New IVF Technique May Reduce Risk of Multiples

A new DNA technique may prevent accidental multiple pregnancies in patients who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF).

It would also allow doctors to detect which embryos will be born healthy, said researchers in Wednesday’s online journal of Human Reproduction.

During IVF, a woman’s eggs are fertilized with a man’s sperm and then they develop in a laboratory for approximately five days. When they reach the early embryo stages - known as blastocysts – that’s when doctors decide which ones will be most likely to develop successfully and put those in the female’s womb.

Often, couples have to implant several embryos in the womb to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy; however, this also increases the chance of the woman becoming pregnant with multiples. Multiple pregnancies can be dangerous for mother and baby.

With the new technique, researchers removed cells from embryos being developed for 48 women, 25 of whom became pregnant. This resulted in 37 babies being born. The DNA from the cells was matched with the babies’ DNA, which told researchers which blastocysts developed into babies.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of, said researchers have been looking at pre-implantation genetics for some time now, but this research looks at it in a new light.

"These researchers are going a little bit further and looking at the DNA of the fetuses and utilizing that information so that women will have less embryos at the time of transfer, possibly leading to better pregnancy rates and less multiple births," Alvarez said.

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By analyzing the expression of genes in the viable and non-viable blastocysts, researchers noticed unlike patterns, which could eventually lead to doctors to select the single most viable embryo from a group and use that one for implantation.

More work will need to be done, the researchers said, but the team is headed in the right direction.

Click here to read the full study in Human Reproduction (subscription required).