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date: 20 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Multiple births are an unfortunate consequence of assisted reproductive technology, causing risks to both fetuses and pregnant women. The central ethical issue raised by multiple pregnancy is the conflict between the fertility patient’s desire to get pregnant and the increased risks to offspring. Although extreme cases in which many embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus are very rare—and represent negligence—twin pregnancies are still common. Many women undergoing fertility treatment reportedly express a preference for twin pregnancies to reduce the costs and risks of the procedure while increasing their opportunities for having more than one child. However, risks to the offspring are significant and underappreciated, including prematurity, low birth weight, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. Even though many multiple pregnancies result in good outcomes, the ethical question is whether the risks are justifiable in order to improve the chances of pregnancy when transfer of a singleton embryo is an available alternative.

Keywords: in vitro fertilization, “Octomom, ” twins, multiple births, single embryo transfer, assisted reproductive technology, risks to offspring

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