Just how many babies am I going to have anyway?

by beagooddad on September 12, 2006

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One of the common side effects of IVF pregnancies is an increased rate of multiples. Nearly 20-40% of IVF pregnancies result in multiples.

IVF is different than other fertility treatments. People having quintuplets or more are normally going through a treatment where the mom’s hormones are spiked very high creating many more eggs than normal providing many more landing places for the sperm.

In the beginning of an IVF cycle, the mom’s hormones are spiked, but the eggs are removed and fertilized outside the body. The number of eggs returned to the mom is controlled.

But that is also why the instance of multiples is so high. It is normal for doctors to recommend using 2 to 4 embryos at a time to increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Why would anybody be crazy enough to let them put 2-4 embryos in on purpose?  Not every embryo transfer survives to become a bouncing bundle of joy.  In fact, the odds are closer to 20-30%.  The more embryos that go in, the better the chance.  With the high cost of the procedure, you can save a lot of money by reducing the number of transfers needed to get pregnant and not everybody’s insurance plan covers the costs of IVF treatment.
Not everybody is happy about the high rate of multiples.  Multiples introduce a lot of difficulties during pregnancy that are not to be taken lightly.  One of the most obvious involves the fact that multiples have lower birth weights.  Twins have a 30% chance of being born prematurely.  We were lucky.  Geetle and Pookie made it to 37 weeks and 1 day and weighed 7 lb 3 oz and 6 lb 7 oz respectively.  I know people who were not as lucky and had to spend many weeks in the neonatal unit waiting for their babies to come home.

Europe, in particular, is pushing to decrease the amount of embryos and are encouraging doctors to use one embryo at a time when the woman has a resonable chance of success.

Currently, in America, a woman with low risk factors is probably going to start with two embryos at a time unless they push very strongly for less.  As women get older or show that they are going to have more trouble getting pregnant, the recommendation jumps to three or four.

Our doctor convinced us to start with two at a time.  We had two put in the first time and nothing happened.  Then we had two put in the second time and everything worked and we ended up with twins.  Cool.

Here’s the potential surprise.  Even though you know exactly how many embryos went in, you have no idea how many you will end up with.  While at a check up at the fertility clinic when they were listening for the kids’ heartbeats the nurse told us a scary story.

A few months earlier a couple had put two embryos in.  And they both stuck.  Great, right?  But, then they both split and become their own twins.  For those of you that don’t like math, that means they ended up with quadruplets.  Yikes.

If you are going through IVF, talk long and seriously about how many embryos they plan on putting in at a time.  If the number is larger than one, and it probably will be, you should seriously consider challenging that.

I would not go back and change anything that we did, obviously.  But, if we ever do it again, it will be one at a time.   But then again I already have twins.

Coming up next: Should you tell your family and friends that you are trying to get pregnant?

If you want to see the table of contents for this series, it is here.

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