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June 23, 2000
Contact: Kathy Harben
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention & Health Promotion
(770) 488–5131

Facts about triplet and higher-order births

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) accounts for a significant number of triplet and higher-order births in the United States. More than a third (38.7% for 1996 and 43.3% for 1997) of triplet and higher-order multiple births are attributed to ART, in comparison to the estimated 18% for naturally occurring pregnancies. This represents a substantial increase from the 22% of triplet and higher-order multiple births that were attributable to ART in 1990 and 1991.
  • Following the introduction of ART in 1978, the ratio of triplet and higher-order multiple births has more than quadrupled from 37 to 173.6 per 100,000 live births from 1980 to 1997 respectively.
  • Pregnancies associated with ART or ovulation inducing drugs are more likely than spontaneously conceived pregnancies to result in multiple births (twins or more). In 1996, 38% of all ART births were multiple births, compared with 3% of births in the general population.
  • Compared to singleton births, multiple births–in particular, triplet and higher-order multiple–are associated with greater health risks for the mother and the babies. Risks for the mother include cesarean section and hemorrhage, and risks for the babies include low birth weight (LBW), preterm delivery, and death.
  • Preterm and LBW infants often require costly neonatal care and long-term developmental follow-up.

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This page last reviewed Friday, June 9, 2000

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention