For many women who are older and are less fertile, IVF treatment offers a way to become pregnant and start the family they have always wanted. When celebrities like Beyonce say that they are expecting to have twins, there’s always lots of speculation about whether they sought out fertility treatment or not. In this context, a lot of people believe that IVF treatment increases the chances of having twins, but does it?
Twins and IVF Treatment
So, does IVF treatment cause women to have twins? The simple answer is that the treatment itself doesn’t, but there are a whole lot of factors at play. According to official statistics, women who undergo IVF treatment are more likely to have multiple births, whether they be twins, triplets, or even quadruplets and more. As of 2003, the statistics indicate that approximately 40 percent of women in the US who have IVF treatment have multiple births.
One must stop and wonder about this figure, since the typical rate for multiple births without IVF treatment is only 2 percent. That’s a huge difference and one that may be concerning to some people. So, why does it happen?
While the actual treatment doesn’t increase the chances of twins, the way that the embryos are transferred can certainly increase the chances. For most of the history of IVF treatment, specialists and doctors transferred more than one embryo into the uterus for possible implantation.
Many embryos are not viable and may not implant at all. By transferring multiple embryos, the chances of a successful pregnancy increase. Of course, this also increases the chances of multiple embryos implanting in the uterine lining. Thus, we get multiple births occurring.
Are There Any Risks Involved in a Multiple Pregnancy?
The thought of having a baby is the cause of joy for millions of families around the country. If a woman has undergone IVF treatment and finds out that they are having twins, their joy is often doubled. The problem is that a multiple pregnancy does carry risks, for both the mother and the unborn babies.
Here are just some of the complications associated with multiple pregnancies:
- Development of gestational diabetes,
- Loss of the fetus,
- Intrauterine growth restriction – IUGR,
- Abruption of the placenta,
- Premature birth,
- Low birth weight,
- Cesarean birth.
Some of these complications, such as low birth weight and premature birth, can have long-term impacts on the child. The good news is that all multiple pregnancies can be managed through careful monitoring by a team of doctors.
Is There Any Way to Decrease the Chances of a Multiple Pregnancy?
It is only recently that doctors have started to practice the transfer of only single embryos. Not all that long ago, transferring multiple embryos was standard practice in the area of IVF, but now that the risks are known, most fertility professionals opt to do only single embryo transfers.
Even though a woman may produce a higher number of eggs during the stimulation of the ovaries through the IVF treatment, the extra viable embryos can actually be frozen for later transfer. Most fertility specialists now will only opt to transfer one embryo at a time, despite the number of viable options.
Here are some of the reasons why single embryo transfer can be done more successfully than in the past:
- Improved technology: One of the biggest reasons for transferring multiple embryos in the past was that the technology to identify viable embryos was not as advanced. These days, that’s all changed. We now have accurate technology to determine which embryos are more viable. This means that a single high quality embryo stands a much better chance of successful implantation.
- Testing: Testing and screening embryos has always been a part of the IVF treatment process, but it is now more accurate. Screening for genetic abnormalities that may result in a miscarriage is far more accurate now.
- Photography: A special Embryoscope used for time-lapse embryo photography has been key in the accuracy of detecting higher quality embryos for transfer. A time-lapse movie of all of the developing embryos is monitored by a team of doctors and this will show them the healthiest and most viable embryos. The smallest changes can be monitored, recorded, and compared to a huge database. This will tell the doctors exactly which embryos have the highest chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy.
- Transfer of blastocysts: The standard practice has always been to transfer embryos 3 days after fertilization in the lab. New technology means that embryos don’t need to be transferred until they have reached the blastocysts phase of development, which is 5 or 6 days after fertilization. Waiting longer means that the embryo is more likely to implant in the uterine lining and also allows doctors to record any abnormalities in the developing embryo to a more accurate degree.
- Increased chances: Recent studies have actually found that multiple embryo transfers actually reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy. This is because a lower quality embryo in the multiple transfer can affect all of the others, thus decreasing the chances of successful implantation. A study of the transfer of two embryos – one high quality and the other lower quality – found that there was a 27 percent reduction in a successful pregnancy. With much more accurate detection technologies now, this scenario can be avoided.
So, What’s Right for You?
There may still be some cases where a multiple transfer of embryos makes sense, but it’s always best to discuss this with your doctors and your fertility team. In older women who have low fertility and have a history of failed IVF attempts, multiple transfer may still be a viable option, for example.
Here at First Fertility we can monitor the state of your pregnancy and discuss all of the IVF options available, as well as their rates of success. After all, the goal is to ensure the health and well-being of mother and baby.