The XX Factor

When Insurance Covers IVF, There Are Fewer Multiple Births

Between 1980 and 2004, the rate of twin births went up by 70 percent, largely due to the rise of in vitro fertilization, during which multiple fertilized eggs are transferred at once into a woman’s uterus . According to the New York Times , doctors have been concerned with lowering the odds of multiple births for several years now, and as a result, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommended that women under 35 who are receiving I.V.F. have just one embryo transferred at a time. A new study from Fertility and Sterility shows that the best way to keep doctors hewing to this recommendation is to have insurance cover I.V.F.

It makes sense: If you have to pay out of pocket for your fertility treatments, you’re going to want to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak. According to ScienceDaily, “Physicians often feel pressure from patients who have financial incentive to maximize the per-cycle success by requesting the transfer of more embryos and willing to take the risk of multiple pregnancies.” The authors of the study note that when there are lower multiple birth rates, there are fewer costly fetal complications, so when insurance companies cover the I.V.F. treatment it actually saves money down the road. Randi Hutter Epstein made this identical point on DoubleX last year (and on Slate , Darshak Sanghavi argued for IVF coverage back in 2009 ) and the research bears them out: Comprehensive insurance coverage for infertile women is the most cost-effective option around.