Should IVF Be Regulated?

Should the number of embryos implanted in women be regulated?

ByABC News
November 19, 2008, 2:47 PM

Nov. 20, 2008 — -- Jon and Kate Gosselin, like a growing number of couples who turn to fertility treatments, got more than they bargained for when they became the parents of two sets of multiples.

The Gosselins, who have one set of twins and one set of sextuplets, struggle daily with the demands having such a large family.

Fertility experts told that doctors struggle to strike a balance between the demands of infertile couples, who often ask to have large numbers of embryos implanted to increase their chances of conception, with the inherent risk that more than one of those embryos will take, leading to multiple births.

Multiple births carry a much higher risk of death for the infants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC says twins are five times more likely than singletons to die within a month of birth and triplets nearly 15 times more likely to die. Exact numbers for higher multiples aren't available, but the death rate is exponentially higher.

"It's a very, very difficult situation," said Dr. Richard Paulson, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California. "Here comes a young couple who took a second loan on their home so they could afford fertility treatment and they're very motivated to be successful."

"They'll tell us that that they want to implant as many as possible because this is their last chance," said Paulson. "And if we don't do it they'll just go to another doctor who will."

And evidently, couples do. According to the CDC, multiple births have increased greatly in the last 20 years, thanks to fertility drugs. In 2005, 68 sets of quintuplets or more were born, compared with 13 in 1990.