The record-breaking survival of Nadya Suleman's IVF octuplets, born in January 2009, has attracted huge media coverage in the United States. Now referred to by the press as "Octomom," Miss Suleman became pregnant through IVF treatment, under the care of fertility specialist Dr. Michael Kamrava, who was fully licensed by the Medical Board of California.
Multiple Embryo Transfer
To this day, no one apart from Ms. Suleman and Dr. Kamrava really knows just how many embryos were transferred to Ms. Suleman's uterus during the IVF treatment she received, but there has been lots of speculation.
Clearly, the number exceeded the 2 to 3 embryos recommended for safety and ethical reasons by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Ms. Suleman originally claimed she had had 6 embryos transferred, and that all these embryos were "spare," frozen embryos from previous IVF cycles. She said she had used all 6 embryos to avoid some of them being simply discarded, something that would have gone against her moral values.
At least one of the embryos had supposedly split in the uterus, creating twins, thus bringing the number of babies born to 8.
These claims have been refuted by people close to Ms. Suleman. Her publicist has since claimed that Ms. Suleman confessed to having had 11 embryos transferred, and Dr. Kamrava claims that all the embryos were "fresh," and that Ms. Suleman still has some frozen embryos in storage at his clinic.
The fact that none of the octuplets are identical twins would indicate that Ms. Suleman's theory about splitting embryos is incorrect. Speculation is likely to continue, as Ms. Suleman's medical records are and will remain confidential.
Family of 14
Ms. Suleman, a single parent, is now the mother of 14 children (she had 6 already when the octuplets were conceived). They live in California. She has a team of helpers to assist her in running her family, and in a recent appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, she admitted that she feels a lot of guilt about her decision to use so many embryos. She said she now buys 20 gallons of milk, 21 dozen eggs and 35 loaves of bread every single week, just to feed her family.
It's not just Ms. Suleman who has come under intense media scrutiny as a result of the octuplets "scandal." Charges were filed in early in 2010 by the California Medical Board against her fertility doctor, Michael Kamrava. He has also had his membership of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine revoked.
Lessons For IVF Couples
So what do we learn from this whole episode? Firstly, that it's very important to check up on a fertility clinic's credentials. If possible, try to speak to other people who have received treatment from a certain doctor before entrusting your care to him.
It may be a good idea to make initial consultation appointments at more than one clinic, so that you can get an idea of what they normally offer to prospective patients. Remember that it's the job of the clinic to protect your health as well as to help you to get pregnant, so if the staff there are not emphasizing the risks involved in pregnancies with twins or triplets, then there's something wrong....