Multiple embryo transfers during assisted reproduction pose greater risks to the mother and the baby than single embryo transfers, the Bureau of Health Promotion said yesterday.
As many women now wait longer to have their first child, couples are increasingly turning to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to conceive, the bureau said. It cited figures showing that the number of babies born as a result of ART rose from 2,317 in 1998 to 4,117 in 2010, accounting for 0.9 percent and 2.5 percent of total annual nationwide births respectively.
However, multiple embryo transfers can result in a multiple pregnancy of two or more fetuses, which poses a higher risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, antepartum and postpartum hemorrhages, and sepsis in mothers than single pregnancies, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said.
Babies born in multiple births are also more likely to suffer from long-term complications caused by being premature, Chiu added.
According to statistics compiled by the bureau in 2010, the live birth rate per embryo transfer cycle in Taiwan was 29.7 percent, compared with that of Europe, which was 23.1 percent, according to a 2008 annual report.
However, the average number of embryos implanted in Taiwan was higher, with only 31 percent of the total embryo transfer cycles performed implanting just one or two embryos, a percentage much lower than the 75.6 percent recorded in Europe, the bureau said.
In 2010, 54.3 percent of Taiwan’s ART births were multiple births, compared with 3.3 percent for non-ART births, the bureau said, meaning that one of every two ART births were multiple.
About 70 percent of babies born in multiple live births in 2010 were premature, 4.5 times higher than that of single births.
The low birth-weight rate was also 5.3 times higher than that of single live births.
Bureau Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) advised the public to have thorough pre-treatment discussions with doctors to familiarize themselves with all the potential risks, and attain sufficient knowledge about success rates and possible complications of assisted birth treatments.