Twins. Oh how we adore them. They represent approximately 3.3% of all births in the U.S. and are associated with both joy and complications such as prematurity. When I saw the headlines of the August 14th edition of the Sunday New York Times, I paused to reflect. Have we gone too far?
The article, Unnatural Selection, Ruth Padawer reviews a growing trend among U.S. women who, when pregnant with twins requests that the twins be reduced to one pregnancy. We have grown accustomed to multiple births in our country based upon the increase in the use of fertility drugs. Indeed, 1% of all births and 16% of twin births are associated with the use of fertility drugs. Very few people complain when there is a request to reduce quadruplets (four babies) or quintuplets (five babies) to twins. And who doesn’t remember Nadya Suleman, the controversial “Octomom” who gave birth to 8 babies that were conceived with fertility drugs.
Padawer describes a woman who was pregnant with twins and sought a physician to reduce her pregnancy to one baby. She initially encountered difficulty because most physicians will not reduce a twin pregnancy unless they have a medical indication and feel that the mother is in jeopardy. The word “reduction” is a polite term for termination and very few physicians will terminate one-half of a twin pregnancy based solely upon maternal request. However since a termination of pregnancy is legal, some physicians will reduce a twin pregnancy to a single pregnancy based upon a mother’s request. According to Dr. Richard Berkowitz, a high-risk specialist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, “The overwhelming majority of women carrying twins are going to be able to deliver two healthy babies.” As a mother of two sons who are eleven months apart, I can understand the concerns one may have regarding raising twins. However, despite all of the perceived obstacles of raising two children who were born so close together, somehow my sons managed to thrive and their parents have maintained their sanity.
Should twin pregnancies be reduced to one? It’s an individual decision, so please — make it wisely.