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Examining Single Embryo Transfers

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A blog by Dr. John Zhang, New Hope Fertility, October 6, 2015

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been used for decades to help couples start and grow their families. Traditionally, IVF carried a substantial risk of having twins due to transferring multiple embryos. It was believed that transferring multiple embryos increased the odds of becoming pregnant. Today's research has debunked those myths. Transferring multiple embryos does not increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant. What it does increase is the risk of having twins if pregnancy does occur.

Single Embryo Transfer
It is recommended that patients use a single embryo transfer approach. This means that during transfer, only one high quality embryo is transferred into the mother. The goal of this treatment philosophy is to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Carrying a multiple pregnancy increases the risk to the mother and babies. Transferring one embryo is just as likely to result in pregnancy without the added risk.

The Risk of Having Twins
For many individuals facing fertility treatment, the thought of having twins is somewhat appealing. Some may think that having two children at once can allow them to complete their family in a single pregnancy. What they may fail to consider is the substantial risks that occur with multiple pregnancies.

  • Increased chance of having a miscarriage
  • Increased likelihood of having gestational high blood pressure
  • Higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
  • Higher risk of developing gestational diabetes
  • Increased chance of developing anemia

In addition to the risks to the mother, there are additional risks for the babies:

  • Increased chance of premature birth
  • Increased chance of having low birth weight
  • Higher risk of having fetal growth restriction

Generally, most women who are carrying a multiple pregnancy are treated as high risk. This means more frequent visits to the doctor to ensure that both babies are developing as expected. It is important to note that the additional visits do not mean that there is a problem, but only that the office is taking precautions to ensure that the mother and babies are well taken care of.


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