That is certainly still true today. Modern treatments for infertility have helped many childless couples conceive, but until we lick this problem of higher order multiple births we cannot consider our work with infertility a success. The septuplets in Arizona were apparently born at about 30 weeks. Most of those kids should do fairly well, although raising six kids at once will still be tremendous undertaking. But the Minnesota septuplets show how truly bad the results of our infertility treatment can be sometimes.
Those kids were born at 22 weeks gestation, weighing between 11 ounces and 19 ounces, or about 330 grams and 570 grams. Personally, I don't usually resuscitate 22 weekers, and I certainly wouldn't go all out on a 330 gram 22 weeker, but when you've got a combination premium/celebrity pregnancy like this, I guess you do some things you wouldn't normally do.
The latest Vermont Oxford Network data shows that the survival chances for a 22 weeker are eight per cent. For a 330 gram 22 weeker the chances are basically nil. The chances of all six surviving, if you figure each one has an eight per cent chance, is 0.00002 percent. The survivors each have at least a 50% chance of having moderate to severe impairment.
Is anybody proud of this? Do the infertility doctors think they're doing a good job with this? Do they realize how much this will affect the lives of these parents and kids? I doubt it, because if they did, I think they would do a better job of preventing such multiple pregnancies. I also think the parents are not fully aware of the risks as well or they would not accept the risk of having quads, quints, or septuplets.
I'm not up on all the latest infertility treatments, but I'm sure we can do a better job of preventing such multiples. In the early days of in vitro fertilization, doctors used to implant 5 or six fertilized eggs into the mother in the hope that one or two would survive. Unfortunately, that meant that occasionally 4 or 5 would survive. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure there are now limits as to how many fertilized eggs are put in. However, we still can get multiples from other types of infertility treatments such as those that cause many eggs to come from the ovary at once, although I suspect that with close monitoring we could tell the couple when too many eggs are ovulating so they shouldn't have sex because of the high risk of multiple births.
Money used to play a role in this, and maybe still does. In the early days of in vitro fertilization, several eggs were put in at once partly because it was cheaper to put 6 eggs in at once versus 3 eggs twice. Of course, the post natal costs of a set of quads or quints dwarfs the money saved by doing one high order implantation versus two lower order ones, but our medical economics system has never been set up to take advantage of those kinds of savings.
I don't think the media helps at all either, making each birth of quints or septuplets into a Good Housekeeping warm and fuzzy moment. It's time the press started treating such high order multiple births like the iatrogenic disasters they are.