Multiple Births From In-Vitro Fertilization Increase Prompting More Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 3, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Multiple Births From In-Vitro Fertilization Increase Prompting More Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 3, 2006

Hampton, VA ( — In-vitro fertilization technology has improved to the point that couples who use it for a pregnancy are more likely to be successful. But, as the number of successes increase, there has been a rise in multiple births — prompting more abortions, or what doctors euphemistically call selective reduction.

Virginia couple Linwood and Latricia Russel had tried in-vitro before with three embryos in their first attempt to achieve a pregnancy. The effort failed.

So when the couple tried again in 2004, they wanted to up the ante and decided to go with implanting four embryos — days old unborn children — in Latricia’s womb.

Her doctor wanted to implant only three, but Latricia wanted to be proactive.

"I want to be really aggressive about it," she told them, according to a Virginia Pilot article. "I’m doing four. Go for four."

Weeks later, Latricia found she was pregnant — with four babies.

While other nations set limits on the number of embryos that can be transferred, the United States leaves it up to the in-vitro industry, for the most part, to set limits and guidelines.

Transferring four to five embryos used to be the norm until the technology advanced. The pregnancy rate has shot up from 18 percent in the 1980s to better than 40 percent now.

However, the use of multiple embryos continues and about one-third of the 48,000 babies born through in-vitro fertilization were born in a multiple pregnancy.

More would have been born, but in-vitro doctors frequently advise couples with multiple babies to have abortions of one or more of them. The Russells, for example, were referred to a high-risk-pregnancy doctor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, according to the Pilot, who advised them to have abortions. They declined.

Jill Flood, a Virginia Beach fertility specialist, told the newspaper she remembers one couple with triplets who she told to have an abortion and they agreed. But when they saw their three babies on an ultrasound, they changed their minds.

A new review from the Centers for Disease Control shows some limits may be needed on the number of embryo transfers done during in-vitro fertilization.

It showed 29 percent of IVF clinics transferred three embryos or more when the voluntary guidelines suggested no more than two.