Giving birth to multiple babies may cost parents more than single baby births do, according to a new study. Multiple births are a great concern in the United States and abroad because they pose significantly higher health risks to both mothers and infants. Multiple birth pregnancies also affect healthcare costs.

The researchers think this is the first major study to look at medical expenses incurred by both mother and babies – other studies focused on the cost of the child’s medical care and excluded the cost of care for the mother. They noted that care for the mother of a single baby accounted for about 60 percent of overall costs. In cases of twins or multiple births, expenses for infant care accounted for most of the total costs at 70 and 85 percent respectively.

The scientists combined all-cause healthcare expenses for mothers with twins or higher and noted that costs for multiple births were 5 to 20 times more expensive than singletons, depending on the number of babies. Pregnancy-related complications, increased use of cesarean section (c-section), and longer stays in the hospital increase healthcare costs for mothers while increased admission and longer stay in hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) raises the expenses for babies of multiple births.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, scientists looked at 437,924 eligible delivery events occurring between January 2005 and September 2010. Of these births, 97 percent were single babies, 2.85 percent were twins, and 0.13 percent was triplets or more. The scientists calculated the medical expenses of the mother during the 27 weeks before and up to 30 days after the delivery date. Researchers kept track of the babies’ expenses between delivery and their first birthday.

The results showed the adjusted total all-cause healthcare cost was around $21,000 per delivery with singletons, $105,000 with twins, and over $400,000 with triplets or more. Lead investigator Dongmu Zhang, Ph.D., Global Health Outcomes, Merck & Co. says, "By taking a broad approach, we have shown that medical expenses attributable to mothers and infants varied according to birth multiplicity."

For women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), multiple pregnancies are a concern. Women can reduce their risk for multiple pregnancies by minimizing the number of embryo transfers during IVF.

Source: "Multiple Birth Pregnancies Can Cost Nearly 20 Times More Than Singleton Pregnancies." Elsevier. 11 Nov 2013. Web. Retrieved 16 Nov 2013.