IVF increases the chances of a multiple pregnancy. Approximately 20 to 25% of women who become pregnant through IVF will give birth to multiples - that is to say, twins or triplets. Many IVF patients are delighted to find out they are carrying more than one baby, especially if they have been trying to get pregnant for a long time. They may feel that they're having a whole family all in one go. While they are right to be happy, they should also be aware that multiple pregnancies are riskier than "normal" pregnancies. IVF patients should not worry unduly - many twins and triplets are born perfectly healthy. Women pregnant with multiples will, however, need to maintain closer contact with their doctors throughout their pregnancy.
Multiple Embryo Transfer
The reason why IVF moms have more twins is down to the multiple embryo transfer procedure that takes place during IVF. The aim of your fertility specialist is to give you the highest possible chance of conceiving. This is why you are given ovulation-inducing drugs, so that your ovaries produce as many eggs as possible for harvesting. This means that you have more embryos to choose from when it comes to embryo transfer.
There is by no means any guarantee that an embryo will implant into your uterine lining and grow into a baby. In fact, often none of them do, and the IVF treatment fails. That's why your IVF doctor will probably transfer more than one embryo to your uterus - to give you the best possible chance of success, within ethical boundaries. The limit for transfer is usually three embryos. If in your case, two embryos implant, then you're carrying twins - and if, as does (rarely) happen, one of those embryos divides - you're carrying triplets!
There are several potential risks to a multiple pregnancy, most of which can be reduced through careful monitoring.
Preeclampsia - this is basically another name for high blood pressure. This problem usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure readings, constant headaches, permanently swollen hands and feet, and problems with eyesight. Preeclampsia is potentially a very serious condition which can damage the mother's brain, heart, liver or kidneys - it may also damage the placenta, thereby harming the baby. Patients will need to be kept in hospital where the condition can be controlled until delivery. Delivery is ultimately the only sure cure for preeclampsia.
Gestational diabetes - this usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy. It can result in abnormally large babies being born - which can be dangerous during labor for both mother and child. The condition is detected through blood sugar tests. It can often be controlled through good diet and sensible exercise, combined with regular blood sugar checks. Sometimes, insulin injections may be required.
Premature delivery - multiples are often born before the full term of the pregnancy has passed. This may mean that the babies' organs have not fully developed. Premature babies may have problems with their brain, hearts, lungs, and eyes as they grow older. The earlier the children are born, the more likely they are to be affected.
Miscarriage - IVF seeks to control the human body to a certain extent, but sometimes the body refuses to be controlled. A multiple pregnancy may end in the miscarriage of one or more of the babies.
Keep Things In Perspective
This information is scary, especially if you are already pregnant with multiples. You have to keep things in perspective - a lot of twins and triplets are born totally healthy. You should speak to your doctor if you are concerned. What's certain is that getting stressed won't help keep your blood pressure down!