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Your triplets just got even more special

Posted May 5

Having triplets is special, and it’s becoming even more so.

The number of three-or-more births peaked in the 1980s and '90s, but it's now fallen just as dramatically, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1998 and 2014, the number of women who gave birth to three or more children dropped 41 percent, from about 1 in every 515 births to one in 880.

The biggest change occurred within one subset of mothers: those who were 45 or older. The incidence of triplets among older mothers dropped by two-thirds, from 2,326.0 to 769.9 per 100,000 births.

The reason, STAT reported, is that doctors are implanting fewer embryos when helping women get pregnant.

Writer Jennifer Adaeze Anyaegbunam interviewed a 30-year-old woman who gave birth to triplets last year after undergoing in vitro fertilization. The mother chose to implant two embryos; both thrived and one divided, resulting in triplets. But, Anyaegbunam wrote, "Just two decades ago, a woman Fortin’s age would commonly have had twice as many embryos implanted."

That's because doctors couldn't tell which embryos would survive, Dr. Lawrence Grunfeld, associate clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital, told STAT.

Improvements in reproductive technology, however, mean that doctors can assess an embryo's condition through a process called preimplantation genetic screening. And new professional guidelines encourage doctors to implant fewer embryos, with the goal of achieving a single birth.

“Infants born in triplet deliveries are at high risk of poor outcomes. So a decline in these deliveries is a positive for infant health overall and for public health overall," the lead author of the CDC report, Joyce A. Martin, told STAT.

In 2013, 7 percent of triplet or higher-order births (more than three babies born at a time) did not survive for one year, compared to 0.5 percent of singletons. Those that did survive were more likely to have long-term health issues, the CDC said.

The change in triplet birth rates mostly affects older mothers because they are more likely seek fertility treatments. Among women under 25, the rate of three-or-more births was not significantly different, the CDC said.

The agency's report also noted that the number of pregnancies in older women is continuing to rise. In 1998, 36 percent of babies were born to women 30 or older. By 2014, the rate had risen to 44 percent.

Meanwhile, the birth rate for teen mothers has continued to decline and is now at a record low, having fallen 20 percent since 1991.

Among all multiple births, twins still prevail. According to Multiples of America, 135,336 babies born in 2014 were twins, compared to 4,233 triplets, 246 quadruplets and 37 quintuplets or more.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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