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Blowing the Lid Off Multiple Embryo Transfer
a blog by the editors
We were abuzz this weekend when we read the front page article "The Gift of Life and Its Price" in the New York Times (and its companion piece "Grievous Choice on Risky Path to Parenthood"). After all, our goal here at FertilityAuthority is to educate women about fertility issues and to encourage discussion about the disease of infertility in the hopes of destigmatizing it.
Well, the Times article did just that. Oh boy, did it ever.
From an educational perspective, I found the article excellent. My colleagues, however, (one of whom has twins from IVF and the other who has TRIPLETS), said they thought it was a bit "alarmist.” A difference of opinion and perspective; both valid viewpoints.
I’ve spent about 45 minutes reading the article's commentary and I’m quite taken back. While I didn’t tally arguments for and against multiple embryo transfer (there are more than 300 posts), the bulk of commentary seems to imply (no, it outright states) that women/couples who spent thousands of dollars to “create” a baby via IVF are a self-absorbed, narcissistic lot who should forego IVF altogether in favor of adoption. I'd like to ask these posters if they have children of their own and, if so, if they'd be willing to give up their kids. I doubt they would.
But morals of IVF aside, the Times piece sheds light on many interesting issues. On one hand it clearly implies that single embryo transfer is the best policy for individual couples as well as for society at large, but on the other, it shows that transferring two embryos is more likely to result in a baby than transferring a single embryo.
The most important take away for me? It all comes down to patient EDUCATION.
I talk to many doctors about this issue. Most seem to agree that patient education falls short; that there is simply not enough time to do it justice. But the bottom line is that doctors should spend more time EDUCATING their patients, not just TREATING them.
It’s a challenge, no doubt. Maybe the answer is to have a specialist other than the doctor herself who is responsible for fully educating the patient about the single vs. multiple embryo transfer choice. (After all, my husband and I spent a full hour with a genetic specialist before I had an amnio). Though I’m not sure you can ever make prospective parents understand the potential costs – both subjective and objective – of multiples, at a minimum, you owe it to them to at least spend some time (more than a cursory 5 minutes) reviewing the statistics and potential outcomes.
We’re guessing more patients would choose single embryo transfer if they truly understood the risks and outcomes.
Let’s keep the discussion flowing. It will result in progress.