Unfortunately when you undergo assisted conception of any kind you increase the risk of a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, quads). This is because in nature normally only one egg is produced each month, whereas most assisted conception methods aim to increase this number to maximise the chances of success by using drugs to stimulate egg production. It is very rare to have triplets or quads after IVF as generally only 2 embryos are transferred.
Why should we reduce the risk of multiple pregnancy?
I’m trying to get pregnant surely the more babies the better?
Unfortunately there are many risks associated with multiple pregnancies, especially when it is a triplet or greater pregnancy. We sometimes have to abandon a patient’s treatment cycles because the risk of a multiple pregnancy is judged to be too high.
Some of the problems associated with multiple pregnancy are outlined below:
- Maternal complications of pregnancy
Anaemia (iron deficiency), toxaemia (blood poisoning), post-partum haemorrhages (excessive bleeding after giving birth), cardiovascular (heart/circulation) problems, shortness of breath, weight gain, varices (varicose veins), stretch marks, pain in the joints and haemorrhoids.
There is a much higher risk of miscarriage when carrying a multiple pregnancy.
- Growth retardation
It is common for babies from multiple pregnancies to be much lighter at birth than a single baby. For example, reduced growth of the baby occurs in 50% of all triplets and even more often in quads and quins etc.
- Congenital malformations
The risk of a malformation affecting a baby born as part of a multiple pregnancy is about 6% whereas it is only 2% in single pregnancies.
This occurs in 15% of twin pregnancies (7.5% of singleton pregnancies) and carries a number of risks.
- Respiratory problems which occur because the lungs have not had sufficient time to mature and where the baby is very small.
- Feeding problems
- Problems of temperature regulation
- Death or permanent mental/physical of the baby in extreme cases of prematurity (less than 30 weeks or if birthweight is less than 750 grams)
There are of course also several other social and financial considerations involved with the rearing of several infants at the same time.