By providing information on the risks involved with transferring multiple embryos after in vitro fertilization – risks that include higher chances of multiple pregnancies and complications – doctors hope more couples would opt to do single-embryo transfers instead, a new study suggests.

In vitro fertilization, doctors take eggs out of the woman to be fertilized with a man's sperm. Then, in what are called cycles, doctors transfer one or more embryos back into the woman. The more embryos transferred, the higher the chance of getting pregnant and having multiple babies. By only transferring one embryo, the risk for having multiples decreases, but it may take several cycles – and more money – to become pregnant.

In a Dutch study of 308 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization, 43 percent of couples who were informed of the risks chose to go the single-embryo route for their first cycle of embryo transfer, compared to 32 percent of couples who didn’t receive special information and had standard care.

In the second cycle of embryo transfer, the percentage was even lower – 26 percent of couples who had the special information opted for single-embryo transfer, compared to 16 percent who had the standard care, according to the study.

But while the couples who were informed had a higher rate of choosing singe-embryo transfer, the percent difference is not statistically significant, the study said, and could possibly be from pure chance.

There were no differences between the couples' levels of anxiety or depression compared with those receiving standard care, but couples who chose single-embryo transfer saved some money –on average, $219.12 per couple.

By giving patients the knowledge to make their own decisions with in vitro fertilization, they can make more individualized and empowered decisions, the researchers said.

The study was published today (Sept. 30) in the British Medical Journal.