NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 8, 2004

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is often accompanied by higher odds of multiple births. Likewise, multiples generally face more health risks. Consequently, it is time that fertility clinics educate patients about the odds and dangers of multiple births and that insurers reconsider funding IVF to lower overall medical costs, say observers.

  • In 2001, 46 percent of infants conceived as a result of IVF were twins, and 8 percent were triplets or more.
  • Twins face five times the risk of fetal death, seven times the risk of death in early infancy, and four times the risk of cerebral palsy when compared with singletons.

Data from abroad suggests that if health insurers provided coverage for IVF, doctors would be more cautious about the number of embryos they transfer to a patient's womb.

  • If just one embryo were transferred -- as is common in some European countries and Australia -- the health care savings in treating fewer multiples would be significant.
  • A Dutch study found that the medical cost per twin pregnancy is more than five times higher than per singleton pregnancy.

Many IVF patients pour their life savings into expensive fertility treatments, and clinics wants to advertise high success rates, so some doctors avoid educating patients completely on the risks of multiples. But IVF patients have the right to know all the pros and cons of IVF procedures, including potential risks and costs, says Leigh.

Source: Suzanne Leigh, "Fertility patients deserve to know the odds -- and risks," USA Today, July 7, 2004.


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