Less is more: the risks of multiple births. The Institute for Science, Law, and Technology Working Group on Reproductive Technology

Fertil Steril. 2000 Oct;74(4):617-23. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(00)00713-5.


Objective: To review the medical, social, and financial risks caused by the birth of multiples that need to be addressed in policy and practice.

Result(s): Many risks of multiple births are described in the literature. The medical risks to the offspring include death, low birth weight, deformational plagiocephaly, and other physical and mental disabilities. Risks to the women include premature labor, premature delivery, pregnancy-induced hypertension, toxemia, gestational diabetes, and vaginal-uterine hemorrhage. Children born in multiples face difficulty socializing, developmental delays, and behavioral problems, whereas their parents risk exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. In addition to personal costs faced by families, society often bears the financial costs of overburdened hospitals, caps on insurance and/or inability of parents to cover expenses.

Conclusion(s): Multiple births present potential acute and long-term medical risks to the pregnant woman and her children. However, more long-term follow-up research and more research on outcomes with higher-order multiples are needed. In designing practices and policies to improve the success of IVF while reducing the risk of multiples, it is important to balance the many interests involved. At a minimum, providers and patients need to be educated about the risks of multiple gestation so that steps can be taken to prevent adverse outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / economics
  • Fertilization in Vitro / trends
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Informed Consent
  • Insurance, Health
  • Multiple Birth Offspring* / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Reduction, Multifetal / psychology
  • Pregnancy, Multiple* / psychology
  • Risk Factors