High-Risk Preg Not Always Due to Fertility Treatment

Multiple babies. Twins, triplets, and more. They may be cute and even very desired, but the hard truth is that multiple pregnancies can be dangerous for both mom and babies. Such pregnancies are also on the rise. One of the reasons: fertility treatment. Fertility specialists have been leading the charge in the past decade to decrease the incidence of multiple pregnancies resulting from various treatments for infertility. With in vitro fertilization (IVF), for example, a great deal of research has been and is still being conducted to whittle the best odds down to the transfer of one single, well-chosen embryo. Elective single embryo transfer (sometimes called eSET) is becoming more available across the country as practitioners become more skilled at related techniques and labs begin using the most advanced facilities. In an article by the Associated Press' Marilyn Marchione on the website of the Monterey County Herald, specialists comment on both the growing number of high-risk pregnancies and on how the definition of high-risk itself is changing, in part due to the incredible technology that saves neonatal lives today. While fertility treatment has become unfortunately known for producing a large percentage of "super twins" (the term used to refer to any multiples group of triplets or more), according to the maternal-fetal medicine specialists quoted in the article, there are also many more women who are choosing to conceive and go through pregnancies in the face of what used to be thought of as insurmountable health odds. More women who are older are choosing to attempt pregnancy, and their odds of naturally-occurring multiples have been known for decades before the widespread use of fertility drugs and techniques. In addition to older moms, women with medical conditions -- organ transplant recipients, cancer survivors, women with AIDS and heart disease and more -- are feeling encouraged by the scientific breakthroughs that allow far more babies to survive high-risk pregnancy. As such pregnancies become more commonplace, judgements about "the perfect pregnancy" begin to change. In fact, it could be that in time, ART will be used to avoid multiple pregnancies and their inherent complications. While IVF often erroneously gets the blame for ART-related ills, the truth is that the most well-known and dangerous super twin pregnancies resulting from fertility therapy actually came from a much simpler and less costly form of treatment -- artificial insemination (AI) -- with the use of superovulatory medication. With AI and medication, far less control is available to the patient and physician regarding number of eggs produced and fertilized, therefore regarding the number of embryos produced. Education on the risks of pregnancy in general is lacking, far behind education made available on contraception. One source of good, fact-based information is the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Another, the March of Dimes.
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