Multiple birth risks double
The risk of birth defects in twins and triplets has doubled in the last three decades.
Scientists from the University of Ulster studied 5.4 million births in Europe between 1984 and 2007, and found the rate of congenital abnormalities increased from 5.9% to 10.7% per 10,000 births.
The escalation could be explained by the increased popularity of IVF treatment, which has fuelled a 3% rise in multiple birth rates around the world.
Researchers claimed one in nine sets of twins were at risk of birth defects, while the risk of congenital anomalies was 27% higher for multiple births when compared with single child deliveries.
Professor Helen Dolk , who led the study, said: "The co-occurrence of multiple birth and congenital anomaly among live borns places particular demands on parents and health services. This may be even more relevant for the one in nine affected twin pairs where both babies have a congenital anomaly.
"The increase in multiple birth rates may be explained by changes in maternal age and increased use of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). It is clear that more research needs to be done to determine the contribution of ART to the risk of congenital anomalies in multiple births."
Fertility clinics have been advised to stop transferring multiple embryos into a woman's womb during IVF treatment, which dramatically raises the risk of falling pregnant with multiple children.
Instead, surgeries are being instructed to adopt a single embryo transfer policy in an effort to lower the rate.
Copyright Press Association 2013
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