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Multiple pregnancies hit the headlines

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

11 March 2003

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[BioNews, London] The issue of multiple pregnancies arising from fertility treatment attracted media attention last week, following the release of abortion statistics for the year 2001. The document, published by the National Office for Statistics, shows that 40 out of 176,364 abortions were carried out in order to reduce the number of fetuses in a multiple pregnancy. The figures do not reveal how many were conceived naturally, and how many were the result of fertility treatment.

Couples who conceive triplets or quadruplets may be offered the option of reducing the number of fetuses early in the pregnancy, a procedure known as fetal reduction. The statistics show that 49 fetuses were aborted for this reason during 2001 throughout England and Wales. Jack Scarisbrick, of the pressure group Life said: 'It is utter cynicism to deliberately manufacture a human being which you then deliberately destroy'.

Multiple pregnancies are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and pregnancy complications. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recommends that no more than two embryos should be transferred to a woman's womb during fertility treatment, apart from in 'exceptional circumstances'. A spokesperson for the HFEA told the BBC that the authority would be enforcing the limit on the number of embryos far more tightly in future. 'However, once there is a pregnancy, it is the woman's choice whether or not to opt for selective termination' she added.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 11 March 2003   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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