Are you daydreaming about your little bundle of joy but need help conceiving? If you are considering using fertility drugs or treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), to get pregnant, you may wonder if you should start imagining yourself with two little bundles instead of one. A study published in the Dec. 5, 2013 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine confirms that the "increased use of fertility treatments in the U.S. has been associated with a substantial rise in the rate of multiple births."
The study crunched decades of birth stats ranging back to 1962, before fertility treatments were used, and compared the rates of multiple births conceived the old-fashioned way with those that used fertility drugs for assistance. Researchers found that over the years, the number of twin births increased by a factor of 1.9 and the number of triplet and higher-order births increased by a factor of 6.7. By 2011, 36 percent of twin births in the United States occurred in mothers who used fertility treatments, and fertility treatments were responsible for a whopping 77 percent of triplet—or higher—births. Countering the trend of more multiples, the number of triplet or higher births fell by 29 percent from 1998 to 2011 due to a recommendation to reduce the number of embryos transferred during the IVF process.
So what does this all mean?
While most people know that the chance of multiple births increases when multiple embryos are implanted during IVF, the researchers found that fertility drugs that stimulate ovulation are actually the primary cause of the increase in the number of multiples born in the United States. But even if you conceive naturally, you might end up with more than one baby. About 64 percent of all twins were conceived without fertility assistance. Many factors besides the use of fertility drugs impact whether a woman will have more than one baby. A woman's genetics, family history, ethnicity, age and propensity to release two eggs during ovulation all contribute to how many babies will be conceived. Bottom line, multiple babies can join your family with or without fertility treatments, so needing to buy all your baby supplies in duplicate—or triplicate—is a possibility every pregnant woman faces.