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Multifetal pregnancy after implementation of a publicly funded fertility program


Importance — A publicly funded fertility program was introduced in Ontario, Canada, in 2015 to increase access to fertility treatment. For in vitro fertilization (IVF), the program mandated an elective single-embryo transfer (eSET) policy. However, ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (OI/IUI)—2 other common forms of fertility treatment—were more difficult to regulate in this manner. Furthermore, prior epidemiologic studies only assessed fetuses at birth and did not account for potential fetal reductions that may have been performed earlier in pregnancy.

Objective — To examine the association between fertility treatment and the risk of multifetal pregnancy in a publicly funded fertility program, accounting for both fetal reductions and all live births and stillbirths.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This population-based, retrospective cohort study used linked administrative health databases at ICES to examine all births and fetal reductions in Ontario, Canada, from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2021.

Exposure — Mode of conception: (1) unassisted conception, (2) OI/IUI, or (3) IVF.

Main Outcomes and Measures — The main outcome was multifetal pregnancy (ie, a twin or higher-order pregnancy). Modified Poisson regression generated adjusted relative risks (ARRs) and derived population attributable fractions (PAFs) for multifetal pregnancies attributable to fertility treatment. Absolute rate differences (ARDs) were used to compare the era before eSET was promoted (2006-2011) with the era after the introduction of the eSET mandate (2016-2021).

Results — Of all 1 724 899 pregnancies, 1 670 825 (96.9%) were by unassisted conception (mean [SD] maternal age, 30.6 [5.2] years), 24 395 (1.4%) by OI/IUI (mean [SD] maternal age, 33.1 [4.4] years), and 29 679 (1.7%) by IVF (mean [SD] maternal age, 35.8 [4.7] years). In contrast to unassisted conception, individuals who received OI/IUI or IVF tended to be older, reside in a high-income quintile neighborhood, or have preexisting health conditions. Multifetal pregnancy rates were 1.4% (95%CI, 1.4%-1.4%) for unassisted conception, 10.5% (95%CI, 10.2%-10.9%) after OI/IUI, and 15.5% (95%CI, 15.1%-15.9%) after IVF. Compared with unassisted conception, the ARR of any multifetal pregnancy was 7.0 (95%CI, 6.7-7.3) after OI/IUI and 9.9 (95%CI, 9.6-10.3) after IVF, with corresponding PAFs of 7.1% 95%CI, 7.1%-7.2%) and 13.4% (95%CI, 13.3%-13.4%). Between the eras of 2006 to 2011 and 2016 to 2021, multifetal pregnancy rates decreased from 12.9% to 9.1% with OI/IUI (ARD, −3.8%; 95%CI, −4.2%to −3.4%) and from 29.4%to 7.1%with IVF (ARD, −22.3%; 95% CI, −23.2%to −21.6%).

Conclusions and Relevance — In this cohort study of more than 1.7 million pregnancies in Ontario, Canada, a publicly funded IVF program mandating an eSET policy was associated with a reduction in multifetal pregnancy rates. Nevertheless, ongoing strategies are needed to decrease multifetal pregnancy, especially in those undergoing OI/IUI.



Velez MP, Soule A, Gaudet L, Pudwell J, Nguyen P, Ray JG. JAMA Netw Open. 2024; 7(4):e248496. Epub 2024 Apr 25.

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