From this morning's Globe & Mail. Boldfacing is mine for emphasis. Check out the comments… and try not to grind your teeth too much over the use of the term "implant," lol.
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Fertility treatments, older mothers leading to rise in premature births
From Friday's Globe and Mail
January 30, 2009 at 4:35 AM EST
More babies are being born prematurely because women are waiting longer to start their families and relying on fertility treatments that can lead to pregnancy complications, a new report indicates.
The rate of premature births climbed a staggering 25 per cent over the past decade, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said yesterday. The figure caught obstetricians and gynecologists by surprise.
In 2006-07, 8.1 per cent of babies in Canada - roughly 29,000 - were born preterm, meaning they were delivered before 37 weeks of gestation. In the early 1990s, such babies made up about 6.6 per cent of births, the report found.
Those in the practice of delivering babies were particularly troubled by the data because human life is fragile at an early stage, and premature babies who weigh very little are at risk for an array of complications, including blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy.
Mothers over 35 were 10 per cent more likely to deliver preterm, the study found. And the rate of preterm births among women having multiple babies was 17 times higher than for mothers delivering single babies. Increased use of fertility treatments has led to an explosion of multiple births.
Annie Janvier, a neonatologist at Montreal's McGill University Health Centre, said the blame lies mainly with "irresponsible" governments that don't encourage women to have families early, allow clinics to implant more than one embryo during an in vitro fertilization cycle, and don't finance fertility treatments. Using one embryo per cycle increases the chances a baby will be carried to term, but the high cost of treatment means some want to improve their odds by implanting multiple embryos.
"This is avoidable," Dr. Janvier said. "But infertility is really not seen as a health problem by our government. It's really too bad."
Laura Bergeron-Blais learned the hard way what it means to implant more than one embryo. She paid for three in vitro fertilization treatments over three years. She became pregnant with a boy and a girl after her second treatment, and after implanting "a lot of embryos."
She delivered prematurely 26 weeks later. Megan, weighing 710 grams, died an hour after birth. Logan, weighing 785 grams, died two months later.
"I wasn't aware of the high risk when it came to twins. I didn't understand that," Ms. Bergeron-Blais said from her home in Montreal. "Because we're paying for this ... we kind of get raped in our situation. We don't care what it takes, just get me pregnant. I put in [embryos] way beyond the norm and I got pregnant with twins."
Seeking to avoid another preterm birth, she had only one embryo implanted during her most recent treatment. But she suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
She and her husband are now looking into adoption.
Of the number of babies born prematurely due to multiple births and fertility treatments, she said: "The government has to step in and start controlling the situation before it gets completely out of hand."
Premature babies cost the health-care system seven to nine times more than full-term babies. A single preterm baby costs a hospital $9,233 compared with $1,050 for a full-term baby.
Jan Christilaw, an obstetrician-gynecologist and interim president of British Columbia Women's Hospital and Health Centre, said would-be parents and hospitals pay a heavy price, and governments should step in.
"We are not there in terms of having the best possible reproductive care," Dr. Christilaw said.