Nearly 7,000 couples with infertility problems underwent in vitro fertilization treatment in 1995, double the number of couples from the previous year, according to a study conducted by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Kazuo Sato, a professor at the Medical School of Nihon University said the increase in couples seeking treatment does not necessarily indicate infertility is on the rise. What it does signify, he said, is that more couples that had once given up on having children are now willing to try in vitro fertilization, a method of insemination in which sperm is manipulated and artificially introduced to the ovum.

In vitro fertilization cases involving couples without fertility problems are also increasing. The study shows 17,992 such couples underwent treatment in 1995 as a means of ensuring pregnancy more quickly. As a result, 3,810 babies, the most in a single year since 1987, were born through artificial means.

A total of 1,579 babies resulted from the approximately 6,940 couples with fertility problems that underwent treatment that year, up from 698 babies born the previous year. Out of all the cases, 25 percent resulted in multiple pregnancies, which are difficult deliveries for both mothers and babies, the society said.

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