One too many bundles of joy?

An article in today’s New York Times shed some light on the often-underpublicized dangers of a procedure called intrauterine injection, or IUI, an alternative fertility treatment to IVF that, while cheaper and less invasive, is also more likely to lead to dangerous multiple births with complications and the risk of death for the mother and the babies.

Women who have gone through large multiple pregnancies with poorer results say the shows give viewers a misleading picture by failing to present the wreckage left behind in many cases – babies who are stillborn, spend months in the hospital undergoing painful procedures that require morphine or suffer from long-term disabilities.

About 1 in 5 pregnancies are multiples, mostly twins, but with more babies comes a greater risk of complications. Quadruplets, for example, have a more than 10 percent chance of dying in infancy, the article found. And that doesn’t even consider the financial costs of the medical care multiple-birth babies usually require:

“We have families that have babies here for three or four or five months, and they’re having discussions with their insurance companies because they have reached the lifetime limit of their medical coverage,” said Dr. Scott Jarriel, a neonatologist who works at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas and treats the Stansel babies”

Sure, but a lot of medical procedures come with risks, right? That’s true, but this is different for two reasons: First, the desire for a baby, especially among would-be parents who have trouble conceiving, can escalate beyond rational. Maybe it’s hard-wired, maybe its cultural, but the pull to conceive – in whatever way possible – can cloud the minds of potential parents and literally can make them deaf to the risks, even as fertility doctors are explaining them.

Second — and I’m never so happy as when I blame Hollywood for things — multiple births are sexy now. Shows like “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” the media circus around Octomom Nadya Suleman and the new WE (Women’s Entertainment) netwrok series “Raising Sextuplets,” which follows Jenny and Bryan Masche and their brood, glamorize the “-tuplets” lifestyle.

But here’s something to consider: Jon and Kate divorced over the stress of raising the kids. Jenny Masche went into heart failure during her pregnancy, though she has since recovered. As fertility medicine makes parenthood possible for more and more people, we should make sure we’re proceeding rationally. Nothing is more important than the safety of mother and child and making sure potential parents have all the information – and carefully consider it – should be a priority for fertility doctors.

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