A 2003 recommendation by the Israel Obstetrics Society to implant no more than two embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has significantly reduced the number of triplets and very low birth-weight (VLBW) babies (up to 1.5 kilos) born since then.
The reduction in the number of VLBW babies has saved considerable amounts of money on expensive hospitalization in neonatal intensive care units and minimized the number of disabled infants.
This was disclosed in a Health Ministry report, "Database of VLBW Infants for 2005 and Trends for the Years 1995-2005," which was released for publication on Sunday.
Previously, fertility experts had implanted many more embryos in the hope that at least one would become successfully implanted and reach maturity in the uterus.
In 1996, the number of VLBW babies born was 1,333, while it rose to 1,648 four years later. A total of 533 were from multiple pregnancies produced by IVF in 1996, compared to 730 in 2000. But with implementation of the society's recommendation, the number of VLBW babies born declined to 1,497, with only 610 of them in multiple pregnancies.
In 2005, only 16 VLBW babies were born as triplets that resulted from IVF; this number was, for the first time, similar to the number of VLBW babies resulting from natural pregnancies of triplets. In 2005, only 800 hospitalization days among 75,000 days in neonatal intensive care units were the result of IVF-produced births of triplets.
The survival rates of VLBW babies also increased, from 76 percent in 1996 to 82.9% in 2005. Of 1,462 VLBW infants born and hospitalized in 2005, more than 82% suffered from respiratory problems, and nearly 19% suffered from a chronic breathing problem. Almost three-quarters needed oxygen treatment. Only 21% of the infants needed no respiratory treatment. Other medical problems included infections, neurological problems, and retinal problems, some of which were successfully treated.
Of the VLBW infants that year, 53% were boys and the rest girls, while nearly 70% were Jewish, 27% Arab and the rest Druse or other minorities. Nearly 72% were born by cesarean section. Of 25 infants born weighing less than 500 grams, only one survived. Of 239 born weighing 1,400 to 1,499 grams, 230 survived; while all 13 born at 1,500 grams survived. A total of 221 died during hospitalizations of up to 20 weeks.
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