Risks of the trend of twins, triplets

KoreaThe number of twins and triplets has exploded thanks to artificial insemination technology, but experts warn of many risks from this trend.

Recently, a Korean mother planned to give birth to 6 children by in vitro fertilization, but one fetus miscarried. After that, 5 babies were admitted to the intensive care unit as soon as they were born. From a medical perspective, this is not considered an achievement.

Unlike animals in the wild, the human body is designed to carry only a fetus. If a woman is pregnant with twins or triplets too many times, the chances of preterm birth increase, the mother is prone to complications. In addition, infants can be disabled for life. Obstetrics clinics in the US often do not intentionally implant multiple embryos into one mother to increase success rates. The doctor will transfer the most “elite” embryo into the body after a chromosome test. The chance of success is up to 80%.

However, embryo genetic testing in Korea is prohibited under the Bioethics Act. Usually, only couples with genetic diseases or those who have had a genetic miscarriage are allowed to do this. So doctors don’t know if the embryo implanted in a woman’s body is of high quality.

More than four decades on, IVF has given life to 8 million babies. The researchers found that twin rates increased in most countries from the early 1980s to 2010, shortly after IVF became practical in 1978.

In South Korea, the twin birth rate tripled from 0.5% to 1.54% between 1980 and 2010. In fact, the probability of having twins in mothers is about 1%, triplets are about one in a thousand. If a woman chooses IVF in South Korea, her chances of having twins or triplets increase by up to 30%. Patients at the clinic are given ovulation-stimulating drugs to create more eggs during IVF, then the doctor will implant many embryos into the uterus to improve the success rate.

On the first day of 2022, Professor Ahn Ki-hoon, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Anam University Hospital, South Korea, performed a caesarean section for a woman giving birth to triplets.

“It was close to the date of birth,” Dr Ahn said in a phone interview. He explained that the mother was experiencing early contractions at 33 weeks of pregnancy. With the help of her pediatrician, anesthesiologist and Dr. Ahn, she gave birth to three healthy, normal, high-risk babies.

Anam University Hospital is one of four medical centers for high-risk pregnant women designated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2019. Dr. Ahn said he has witnessed the number of twins and births. three increased sharply in recent years. This is a social phenomenon that can be demonstrated by demographics.

According to the latest figures from the Statistics Korea, of the 2.6 million babies born last year, about 5.4% (140,000 babies) were twins, triplets or quadruplets.

Over the past decade, the country’s twin birth rate has steadily increased, finally peaking this year. The number rose slowly from 1% in 1990 to 2% in 2002, surpassing 5% last year.

The state statistics office and experts point out that the twin boom is the result of delayed parenthood and increased use of assisted reproductive technology in health services. On average, mothers of twins are 34.8 years old, 1.5 years older than single mothers.

In fact, having twins and triplets has become a “trend”. In 2014, actor Song Il-kook gained attention when he appeared on KBS’s Super man Return with the triplets Dae-han, Min-guk and Man-se. Their family’s reputation immediately exploded. Dae-han, Min-guk and Man-se also quickly became favorite triplets.

Taking advantage of the program’s heat, the business began to launch a series of products for families of twins and triplets, to facilitate child care.

Baby trio Dae Han, Min Guk and Man Se with their father. Image: Lion Korea

Since the 1980s, the global twin birth rate has increased by a third, from nine to 12 twins per 1,000 births, according to a 2021 report published in Human Reproduction, a journal specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Oxford Academic’s reproductive and reproductive sciences. The report indicates that the world has 1.6 million twins born each year, which is one in every 42 babies.

This is because hormone therapy and in vitro fertilization (IVF) services have become more accessible, and mothers’ gestational age has also increased.

According to Hur Yoon-mi, a professor at Kookmin University and head of the Kookmin Twin Research Institute, in South Korea, these factors are intertwined. More and more women are entering the workforce. So they postpone motherhood, relying more on assisted reproductive technologies.

According to Hur’s research, published last year in the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics, Korea’s twin rate has exceeded the global average, even ranking among the highest in the world. The change comes as a surprise to a country where twins were rarely seen before.

Experts say that the twins are genetically similar, but are still separate individuals, with similar social behavior to singletons. “Twins tend to be sociable, have higher self-esteem,” Professor Hur said.

Experts believe that twins can bring unique value to society. Professor Ahn also highlighted their role and potential in tackling the country’s declining birth rate.

“That’s why we need more education and health policies for twins,” Professor Hur said.

He proposed a childcare fund, a classroom arrangement system for twins in the early years of life, when babies are developing emotionally. Furthermore, research on twins worldwide shows that they “contribute greatly to the understanding of human psychology, the interrelationship between genetics and the environment in shaping personality, intelligence.” intelligence, physical and mental characteristics”.

Thuc Linh (Follow Korea Times)


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