The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

December 2, 2013

Fertility doctors aim to lower rate of twin births

BOSTON (AP) — Doctors are reporting an epidemic — of twins. Nearly half of all babies born with advanced fertility help are multiple births, new federal numbers show.

In the five years since the "Octomom" case, big multiple births have gone way down but the twin rate has barely budged. Twins aren't always twice as nice; they have much higher risks of prematurity and serious health problems.

Now fertility experts are pushing a new goal: One. A growing number of couples are attempting pregnancy with just a single embryo, helped by new ways to pick the ones most likely to succeed. New guidelines urge doctors to stress this approach.

Abigail and Ken Ernst of Oldwick, N.J., did this to conceive Lucy, a daughter born in September. Using one embryo at a time "just seemed the most normal, the most natural way" to conceive and avoid a high-risk twin pregnancy, the new mom said.

Not all couples feel that way, though. Some can only afford one try with in vitro fertilization, or IVF, so they insist that at least two embryos be used to boost their odds, and view twins as two for the price of one.

Many patients "are telling their physicians 'I want twins,'" said Barbara Collura, president of Resolve, a support and advocacy group. "We as a society think twins are healthy and always come out great. There's very little reality" about the increased medical risks for babies and moms, she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent numbers show that 46 percent of IVF babies are multiples — mostly twins — and 37 percent are born premature. By comparison, only 3 percent of babies born without fertility help are twins and about 12 percent are preterm.

It's mostly an American problem — some European countries that pay for fertility treatments require using one embryo at a time.

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