The March of Dimes applauds new fertility treatment guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) calling for a limited number of embryos -- in some cases only one -- to be transferred during in-vitro fertilization procedures.
"Limiting the number of transferred embryos will mean fewer higher-order multiple gestations, defined as three or more fetuses, and reduce the risk of complications for both the mother and the fetus, including preterm birth," said Dr. Nancy Green, March of Dimes medical director. "New parents may think there's more to love when you have more than one baby, but there's also more to worry about; more than half of twins and nearly all triplets are born prematurely, associated with an increased risk of death and disability."
About 12.5 percent of U.S. babies are born too soon (before 37 completed weeks gestation) each year and babies who survive face risks of lifelong health challenges.
The March of Dimes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and ASRM issued a first-ever joint consumer document stressing the importance of reducing the risk of a preterm birth for women undergoing fertility treatments.
More than one-third of pregnancies conceived using assisted reproductive therapies (transferring a fertilized egg into a uterus) result in a multiple birth. Pregnancies conceived using ovarian hyper-stimulation drugs, which accelerate egg production, often result in a multiple birth. Women considering these 'fertility drugs' should consult a specialist prior to using them.
The March of Dimes also suggested additional steps, beyond the ASRM guidelines, to help women make informed decisions about fertility treatments:
- Require informed consent documents include explicit information about the risk of multiples and premature birth.
- Require annual review of clinics' performance and publish a list of those with highest and lowest rates of higher-order multiple births.
"Consumers should demand quality assurance in the fertility business, just as they do in other aspects of health care," says Dr. Green. "Women should ask about a center's multiple birth rate, ensure it follows the guidelines and reports results to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology."
Information is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/art.htm.
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