Friday, October 16, 2009

21st Century Babies

Earlier this week, the New York Times had an interesting article about the intrauterine insemination procedure and the frequency of multiple births, often resulting in deaths or premature births. This often presents parents with horrible choices, such as the decision whether to terminate some of the fetuses before birth to increase the viability of the others.

Infertility as a medical practice is ill regulated, with fertility doctors regularly ignoring their own industry's recommendations in order to boost their practices' numbers, to attract more clients.

I'm glad to see that the media is publicizing the less-"successful" outcomes of multiple births. The general public see "Jon and Kate Plus 8" or the McCaughey septuplets, and they think that these are typical outcomes for large numbers of multiples. Parents need to know what they are facing when they choose extreme fertility measures. Can you imagine being prompted to choose which of your children you will terminate? That has got to be a heart-breaking decision, knowing that if you don't choose to terminate, all of them could die?

When we were in the NICU late one night, stressing about a disturbing brain MRI, one jaded night nurse overheard us discussing the prospect of talking to a neonatologist about our concerns. She said: "What will he care? He will never see your son again after he leaves here." Looking back, even though her comment was upsetting, I understand her intent. Neonatologists usually are not involved in followup of these very small babies. They can easily say that these kids will be fine, when they know no such thing. It's typical to see neonatologists quoted in the news, predicting good outcomes for preemies. Although as a new preemie mom, I desperately needed hope--I didn't want the doctors to take my hope away--I also craved the candid truth. After Chris had his horrible brain injury and it looked like he wouldn't survive, the neo said "It's hard to say what could happen. I've seen kids who look like they don't have a hope in the world turn it around and do fine...while others who appear fine and take a turn for the worse."

But when parents are choosing to take desperate fertility measures, I know that they are not given the full information of what they could be facing if they are expecting multiples. It's an entirely new world of choices, and none of them are easy.

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