According to the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, a high proportion of couples seeking fertility treatments ask the clinic to help them have twins, rather than have one baby at a time. The Sunday Times describes this as producing 'an instant family with just one pregnancy'.
One clinic that the newspaper spoke to said that as many as ten per cent of its clients ask specifically for twins. Doctors are reported as saying that many women believe that they are too old to have a second baby at a later date, or that they will have further difficulties conceiving a second child in the future. Many people come to fertility treatment at a fairly late stage in their reproductive lives, because, apart from a rise in the average age at which a woman has her first child, the diagnosis and initial treatments when infertility or subfertility is discovered may take some time. This means that a few years can have passed before treatments such as IVF are arrived at. However, some clinics said that some women who want two children choose twins to minimise disruption to their career.
Paul Rainsbury, a fertility doctor from the Bupa Roding hospital in Ilford, East London, specialises in the treatment of older women. He told the Sunday Times that 20 couples have requested twins at his clinic in the past year, about 10 per cent of all patients seeking IVF at the clinic. Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, medical director of the private Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre in London, said that one or two women a year request twins. 'They are patients of all ages saying twins would be good because that means they'll get their whole family out of the way', he said. He added that his staff will advise women on the risk of having twins, but said 'if they don't object to the risk, they've gone through our normal clinical and counselling procedures and we accept them, then we will carry out the transfer of two embryos which could create twins'.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatments in the UK, commented that it was unaware of IVF patients routinely asking for twins, but pointed out that under the HFEA Code of Practice, 'clinics are entitled to implant two embryos', adding 'people are free to make choices about their own bodies'.
Meanwhile, doctors in Southern China have warned women to stop taking fertility drugs to increase the likelihood of having twins, enabling them to get around the state's one-child policy. Evidence shows that the number of twins born last year has doubled in a number of hospitals across the region, raising suspicion that prosperous couples are exploiting a loophole in the law to have more than one baby at once. Under the one-child policy, there is no sanction for multiple pregnancies but, when it was put in place in 1979, few Chinese had access to fertility drugs. According to the Sunday Times, the trade in imported fertility drugs and traditional remedies is booming in the Southern Chinese provinces bordering Hong Kong. Women with no fertility problems are reported to be buying the drugs to enable them to have more than one child at a time.