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Infertility A Problem For Many

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CHAPEL HILL — America's first septuplets since 1997 were delivered July 12 at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. The five boys and two girls were born 12 weeks prematurely. Doctors say the mother, who does not want to be identified, took fertility drugs.

Couples who are having trouble conceiving are often willing to do whatever it takes to have a baby, but some treatments are controversial.

Giving birth to septuplets can be dangerous to the health of the mother and the babies. The babies usually have a very low birth weight, their organs are not fully developed, and they are at risk for serious birth defects. Many infertility doctors consider septuplet pregnancies a medical mistake.

"When pregnancies like this occur, a mother delivers seven or eight babies at a time, the media presents that as a celebration of medical technology when in truth those of us in the sub-specialty who provide that care see it very differently -- as a serious consequence or complication of the treatment that was offered," said Dr. Marc Fritz, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Division Chief, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of North Carolina.

The number of multiple births has increased greatly with improved technology in infertility treatments.

"It is never the intent of any physician treating an infertile couple to try to achieve a multiple pregnancy. We simply acknowledge it is an unavoidable risk, a manageable, but unavoidable risk. Any time a treatment results in a septuplet pregancy, one can only view that as an extremely unfortunate consequence of treatment that has it's own complications and difficulties this family will have to face," said Fritz.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports that infertility affects over six million women and their partners. That is about 10 percent of the reproductive age population.


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