Parents say they regret In vitro twins, stir up controversy

Parents say they regret In vitro twins, stir up controversy
FILE -- An embryologist works on a petri dish at the Create Health fertility clinic in south London. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

SEATTLE -- Typically when you hear from parents who become pregnant after years of trying, the moms- and dads-to-be express joy and excitement over their growing bundles of joy. But, an anonymously blogging mother and father are receiving backlash for writing online that they are “regretful” after becoming pregnant with twins through In vitro fertilization.

The bloggers shared their story on the parenting website Babble, describing how they tried for two years to conceive a sibling for their first child before deciding to try In vitro fertilization, or IVF. When given the choice to implant one or two fertilized embryos, the mother writes she chose to implant two, knowing it would increase her chances of becoming pregnant with just one baby. But, both embryos implanted, and the parents are now pregnant with twins – and they’re not happy.

“We were hoping for one girl, instead we got two boys,” the father wrote in his blog post. “My initial reaction was full of disappointment, anger, fear and guilt.”

“In my mind I had done nothing less than ruin our family,” the mother said in hers.

For years IVF has been associated with multiple births, but Dr. Julie Lamb,  a physician at Pacific Northwest Fertility in Seattle, said she encourages her patients to implant just one embryo at a time to avoid pregnancy complications like preterm labor, gestational diabetes and hypertension, which are more common with twins.

“One healthy baby at a time is always the goal,” Lamb said. “No doctor wants someone to have twins. You only have to see one set of twins with complications to encourage patients to transfer one embryo at a time.”

Lamb said she could understand why a woman “approaching 40” – as the mother blogger described herself – would implant two embryos to increase her chances of getting pregnant, given that the chances of a successful pregnancy through IVF decrease with age. Still, she said women who don’t want twins should never implant more than one.

“Anyone who doesn’t want to have twins has choices,” Lamb said.

Despite her recommendations, Lamb said she is only able to convince about a third of her patients to implant just one embryo at a time.

“People get so desperate to get pregnant they just put more back in,” she said. “It’s hard to look at the long term when all you can think of in the short term is achieving a pregnancy.”

Others are concerned about the costs of embryo implantation. After a woman’s eggs are harvested and fertilized, a process which can cost about $7,000 to $10,000, each implantation is around $3,000.

“It’s hard to mandate the number to transfer when the patient is paying for it,” Lamb said.

Prospective parents can increase the chances of a single embryo sticking by first testing them for chromosomal abnormalities, a technology that was not widely available until just 5 years ago, Lamb said. But, some parents would still rather implant multiple embryos than manipulate their embryos any further by testing them.

In Washington it is ultimately the parents’ decision how many embryos to implant, but some parents around the country have less say. In states with mandated healthcare coverage for fertility treatments Lamb said some insurers are requiring doctors to only implant one embryo at a time because additional IVF treatments typically cost less than medical care for twins.

Seattle resident Megan Logan and her husband decided 18 months ago to implant two embryos when trying IVF to increase their chances of pregnancy. When they became pregnant with twins, she said her reaction was quite different from that of the anonymous bloggers.

“I was thunderstruck, but in a good way,” Logan said. “I was terrified of what it would be like, but thrilled that it had finally, finally, finally worked.”

Logan said her doctor clearly explained the increased chance of her having twins and even asked her to sign a consent form clarifying she knew both embryos could implant.

“I felt that with all that we had been through- emotionally, physically and financially- two would be fine,” Logan said.

Now that her twins are 9 months old, Logan describes raising her children as both thrilling and overwhelming.

“There are two of these tiny people that rely on you for every single little thing,” she said. “However, when I come home from work, I’ve got four pudgy hands clapping to see me.  I can listen to them in their room, ‘talking’ to each other.  It’s a crazy, crazy time, but it is so much fun.”

Logan said the expecting parents’ blog posts upset her.

“Being annoyed is one thing, saying it ruined your family is heartbreaking,” she said. “I mourn for the child she will perhaps resent.”

Still, Logan urges other parents trying IVF to consider their options carefully before implanting more than one embryo.

“It can be easy to say, ‘Yes!  We’ll take two!’ when you’ve been faced with the gut-wrenching pain of infertility, but it’s a life changing decision.”