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Triplet Births Are Down a Whopping 41 Percent—Here's Why

A new study finds fewer triplets are being born today than in the 1980s thanks to advances in fertility practices.

Study finds fewer triplets are being born because of fertility treatment advances. Shutterstock
"Yes! We're having triplets!" said no one ever. Okay, some couples may say that, but the prospect of having three babies at once would probably terrify almost any parent-to-be! So a new National Center for Health Statistics study finding fewer women are having triplets is good news for many couples considering using fertility treatments to conceive.

Concerned over so-called "higher-order births" having increased four-fold in the 1980s, which incidentally is around the time IVF technology was starting to be used more frequently, researchers looked at the rate of multiples born in the U.S. over the past two decades. What they found was that the number of triplets being born dropped by a whopping 41 percent from 1998 to 2014.

"Triplet and higher-order multiple births continue to be at higher risk of poor outcome," the study authors explain, according to Time.com. Not only does a multiple pregnancy place more stress on a woman's body, but triplets are less likely to survive their first year of life than a single baby. Triplets are also more likely to suffer long-term health complications, and even death.

So why is the triplet rate going down if American women, who are increasingly waiting to have children until later in life, haven't stopped using IVF?

Dr. Bradley Van Voorhis, the president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, told Time.com, "There's been a gradual shift in practices, especially in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) centers, where there's an emphasis on high pregnancy rates with fewer embryos and lower multiple births. There's a substantial reduction in the number of embryos transferred due to advances in embryo selection and transfer." In fact, many practices are pro one-embryo transfer.

That's the preference at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, for example, but interestingly, in its recent Trends in Infertility 2016 survey and report, the group found that 81 percent of survery respondents still believe that to increase the chances of having a child through IVF you need to implant multiple embryos. Clearly, doctors and practices still have work to do in educating patients about the advances being made.

In a related study, fewer new parents are going insane. Just kidding. But can you imagine having triplets? Whoa.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.