Selective Reduction: A Painful Choice
No Options Discussed
After trying to have a baby for five years, Los Angeles’ Patty Shier found herself in a similar situation but made the opposite choice. Shier was told she was pregnant with five fetuses following the last of four in vitro fertilization attempts. A devout Christian, Shier said she told her doctor from the beginning that no matter what happened, there was no way she was going to reduce a pregnancy. Nonetheless, the doctor transferred seven embryos into her uterus telling her the chances of a higher order multiple pregnancy “were not good.”
Following her first ultrasound, Shier said her doctor was insistent that she’d never make it through the pregnancy and would never have any babies if she didn’t reduce. “There was no objective discussion of the options,” Shier said, adding that she was never presented with mortality or birth defect statistics, phone numbers for organizations specializing in higher order multiples, or any offers of counseling. She and her husband pored over the studies, spoke with doctors, and consulted the MOST organization on their own. The only word she kept hearing over and over again from her doctor was “reduce.” “It’s just a very hard thing to hear,” Shier said of her doctor’s warning.
Despite the risks of a loss of all the babies or of having sick children, Shier went ahead with the pregnancy. She was bed rested at 18 weeks, moved to the hospital at 27 weeks and gave birth to what she called “the healthiest quints in the country” at 33 weeks. They ranged in weight from 3 pounds 5 ounces, to 4 pounds 5 ounces. Within four weeks, they were all sent home from the hospital. “I didn’t have to live with the question of whether I should or shouldn’t have,” Shier said.
Michigan’s Sue Treber, mother of three-year-old quads, echoed Shier’s sentiments. A series of doctors doggedly tried to persuade her to reduce her quadruplet pregnancy, after years of infertility treatment, including one specialist in pregnancy reduction whom she called “overbearing” and who “made me feel foolish,” she said. Then Treber tracked down perinatalogists who had success with quad pregnancies, consulted some multiples support groups, and decided to go for it. “If we had listened to what the majority of the doctors say, we wouldn’t have them,” she said of her quads. “I don’t think enough doctors give women the feeling that they have a choice.”
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