August 2022

IVF and multiple births.

It is often said that women who undergo IVF are more likely to have twins or triplets. Multiple births can be exciting to some women, and very scary to others. While IVF is a safe and popular process, many women have reservations about starting IVF and one of these reservations may be the possibility of multiple births. Is the likelihood of multiple births from IVF a rumor or reality?

Does IVF cause multiple births?

Multiple births are common with fertility treatments. During IVF, multiple births can be caused by the transfer of more than one embryo during the procedure. Throughout the last forty years, the birth of twins has doubled. This is partially due to the popularity and need for IVF and other fertility treatments. In the United States, a third of twins and three-quarters of triplets resulted from conception aided by fertility treatments. 

IVF technology is improving and fewer embryos are needed to transfer during the procedure, and this lessens the likelihood of multiple births. Younger women undergoing IVF may only have one embryo transfer, which will either result in one birth or none. Older women undergoing IVF are more likely to have more embryos transferred during the treatment to give them a better chance at conception. This creates a higher likelihood for multiples. The decision of how many embryos to transfer should be discussed between you and your doctor. Together you can decide what is healthiest for you and your body. [1]

multiple births

What are the risks of multiple births?

Women who are pregnant with multiples can have a safe and healthy pregnancy, but there is a higher risk for complications. It is important to be aware of these complications, but understand that some or all may not impact you. About three-fifths of twins are born premature, they often must stay in the hospital for some time to continue healing. Premature babies are also often small and weigh less than 2500 grams. Often multiple-birth babies will spend some time in the NICU.

Besides premature babies and babies needing time in the NICU, there are other health issues to be aware of such as:

  • Gestational high blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Miscarriage
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Postpartum hemorrhage

Pregnancy with multiples can come with complications, it is important to discuss all of these complications with your doctor. During pregnancy with multiples your healthcare is so important and having a doctor you can trust with talking about any fears you may have is necessary. [2]

How to avoid multiples when undergoing IVF?

It is possible to avoid having multiples and still undergo IVF treatment. Instead of having multiple embryos transferred, you can choose to have an elective single-embryo transfer (eSET). eSET is a procedure in which one embryo is selected from a number of available embryos to be transferred to the uterus. The unused embryos can be left for future use. Through eSET, you can avoid multiples and the risks that come with the pregnancy and birth of multiples. Research has shown that of women who have a good chance of success with IVF, there was a similar number of births from those who had one embryo transfer or multiple. eSET is a great alternative for those who want to start IVF, but know they do not want multiples. Your doctor and you should of course decide the best IVF route to take for your body and health. [3]