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Health Team

In vitro fertilization comes with risks

Posted March 5, 2009 5:23 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Debate over fertility treatments has raged since Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets in Bellflower, Calif., on Jan. 26. When implanting embryos, there are health risks for both the mother and the babies, not to mention the challenges of raising several infants at once.

When couples turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF), there is always the possibility of multiple births. Even when a couple wants one child, the process can be a guessing game.

For five years, Sheree Mann, 40, and her husband tried everything to get pregnant, including hormone supplements.

“And that still didn't work, so IVF was my last chance, and it worked,” Mann said.

With the help of IVF and Carolina Conceptions, Mann is 15 weeks' pregnant with four babies. However, anything beyond twins is never fertility specialist Dr. Bill Meyer's goal.

“I think it's one of the most devastating things about assisted reproduction. I think it's even more devastating than a non-pregnancy,” Meyer said.

Dr. Jeff Kuller, a Duke obstetrician, says women with multiple gestations face a greater risk of blood pressure problems. The babies are at increased risk for "cerebral palsy, intracranial hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis (and) fetal lung immaturity,” Kuller said.

Meyer said he considered Mann's age and history of infertility when deciding how many embryos to transplant.

“We chose a more aggressive plan because we definitely wanted to make sure that I conceived this time. So I went with four,” Mann said.

The hope was that at least one embryo would take.

“Actually, her chance of having quads was about 1 in 7,500,” Meyer said.

“I was not statistically in the mix because all four of mine took,” Mann said.

So far, Mann and the babies are doing well. She said hopes the quads wait until at least the 30-week mark before delivery.

“Anything beyond 30 weeks just increases the chances of my children being stronger and healthier,” Mann

The Manns are also well prepared to care for four babies. They have a large enough home and steady jobs. They plan to hire a nanny and a night nurse. Sheree Mann's mother also plans to help care for the babies, they said.