Twin Pregnancies and IVF: Not a Benign Act

by Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway

Stephanie Saul's New York Times article, "The Gift of Life, and Its Price," affected me on a personal level. As an obstetrician and a victim of infertility, I am well versed with the inherent risks of IVF. Saul describes the exorbitant costs of fertility treatments and the increased complications of multiple births. We are still recovering from the aftermath of Nayda Suleman's controversial delivery. It's miraculous that neither Suleman nor her eight babies died.

In Saul's article, we follow the Mastera family who conceived twins through in Vitro Fertilization after four failed attempts using artificial insemination. The twins subsequently delivered prematurely at 32 weeks and were in the neonatal intensive care unit for approximately 51 days at a cost of $1.2 million dollars.

4-day-old embryoThe average cost of an IVF cycle ranges from $12,000 to $25,000. Is there any wonder why there is a low compliance to follow the prescribed guidelines and attempt conception with just one embryo when the chances of a live birth are improved with two? Unfortunately, the greater the number of embryos, the greater the risk of preterm deliveries, therefore having a twin pregnancy is not a benign act. Even WITHOUT the benefit of IVF, a twin pregnancy is a high risk condition.

Twins are notorious for delivering prematurely, have an increased risk of the placenta separating too soon, increase the mother's chances of developing hypertension and 30% end up in the NICU. Twin pregnancies should be managed by high-risk obstetricians (aka maternal fetal specialists).

Coping with infertility is an emotional roller coaster, a ride I know all too well. In the end, my husband and I chose adoption and are the proud parents of two rambunctious little boys.

For those who are considering IVF, less is sometimes better than more. Should you opt to use more than one embryo and successfully conceive, PLEASE place your pregnancy in the hands of a skilled maternal fetal medicine specialist. I promise you won't regret it.

Linda Burke-Galloway, M.D., descended from two 19th-century midwives, is a board-certified ob-gyn and author of The Smart Mother's Guide to a Better Pregnancy: How to Minimize Risks, Avoid Complications, and Have a Healthy Baby. Dr. Burke-Galloway graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1987. She did her ob-gyn residency training at Harlem Hospital, a Columbia University teaching hospital.

Dr. Burke-Galloway's passion for babies inspired her to provide quality healthcare to medically underserved women, many of whom had high-risk problems. She is an expert in recognizing and managing obstetrical risks before they spin out of control and has prevented potential disasters for both mothers and their unborn babies. Dr. Burke-Galloway is also a medical malpractice consultant for the federal government.

Read more from Dr. Burke-Galloway at her blog.

Copyright © Linda Burke-Galloway. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.