One of the common misconceptions about fertility treatment is that multiples are common place and nearly inevitable. For many years, approximately from 1980 to 2009, according to the CDC, the national rate of twins and multiples spiked. While historically twinning makes up about 2 percent of the live birth population, during this 29-year period the rate doubled. It’s a safe assumption that a main reason for this increase is the number of couples undergoing fertility treatment. For the story, “7 Things You Need to Know if You’re Pregnant with Twins,” US News talked to Dr. Kate Devine, Shady Grove Fertility’s Director of Clinical Research.
Looking back, why did couples experience more twins from fertility treatment?
Dr. Devine tells US News that until recently fertility experts were more limited in their ability to examine the quality of embryos created during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Determining which embryo(s) were best to transfer was done according to their rate of development and morphologic characteristics alone, and only over the course of the first two to three days of their development.
However, in recent years, improvement in embryo culture techniques have greatly improved our ability to observe and assess embryo growth and development for longer duration in the IVF lab. In addition, we now have the ability to do genetic testing on embryos to select a chromosomally normal embryo for transfer. If there are additional high-quality embryo(s), we can store them for the future. Prior to the advent of these technologies, it was difficult to select a single embryo with a high probability of implanting in a woman’s uterus and resulting in a healthy baby.
Therefore, physicians would typically transfer two and sometimes more than two embryos in hopes of successful implantation. And yes, multiple births were more common. Dr. Devine says, “The goal was to boost the woman’s chances of delivering a baby, since it wasn’t clear which embryos would make it.”
New Technology Results in Fewer Twins
Today, technology allows embryologists and physicians to examine embryos much more carefully and select with confidence the one with the highest chance of implanting and resulting in a successful pregnancy. At Shady Grove Fertility we’ve long been proponents of elective single embryo transfer, or eSET. Studying all embryos that have reached the blastocyst stage (when the cells are multiplying at a healthy level and the embryo continues to grow) we have drastically decreased the number of multiples and increased the number of healthy singletons born, thereby reducing the risks to both baby and mother.
The assumption that fertility treatment means twins is no longer an expectation as the standard of care has changed due to improvements in technology. We are now better able to offer the best care for our patients leaving them with healthier choices for not only themselves, but for their baby and future children.
To get started on your road to parenthood, schedule an appointment with Dr. Devine at our Washington, D.C. K Street office, or any one of our 35+ physicians. Call 1-877-971-7755 or click here to complete this simple form.
At Shady Grove Fertility, we’re here to give you the caring support you deserve as you start or grow your family. As a leading fertility and IVF center of excellence, we offer patients individualized care, innovative financial options, over 30 accepted insurance plans, and pregnancy rates among the highest of all national centers. We offer patients the convenience of 31 locations across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Georgia, and Florida. More than 1,700 physicians choose Shady Grove Fertility to refer their patients, and more than 96 percent of our patients say they would recommend Shady Grove Fertility’s 35+ physicians to a friend. With 10 Shady Grove Fertility babies born each day, your dream of starting or growing your family is within reach.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in Feb 2017, but has been updated as of June 2018.