London: Growing numbers of women expecting twins, triplets, quads and quintuplets are aborting one or more of their unborn babies.

Official figures show that 85 women had a "selective reduction" or chose to terminate at least one foetus in the womb while continuing with the pregnancy last year.

This compares with 59 women in 2006.

Around a third were carried out on women who had got pregnant as the result of fertility treatment.

Fear of coping

The Department of Health said that around three-quarters of the procedures were performed on medical grounds.

Often, women are advised that aborting one of their babies will raise the odds of the remaining ones being born healthily.

But internet chat rooms include discussions among women who say they fear they cannot cope with having more than one baby at a time. The Government figures, released under Freedom of Information laws, show that 101 foetuses were aborted as a result of selective reductions last year, as in some cases more than one was terminated. Of the 85 women who underwent the procedure, 51 were expecting twins and had one of their babies terminated.

There were twenty abortions to "reduce" triplets to twins and nine to take a pregnancy from triplets to a single child. Three women expecting quads aborted two foetuses and two mothers pregnant with five babies aborted three, leaving them with twins.

Fertility treatment

Separate figures from fertility watchdog the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority show that almost a third of selective reductions carried out in 2009 involved pregnancies that were the result of fertility treatment.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Daily Telegraph: "If prospective parents are not willing to have twins, then they should not be implanting more than one embryo at a time.

"Parental preference should not take precedence over the right to life of the unborn child."