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Selective reduction (or fetal reduction) is the practice of reducing the number of fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy (i.e. those involving more than one fetus). The aim of the procedure is to avoid the medical issues generally related to multiple births (including premature births, low birth weights and associated medical problems).
Often genetic testing is used to determine which of the fetuses has a greater chance of genetic defect or genetic disease. Those fetuses are then targeted in the reduction because of the probability of their health being inferior to that of the others. It is reasoned that while some of the fetuses will be terminated to preserve the well-being of the others and the mother, the ones that are terminated might as well be the ones that will face health issues upon their birth more than the complications of being born alongside several siblings. This adds a new dimension of controversy; beyond the already controversial nature of abortion, critics charge that selective reduction is a form of eugenics.
The procedure is generally carried out between 9 and 12 weeks of pregnancy. The most common method is to inject a chemical solution into the most easily accessible fetus, causing it to die. Generally the fetal material is reabsorbed into the mother's body. There are various risks associated with the procedure, including losing all the babies.
Selective reduction can be a very difficult decision for those who choose to make it; in many cases it is a decision faced by infertile couples who, after undergoing infertility treatments, now have the problem of too many babies.
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