30 year old Linda and her husband Graeme have 3 children – Brendon 7, Kristie 4 and Tamara 3. Linda is 30 weeks pregnant with triplets as a result of IVF treatment. She had been on IVF as she had polycystic ovary syndrome which can cause infertility.
An ultrasound shows the triplets all have heart beats but are still small. She is told by her doctor that if the babies’ growth rate slows or stops then a delivery via emergency caesarian may be necessary.
If the babies are delivered at this early stage, there is a substantial risk of a neonatal death. For twins, the risk is five times higher than a single birth and for triplets thirteen times higher. Only 1% - 2% of women on IVF become pregnant with triplets.
10 weeks early Linda goes into labour and after a dash to the hospital the triplets (all girls) are delivered by caesarean section. Two babies need to be ventilated as their lungs are not well developed.
At birth Tasha the biggest bub weighed 1872 grams - Jada weighed 1448 grams and Jasmin the smallest bub weighed 1322 grams.
After some initial problems the triplets finally went home and three months down the track they are all doing well.
More facts and figures...
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Ovaries that have multiple cysts secondary to hormone dysfunction.
What is the link between polycystic ovary syndrome and fertility?
Infertility can occur because the syndrome may result in the failure to ovulate.
How common is the disease?
Polycystic ovaries are common - they occur in about 1 in 5 women.
What is the success rate of IVF treatment?
There is a 35% pregnancy rate per cycle for women who are under 35 years of age. For women who are over 35, the success rate drops to 30% per cycle.
IVF can often result in multiple births. How common are single conceptions/ twins/ quadruplets?
Quadruplets are very rare. Triplets occur as a result of about 1% IVF conceptions. There is a fairly high rate of twins that occur with IVF, when two embryos are returned (about 30%). But there is only a 2-5% chance of twins being conceived when only one embryo is implanted.
Why do so many IVF treatments result in multiple births?
Because it is common to transfer two embryos in an effort to increase the chances of success. doctors still transfer up to 6 embryos in an effort to be successful which can cause problems for couples who are not prepared for a multiple birth. In Australia doctors are more conservative, and normally will not implant more than two embryos.
What are some common risks that are related to multiple births?
Mother can have an increased risk of anaemia and high blood pressure, and can more often be in need of Caesarean section. The chances of having an obstetrically preterm labour, operative delivery and caesarean section are increased. There is also in increase risk of neonatal and perinatal death, prematurity and growth restrictions.
Are IVF babies just as likely to survive as non-IVF babies?
Can there be a risk to the mother when babies are delivered by emergency caeasarean?
Yes, mainly from infection, and also the risk involved with any procedure that requires an anaesthetic.
Are there any concerns in later life for babies like Linda’s triplets?
There is a risk involved for any baby that is born at 30 weeks, whether it is a single or multiple birth. There is about a 10% risk of disablity when a child is born at 30 weeks, however if there is a disability, it is likely to be mild.
Should you like to try IVF treatment, or if you require any additional information, please contact your local GP who will refer you to your nearest specialist.
Information courtesy of RPA.