Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Study Shows Improved Outlook for Triplets

WebMD Health News

Sept. 20, 2000 -- The number of women giving birth to more than one baby at a time has risen by more than 100% in the last 20 years. Although big births like those of the Dilley sextuplets and the McCaughey septuplets make headlines, most multiple births are triplets or twins.

Often, women who conceive three or more babies at once through fertility treatments are advised to undergo a "selective reduction" -- a procedure in which doctors inject a toxic substance into one or more of the fetuses early in the pregnancy. This reduces the number of babies, with the hope of giving the remaining fetus or fetuses a better chance of survival and good health, but it can also raise medical, ethical, and psychological issues for both parents and physicians.

But as technology has improved and doctors have gained more experience working with multiple pregnancies, survival rates for triplets appear to be good enough that many couples who want to keep all three can be safely counseled to do so.

In a new study published in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers evaluated 127 triplet pregnancies. Of those, 46 chose to have the reduction procedure (95% of whom chose twins and 5% of whom chose to carry just one baby). Eleven of the women lost one or two babies spontaneously after nine weeks without undergoing the procedure.

The study showed that triplets had the same survival rates as the babies of mothers who selectively reduced, and were delivered about the same time. Although the triplets were smaller, on average, than the other babies, their weights were not so low as to cause them to be kept in the hospital significantly longer. The length of the pregnancies averaged 32 weeks for the triplets and 33 weeks for the group reduced to twins; a full-term pregnancy is 38-42 weeks after the last menstrual period.

The study shows that there have been substantial improvements in the outcome of triplets, says study author Mark P. Leondires, MD.

"Most patients I see just want to have a baby, and they want to know if they are going to have a baby at about the same rate if they go ahead with triplets or not," says Leondires, of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. "What the study says is, whether they have a reduction or go on with triplets, you can't say there is a significant difference in the take-home baby rate for one, two, or three [babies]."

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow