even though cases like the “Octomom,” are not so common, many IVF babies are multiples, about 46 percent—mostly twins.  And according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 37 percent are born premature.

By comparison only about 3 percent of babies born without fertility help are twins. That’s why a growing number of physicians are pushing to get doctors who perform IVF to adopt a new approach that’s proving to be quite successful.

In the past, couples attempting to get pregnant through IVF, would often be implanted with multiple embryos in order to increase the chance at conception.  In the new approach, doctors implant the single best embryo, with the help of advanced technology that is able to pick the one most likely to succeed.

Why couples may be hesitant?
Of course not all couples are so keen to the idea. The high costs associated with IVF treatment, usually means some couples only get one shot and they—understandably—want to make it their best one. That’s why doctors say, couples often insist on getting at least two embryos implanted, with the mindset that twins are typically healthy.

But Dr. John Rinehart, reproductive endocrinologist on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says that’s not always the reality.

“There are increased medical risks for both mom and baby,” Dr. Rinehart said. “This can include prematurity and long-term health problems for the babies. With improved IVF technology, doctors are better able to select a single embryo that is most likely to succeed, which helps to reduce the health risks associated with multiples.”

Surprisingly, implanting multiple embryos appears to be mostly an American problem. In some European countries where fertility treatments are paid for, doctors are required to implant only one embryo at a time. And the American Society for Reproductive Medicine wants to make this the norm in the U.S., too.

In its recently updated guidelines, they suggest women under 35 with reasonable medical odds of success should be offered a single embryo transfer and no more than two at a time. The guidelines also stress counseling for women to go over the risks of multiple births and embryo transfers and that the discussion be noted in the medical record.

What lies ahead?
The latest data suggests the one-at-a-time idea may indeed catch on. In 2011, nearly 12 percent of women under 35 used single embryos.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.