Restricting the number of embryos transferred during fertility treatments does not decrease national birth rates, according to new research from Belgium, as long as the government combines the restriction with a policy to reimburse patients for six rounds of these treatments. Additionally, the study shows that combining restrictions with reimbursements greatly reduce the number of multiple births, which raises the health risk to the mother and babies and increases financial burdens on the state.

The study results, published in the European medical journal, Human Reproduction, studied the effects of a July 2003 law introduced in Belgium that restricted the number of embryos transferred during each cycle of fertility treatments and provided reimbursements to couples participating in fertility treatments. The researchers compared delivery rates three years before the legislation to those three years after the law went into effect.

The scientists found no statistical difference in the probability that a woman will give birth to a healthy singleton or twins, known as cumulative delivery rate after the law went into effect. The cumulative delivery rate after six cycles of fertility treatments was 65.6 percent before the legislation and 60.8 percent afterward. The policy reduced the number of multiple births by half, from 24 percent to 12 percent.

Multiple births increase the health risks and associated costs for mothers and babies alike. Having too many babies in the womb increases the risk for miscarriage or premature delivery. Multiples and premature babies are more likely to suffer problems in brain and nerve development along with other problems after birth. Mothers of multiples are prone to pregnancy-related high blood pressure, diabetes, and side effects of pregnancy such as morning sickness and constipation.

The study results demonstrate that a nation can afford to reimburse couples for fertility treatments by saving expenses associated with multiple births. The information gained from the study also suggests that nations without reimbursement plans could halve the number of costly and risky multiple births by restricting embryo transfer. Nations could invest savings in assisted reproduction technology, otherwise known as ART, to increase population.

Source: Peeraer, Karen. "The Impact of Legally Restricted Embryo Transfer and Reimbursement Policy on Cumulative Delivery Rate after Treatment with Assisted Reproduction Technology." Human Reproduction. Oxford Journals, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.