The number of multiple births resulting from in vitro fertilization procedures, and the health risks that come with these births, could be reduced by better informing couples before beginning the procedure, a new study suggests.
In IVF, doctors fertilize a woman's eggs cells with sperm cells in a lab. Then, they transfer one or more embryos to the woman's uterus.
By transferring more than one embryo, a woman's chance of getting pregnant is higher than if just one is transferred, however, she also has a chance of getting pregnant with multiple babies.
In a Dutch study of 308 couples undergoing IVF, 43 percent of couples who were given additional counseling about the risks chose to transfer a single embryo in their first cycle of embryo transfer. Among couples who didn't receive additional risk counseling, 32 percent chose single-embryo transfer in their first cycle.
If the first transfer was unsuccessful and a second was performed, the percentages in both groups were lower. Of couples who received the additional information, 26 percent opted for single-embryo transfer, compared with 16 percent of those who had the standard care, according to the study.
But while the couples who were informed had a higher rate of choosing single-embryo transfer, the difference was small enough that chance could have played a role in the findings, the researchers said.
There were no differences between the couples' levels of anxiety or depression compared with those receiving standard care.
Patients given more knowledge on which to base their decisions make choices that are more individualized and empowered, the researchers said.
The study was published on Sept. 30 in the British Medical Journal.
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