By Robin von Halle

You may have heard it on the news: “Octomom” Nadya Suleman’s doctor has been expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) for transferring six embryos into the 33-year old woman, which resulted in the much-discussed birth of eight babies (after two of the embryos split).

Good move.

We have been working with the fertility industry for more than 15 years. As the industry grows, it’s up to us—the professionals—to make sure we’re meeting the highest standards of practices and behaviors, and follow those guidelines established by ASRM and the American Fertility Association.

The Octomom and her doctor took a tremendous risk by implanting such a large number of embryos. She is extraordinarily lucky that the babies are all healthy. Doctors say giving birth to extreme multiples comes with exceedingly significant risks for the mother and the babies.

ASRM suggests that reproductive endocrinologists transfer two to three embryos for women between the ages of 35 and 37. The transfer of three to four embryos for women 38 to 40 is also noted with these guidelines. However, transfer of a single embryo is the recommendation for women under 35 who have a good chance of achieving a pregnancy. She had already given birth to six other children, so Suleman clearly was physically able to become pregnant and give birth.

The fertility industry needs to work as a team to try and create families with as little risk as possible for the mother and her baby. Women have to remember there are limits to what their bodies can do. Suleman’s experience of healthy octuplets may be more the exception, not the rule. One Minnesota couple that gave birth to sextuplets in 2007, for example, lost five of them after only a 22-week gestation. Risks for multiples include bleeding in the brain, intestinal problems, developmental delays and lifelong learning disabilities.

We at ARR felt it was important to adopt a code of ethics and to promote that code on behalf of our industry, egg donation and surrogacy.  It calls for compensating egg donors and gestational surrogates solely for their time, effort and inconvenience, and complies with all ASRM guidelines.

ASRM has guidelines for a reason and it’s up to us to respect and follow them.