A substantial increase in the rate of U.S. multiple births and the use of non-in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments has been linked, says a new study from Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
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These non-IVF fertility treatments include ovulation stimulation and ovulation induction through the use of fertility drugs.
The study did find a decline, however, in the number of triplets and other high-order births when using IVF.
New technology in IVF
Tommaso Falcone, MD, did not take part in the study but treats IVF patients at Cleveland Clinic. He says new technology in IVF is providing more control over multiple births.
“The good news is that we made progress in those that are triplets and above from IVF,” he says. “The bad news is we haven’t done as well with twins.”
Advances in the field include the use of technology like the embryoscope, which monitors fertilized embryos’ development moment by moment and gives specialists an edge in choosing the most viable to be selected. Fewer embryos will be transferred through this more efficient selection, resulting in a reduction of higher risk multiple pregnancies.
Boom in multiple births lead to improved practices
Researchers at the CDC observed the rates of twin births and of triplet and high-order births from 1971 through 2011. They found twin birth rates significantly increased during that time and tied the increase to the use of non-IVF practices, or the use of fertility drugs, which have more unpredictable outcomes.
They concluded that an increased awareness of multiple births resulting from non-IVF fertility treatments may lead to improved practices and a decrease in the twin birth rate.
Fertility drug treatment results hard to predict
Dr. Falcone expects the number of triplets and high-order births conceived through IVF to continue to drop. But he says non-IVF treatments will remain hard to predict.
“For non-IVF fertility it’s unclear because non-IVF fertility is not creating an embryo,” says Dr. Falcone. “There may be less control of the number of eggs released.”