Multiple births on the rise for past two decades

Treatments for fertility issues more common

Madison Anderson (left), 7, lies still while her twin brother, Adam, outlines her body in chalk Monday while playing after school at their Lake in the Hills home.
Madison Anderson (left), 7, lies still while her twin brother, Adam, outlines her body in chalk Monday while playing after school at their Lake in the Hills home.

Two years after Jim and Wendy Anderson got married in 2002, they started going to fertility treatments because Wendy has polycystic ovaries and the Lake in the Hills couple couldn’t conceive naturally.

After going through different medications and procedures, the couple decided to go through the in vitro fertilization route.

It was a process that took two attempts, a physical toll on Wendy and an emotional toll on the couple. It cost $18,000 out of pocket.

During that second attempt, the then-34-year-old Wendy became pregnant with twins, and the couple had the family it wanted.

Over the past two decades there has been an increase in the rate of multiple births by 76 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.3 percent of births in 2012 resulted in twins, and a recent New England Journal of Medicine article estimated that 36 percent of twin births and 77 percent of triplet births came after conception assisted by fertility treatments.

When the Andersons first tried in vitro, they had two embryos implanted into Wendy. She also had to have regular shots done at the same time every day to help encourage her body to take the pregnancy.

“It’s time consuming,” Wendy Anderson said.

But the first time wasn’t successful.

“After the first round it was heartbreaking,” Wendy Anderson said. “After going through all of that procedure, and nothing came about, we were devastated because we had all these quality eggs that were available. [The doctor] put two in, and ... nothing stuck. We just put all this money in and we’re not going to have kids.”

After waiting a few months to allow Wendy’s body to physically recover, and for the couple to recover emotionally, they tried again. And against their doctor’s recommendation, they had implanted three embryos into Wendy, hoping for better results.

“It really had to do with the numbers,” Wendy Anderson said. “It’s going to increase our odds if we do just one more egg, and we told ourselves, ‘So what if we had twins ... it’s not that big of an issue. We’ve always wanted at least two children anyway.’”

By the end of their fertility processes, they paid $18,000 out of pocket. Insurance only paid $4,000 toward the treatment.

Now their 7-year-old twins, Adam and Madison, who were born three days early, are involved in activities: Adam in baseball, Madison in ballet. They both play piano.

“I got the prize package,” Wendy Anderson said.

Dr. Laurence Jacobs is a fertility doctor with an office in Crystal Lake.

He has worked to reduce the amount of times women give birth to multiples after they get pregnant through fertility treatments.

Couples usually try in vitro treatments after other fertility treatment, such as medications, have not worked, Jacobs said.

Before in vitro, some couples will try shots of medication, which can be strong and could allow for the release of three or four eggs in the woman, Jacobs said.

That could lead to multiples.

However in vitro treatments also can lead to multiples, especially if doctors implant multiple embryos into a woman.

The cost can be about $15,000 per try, Jacobs said. It can be more expensive for women in their 40s.

He tries to limit the possibility of twins and triplets because taking care of them is more expensive, and there is a greater risk for developmental problems, or issues such as cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and ADHD, and “other learning deficits that will affect them for a lifetime,” Jacobs said.

Doctors might put in more embryos into a woman to increase the odds of the woman becoming pregnant.

However, Jacobs encourages only putting in one embryo at a time.

“You get push back from couples who don’t want to be conservative, especially if they’re paying for it,” Jacobs said.

“Many people are desperate to be successful and are willing to take the risks of twins,” Jacobs added.

Heather Herbolsheimer is an OB/GYN at Barrington Health Care for Women. She said the amount of twins being born at her practice has remained steady in her 12 years of work.

But she is someone who went through in vitro treatment herself, which helped lead to her 9-year-old daughter.

The 43-year-old doctor said she decided to go through the treatment because she decided to start a family later in life after she was established in her career. It’s a situation common with many women, Herbolsheimer said.

However, the older someone is, the lower the fertility rate, Herbolsheimer said.

She went through in vitro treatment twice, she said.

Going through the process can be frustrating and leave couples emotionally spent, Herbolsheimer said.

The process involves frequent blood draws and taking time off work.

And if the process is not successful, and couples want to try again, they have to wait three to four months.

Even as an OB/GYN, Herbolsheimer took the risk and had multiple embryos implanted in her in hopes of getting pregnant, she said.

For the Andersons, they have the ideal family, Jim Anderson said.

“It’s perfect what we have,” Jim Anderson said. “We’re lucky everything worked out.”

Jim Anderson is happy the in vitro procedure exists.

“It gives people who could be good parents an opportunity to be parents,” Jim Anderson said.

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