Research

IVF restrictions could reduce newborn deaths

Limiting the number of embryos used for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) would prevent up to 40 newborn deaths in Canada each year, researchers say. It would also stave off dozens of cases of severe eye and brain damage, and cut the time babies spend in intensive care units by 42,000 days annually, they estimate in the Journal of Pediatrics. The results reflect the potential reductions in the number of premature twins and triplets — who are at greater risk of health complications — that would occur under a policy of using just one embryo for each attempt to get pregnant via IVF. During the procedure, eggs are fertilised by sperm outside the body and then transferred to the womb. Transferring more than one embryo into the mother’s womb is thought to increase her odds of getting pregnant, but it also increases her chances of having multiple babies. Both Canada and the U.S. currently allow multiple embryos to be implanted during each IVF cycle. In 2005, 29 percent of IVF pregnancies in Canada were twins and about one percent were triplets, according to the new report. Without fertility treatments, the rate of twins is about one percent, while triplets occur in just one of every 8,100 births, according to the advocacy organisation Multiple Births Canada. Babies that share the womb have a greater risk of being born early, as do babies conceived via IVF, the authors write. The study found that if IVF were limited to one embryo for each attempt to become pregnant, there would be just three pairs of twins for every 100 deliveries, and no triplets.

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