The IVF embryo limit

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Limiting the number of embryos used to get pregnant with in vitro fertilization could reduce the number of newborn deaths, prevent cases of severe eye and brain damage, and cut the time babies spend in hospital, a Canadian study said.

In the case of Canada, this would prevent up to 40 newborn deaths in the country every year, and cut the time babies spend in intensive care units by 42,000 days annually, researchers led by Keith Barrington, at the University of Montreal, said.

What is IVF?

During IVF, eggs are fertilized by sperm outside the body and then transferred to the womb. Transferring more than one embryo is thought to increase a woman's odds of getting pregnant, but it also increases her chance of multiple births.

In 2005, 29% of IVF pregnancies in Canada were twins and about 1% were triplets which leads to a greater risk of premature birth.

The study said that if IVF were limited to one embryo for each attempt to become pregnant, there would be just three pairs of twins for every 100 deliveries, and no triplets.

In one year at their hospital in Montreal, for example, 75 babies - all either a twin or a triplet conceived with IVF - were admitted to the intensive care unit between 2005 and 2007.

Twenty were born extremely prematurely, six of them died and five had severe bleeding in the brain.

The researchers estimated that if the mothers of these babies had had just one embryo transferred, there would have been just eight babies admitted to the intensive care unit.

Multi-embryo IVF is too risky to continue unrestricted, and being selective about who receives multiple embryos might be one compromise, since chances of getting pregnant for women over 35 who transfer just one embryo are greatly reduced.

What do you think? Should there be a restriction on the amount of embryos used in IVF?
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