The British agency that regulates fertility treatments has issued a guideline for IVF doctors to only implant patients with one embryo at a time, as part of "the struggle to control tragic multiple births."
While the parents of the octuplets delivered today probably wouldn't describe the birth of their children as "tragic" as The Daily Mail does, multiple births do pose health risks for mothers and babies. Multiples are often born prematurely and are more likely to have cerebral palsy or not survive the first week of life. Women who carry multiples have a greater risk for pre-elcampsia, miscarriage, and hemorrhaging. This month, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority enacted a new "single embryo transfer" policy, under which IVF doctors are limited to implanting one embryo at a time unless circumstances are extenuating. Under this new Code of Practice, all UK fertility treatment centers must have in place a documented strategy for reducing their annual multiple birth rates. Though the parents of the U.S. octuplets refused to say whether they received fertility treatments or not, experts believe they probably used fertility drugs taken before artificial insemination. According to Peter Bowen, a fellow of the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynacologists, it is unlikely the mother used IVF because "no doctor in his right mind" would put eight embryos in a woman's womb. [The Daily Mail, HFEA]