A study published recently online in the Journal of Pediatrics claims that up to 40 newborn deaths would be prevented in Canada each year if the number of embryos used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) were limited. Dozens of instances of severe eye and brain damage would also be prevented, and the number of days babies spend in intensive care units would be reduced by 42,000.
If just one embryo were used for each attempt, there would also be potential reductions in the number of premature twins and triplets, who are at more prone to health complications.
IVF is a process whereby eggs and sperm are fertilized externally and then transferred to the womb.
Often times during IVF in Canada and the United States, more than one embryo is implanted in the mother’s womb to increase her chances of becoming pregnant. The method also increases a woman’s chance of conceiving twins and triplets.
Twenty-nine percent of IVF pregnancies in Canada result in twins, while without it the rate is just one percent. Babies sharing a womb face an increased chance of premature birth. According to the study, if IVF were limited to one embryo at a time, there would be no chance of triplets, and just three pairs of twins per 100 deliveries — and the number of premature births and the accompanying complications would drop significantly.
The doctor who lead the study from the University of Montreal said “multi-embryo IVF is too risky to allow it to continue unrestricted.”
“If you by chance have a premature baby and are unlucky enough to have that child suffer with complications, that’s one thing,” he told Reuters Health. “But to actually have a procedure that increases the chance of that happening is something that should be changed.”
Not all experts agree, however, arguing if a one-embryo policy is put into place, some women will never get pregnant.