Recent news coverage has focused on high rates of multiple births in IVF. More attention than usual has dominated the news due to Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as Octomum, who gave birth to eight babies at the same time after having had IVF treatment. A Queensland couple have also sparked the debate with women giving birth to a set of twins after already having had 2 sets of quadruplets.
The impact of the news coverage has been to condemn IVF clinics and specialists. In truth, the majority of clinics only recommend implanting a single embryo. This is because multiple births can be more risky for both the mother and the infants than a single birth. For example, the risk of cerebral palsy is six times higher for twins, and twenty times higher for triplets. Infant mortality rates are also higher. Multiple births can also be a risk to the mother. Apart from the risk of high blood pressure, there is an increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth. If an infant is born too prematurely, breathing and feeding complications may arise.
Changing the Medicare rebate in Australia has now sparked concerns that there will be a two for the price on one mentality with more women rushing to have more embryos implanted so as to increase their chances of success. Whilst it is easy to look at these statistics, a greater issue may be the fact that increasingly women are delaying motherhood until well into their thirties where the chance of conception is lower. A women’s biological clock may just give greater clues to an apparent rush on transferring more than one embryo.