Dr. Edward Dourron / For THE CURRENT
A year ago, the Medical Board of California revoked the license of Dr. Michael Kamrava, finding he “did not exercise sound judgment” in transferring 12 embryos to Nadya Suleman, who already had six children at home. The ruling, while not surprising, was illuminating, and it’s worth reflecting on the eight things we learned from Octomom:
1. Know How to Say No: There is a point where physicians have to make a judgment call. Pregnancies with triplets – let alone eight infants – put the mother at high risk of serious medical complications and put unborn children at risk for developmental disabilities. Doctors need to rely on their professional expertise and experience to know when to turn a patient down.
2. Beware the Patient with Tunnel Vision: Often when a patient comes to a fertility doctor, unsuccessful pregnancy attempts have made her anxious and determined. She might want to get pregnant even if she has underlying conditions that could put her or her baby at risk. Doctors have learned to be vigilant about preconception counseling and medical testing to determine whether patients are healthy enough to pursue pregnancy.
3. Less is More: In 1999, 35 percent of all transfers involved four or more embryos. In 2009, only 10 percent had four or more. And those high-number transfers are generally reserved for patients with significant fertility challenges. In contrast, Octomom already underwent multiple successful IVF (in vitro fertilization) procedures and had given birth to six children when she had her 12-embryo transfer.
4. Less is Sometimes Really More: Single embryo transfers are gaining popularity. Why? During IVF, the rate of monozygotic (identical) twinning is 10 times the rate in nature. Though Octomom didn’t experience this, it is not uncommon for a single embryo transfer to result in twins – or a double transfer to become quads.