And babies make … five

More Hillsborough families are having triplets.

By: Donna Lukiw
   When Anthony, Tommy and Diana Visicaro were born on April 19, 1987, they were the first triplets ever born in Hillsborough, accoridng to press reports at the time.
   But they were quickly joined by more. Now, Hillsborough has more than the average number of triplets in a state where the incidence of triplets is twice the national average.
   At a recent photo shoot of triplets in New Jersey, organized by producers of TV’s "Inside Edition," 11 sets of triplets were from Hillsborough, more than 10 percent of the assembled group.
   "It’s difficult to say why there are many triplets in Hillsborough," said Jane Tervooren, marketing director of IVF New Jersey fertility clinic in Somerset.
   But Ms. Tervooren’s clinic and others like it may have a lot to do with the increase.
   According to an October 2005 article in National Geographic magazine, New Jersey has the highest ratio of triplet births in the United States — and signs point to fertility drugs as the likely cause.
   Between the years 1998 and 2002, the state recorded 358 sets of triplets and higher order births per 100,000 live births. The national average is 186 per 100,000. A New Jersey resident has twice the chance of having triplets as the average American.
   Ms. Tervooren points out the demographics of the mothers as a prime factor.
   "Women are waiting longer to have children, they’re concentrating on their careers and then coming into fertility clinics," Mrs. Tervooren said.
   When Jill Visicaro — Anthony, Tommy and Diana’s mother — couldn’t get pregnant due to low progesterone levels, she went to a doctor for a prescription of the fertility drug Clomid.
   After only taking one series of five pills — usually just the first step in a series many women follow to become pregnant — she became pregnant. Seven months later, the triplets were born.
   "The doctor told me I was the only one that he’s seen who had triplets on this drug (Clomid)," said Ms. Visicaro of Pembroke Terrace. "First, you take Clomid but if that doesn’t work then you take Pregnyl, a stronger drug that is injected and if that doesn’t work then there is in vitro fertilization (IVF)."
   New Jersey has more fertility clinics per capita than almost anywhere else in the country. Of 400 clinics nationwide, 5 percent are in New Jersey, a state with only 3 percent of the total population.
   While many women experience high-order births (three or more children at once), Ms. Tervooren said, IVF New Jersey fertility clinic has under a 2 percent rate of high-order births.
   "When we do in vitro fertilization, over 90 percent of the time we transfer five-day-old embryos, which are stronger and healthier, and we only transfer two embryos which greatly reduces the chance of having high-order births," Ms. Tervooren said.
   Ms. Tervooren said many fertility clinics transfer more than two embryos causing a greater chance of having high-order births.
   Experts point out that while twins are not considered a significant health risk, triplets are — with low birth-weight babies and maternal health problems occurring more frequently.
   When Mrs. Visicaro gave birth to triplets they were all born eight weeks premature and with health problems.
   "Tommy was born with very bad lungs," Ms. Visicaro said. "Anthony had blood problems. Tommy is an asthmatic now but he runs cross country and runs between 80 and 100 miles a week."
   Lisa Mistretta, another mother of triplets in Hillsborough, said her three, 5-month-old girls, Sophia, Kylie and Gabriella, also had health problems.
   "They were born seven weeks early," Ms. Mistretta said. "Not everything is developed when they’re born premature so they went through the typical premature baby problems."
   Ms. Tervooren said women taking fertility drugs increase their chances of having twins or triplets increases.
   "There is less control when people are taking strictly fertility drugs," Ms. Tervooren said. "It’s not an exact science like IVF." According to the National Geographic article, "the probability of having triplets naturally is about 1 in 8,000, or about one-hundredth of 1 percent. In 2002 — the last time statistics were compiled — the chance of a woman under 35 having triplets after undergoing treatment at, say, the East Coast Infertility Clinic in Little Silver, New Jersey, was 21 percent."
   While experts aren’t really sure why women are unable to get pregnant, some say women are starting families later in life and it’s harder to get pregnant after the age of 35.
   The Visicaro triplets will be the first set of triplets to graduate Hillsborough High School but they won’t be alone. Andrew, David and Lindsay Glaser will also be graduating Hillsborough High School this year.
   Ms. Visicaro gave birth to her fourth child, Danny, 22 months after having the triplets — Ms. Visicaro said she did not use any fertility drugs for that pregnancy.