In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, has continued to grow in popularity among couples that are having difficulty conceiving. At the Center for Fertility and Gynecology, our fertility doctors have helped many Los Angeles area couples conceive with the help of IVF. Prior to treatment, we educate patients about the possible risks and outcomes of IVF. One such risk is the increased chance of twins. In this blog post, the doctors at our fertility center discuss IVF and the increased risk of twins and multiples.
Understanding the IVF Process
To become pregnant, the egg must first be fertilized and form an embryo, and then it must successfully implant itself into the uterus. With IVF, the egg is fertilized by the sperm outside of the body in a laboratory setting. During this period, fertility doctors monitor the fertilization process and select the strongest embryos for transfer. When the fertilization stage of the IVF or conception process is a success, it greatly increases a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant. Still, once the embryo or embryos have been transferred to the female reproductive tract, the embryo or embryos must implant in the uterus for the women to become pregnant.
IVF and the Risk of Multiples
The IVF process involves the following stages:
- The use of fertility drugs to stimulate ovarian egg production
- When the timing is right, the eggs are retrieved from the body and the sperm is obtained and prepared
- The sperm is mixed with or injected into the egg
- Over the next one to five days, fertilization occurs
- Viable embryos are transferred into the fallopian tubes or into the uterine cavity
It is the final stage of IVF, the embryo transfer stage, that will affect the patient’s chances of having multiples. If only one embryo is transferred, there is no increased risk of multiples. If two embryos are transferred, the chance of having twins is greatly increased, as it is possible that both embryos will successfully implant. The chance of successful implantation increases when more embryos are transferred; however, the risk of multiples also increases. In most cases, only two embryos are transferred to the uterus.
Many couples, especially those who have had difficulty having children, wish to have several embryos implanted to increase the chance of pregnancy. Many would even be delighted to have twins. Considering that IVF is generally not covered by insurance, costly, and emotionally taxing, this is certainly understandable.
However, it is important to note that a woman pregnant with twins is more likely to experience complications than a woman pregnant with one child. The following risks are associated with multiples:
- Premature birth
- Low birth rate
- Gestational diabetes
- Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)
At the Center for Fertility and Gynecology, we evaluate each couple’s fertility problems and age to determine how many embryos should be transferred. To learn more about IVF and find out if it is a good option for you and your partner, contact our practice today. We will perform the necessary tests and develop a fertility treatment plan to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy.