Fertility Drugs: The Top Cause of Multiple Births

fertility drugs: the top cause of multiple births

We have all seen the TLC shows about the seemingly average couples who end up with sextuplets. One minute the newlyweds are enjoying late-night dominos pizza and dealing with a few conception troubles, and the next minute they are trying to nurse and change diapers for six or more children. How does this happen? Is this normal? What is infertility anyways?

Infertility drugs, while helpful for couples who are struggling to conceive, can lead to a few more bundles of joy than expected. While the sextuplets scenario may be a little far-fetched, infertility drugs and modern birth practices such as waiting later in life to conceive can lead to the conception of multiples. Several reasons exist for multiple births, and while infertility treatments are a prime cause, other factors do exist.  

1.     In vitro fertilization

IVF is a form of reproductive technology using eggs and sperm from either the natural parents or a donor. During this process, a physician will remove eggs from the woman’s ovary, fertilize with sperm in a laboratory setting, and then implant them in the woman’s uterus. While a small percentage of couples struggling to conceive seek out IVF due to the complexity, invasive nature, and expense of the procedure, 200,000 babies have entered the world thanks to this medical innovation. Most physicians will recommend the insertion of three embryos which can result in several buns in the oven.

2.     Infertility drugs

Infertility drugs can be prescribed to a women who struggles to release eggs. These medications can be used to stimulate egg growth and release the egg in addition to increasing the volume of eggs that fully mature during each ovulation cycle. Since fertility medications are likely to cause the maturity to multiple eggs rather than the standard single egg, the chances of multiple birth increases. In fact, 10 to 30 percent of women who take one of the standard infertility drugs have multiple babies.

3.     Personal composition

Personal composition can also be a strong factor in increasing the likelihood of having multiple babies, particularly twins. If a woman has a family history of multiple births, her chances of carrying multiples increases. So if you are a woman and twins run in your family, be prepared for the possibility of more than one bundle of joy to arrive. Additionally, women with African heritage have an increased likelihood of conceiving multiple children.

4.     Age

Age is a strong contributor to multiple births. As women age, the likelihood of multiple births increases. After the age of 35, the likelihood of this occurrence increases at an even higher rate.

With a strong growth in the number of multiple babies being born each year, a 76 percent increase occurred in the number of twins born from 1980 to 2009. Today, the possibility of conceiving more than one baby is higher than ever. The combination of increased assistance in conceiving combined with many couples opting to wait later in life to have children has likely contributed to this dramatic increase. If you are considering having children and are struggling to conceive, speak with your doctor about options and ask questions to prepare for the possibility of multiple births.

By Meagan Bates