Fertility Drugs, not IVF, are Top Cause of Multiple Births


1. The Rise of Multiples

Multiple births. It’s no secret that they are on the rise in recent years, as the number of twins, triplets, and higher order multiples continues to increase. It has long been believed that IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques have been to blame for the increase of multiple births.

However, recently scientists discovered that it might not be the medical techniques that are responsible after all, and it looks like fertility drugs are to blame. By 2011, 36% of twin births and 77% of triplets, quads and quintuplets came as a result of fertility treatments including fertility drugs, according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.


The number of multiple births of triplets or more due to fertility drugs like clomiphene citrate and injectable hormones rose from 36 percent to 45 percent from 1998 to 2011. At the same time, the births of multiples because of IVF dropped from 48 percent to 32 percent.

2. What This Means

When all of this data is looked at together, it shows that IVF and other ART techniques are not actually the cause of multiple births. Instead, it looks like the fertility drugs that were used in conjunction were actually the ones to blame.


“IVF, which is usually the one we tend to point fingers at, was not the leading culprit,” says Eli Adashi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who was senior author of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Fertility drugs like Clomid and injectable hormones have increased in popularity in recent years due to the lower cost and accessibility to all patients.

3. What The Future Holds

It is clear at this point that using fertility drugs instead of treatment options like IVF is increasing the likelihood of twins and higher order multiples. Doctors don’t like for women to get pregnant with multiples, because the risk of complications is much higher.

when-women-use-IVF-to-get-pregnant-doctors-have-more-control-over-the-number-of-embryos-unlike-fertility-drugsWhen women use assisted reproductive techniques like IVF to get pregnant, doctors have much more control over the number of embryos that are implanted. When fertility drugs are used, doctors lack that control over how many embryos will be released.

This can increase the likelihood of multiples in women that use fertility drugs. Doctors will be keeping a close eye on this in the future and will continue to try to figure out a way to reduce the risk of multiples with fertility drugs, to minimize the risk of complications.

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Ms. Wisniewski has over 15 years experience as a labor and delivery nurse, having also worked previously as a nurse midwife in the Philippines and India. She enjoys empowering women and providing family centered care to women from all cultural and educational backgrounds.

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