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Seattle fertility doctor says twins are trending, and that's risky

Ultrasound (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- A Seattle fertility doctor says more patients are asking for twins because of Beyoncé and George Clooney, though doctors are steering them away due to dangers.

Last month, Beyonce and Jay Z announced they are expecting twins. One week later, George and Amal Clooney publicized the same. The internet and the entertainment world loved it, as did Dr. Lora Shahine's patients.

Dr. Shahine, a physician at Pacific Northwest Fertility, says in the week following those announcements, almost every patient inquired about double embryo transfers and twins.

"Our goal is one healthy baby at a time," Dr. Shahine said. "And I know it's going to take a lot of counseling to talk to patients about that."

Many fertility patients use In Vitro Fertilization. During IVF, a double embryo creates a high chance of multiple birth pregnancy (twins).

But Dr. Shahine says she rarely recommends a double embryo transfer because of the high risk of twin pregnancies, to both the mother and the baby. Dr. Shahine and several online fertility sources say, for the mother, multiple gestation drastically increases the risk of gestation diabetes, heart problems and C-section, among other things. For the baby, the risk of early delivery and lifelong health issues like Cerebral Palsy increase.

"All twin pregnancies are higher risk," said Dr. Amy Criniti, a doctor with Seattle Reproductive Medicine. "I think our goal is healthy mom, healthy baby, healthy family. In vast majority of cases I think we can do better with single embryo transfer. It's important to reduce the number of twins as much as we can."

Dr. Criniti says 50 percent of twins are before before their due date, and the biggest risk in IVF is early delivery of multiples.

Dr. Criniti takes an "embryo preservation approach," claiming single embryo transfers raise the cumulative odds of pregnancy by increasing the number of transfers a woman can have. And with modern technology, pregnancy rates with frozen embryos, she says, are just as high as with fresh embryos.

Dr. Shahine says some women over 35 years old benefit from double embryo transfers if they do not do genetic testing of their embryo.

An article in the Guardian this year cites a study that found single embryo transfers are actually more successful for causing pregnancy than implanting multiple embryos.

Some fertility doctors have defended double embryo transfers. A 2011 Slate article cited several studies and doctors who claim multiple embryo transfers "can be cheaper and quicker."

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