STUDY QUESTION Do in vitro fertilization (IVF) multiples generate higher hospital costs than IVF singletons, from birth up to age 5? SUMMARY ANSWER Hospital costs from birth up to age 5 were significantly higher among IVF/ICSI multiple children compared with IVF/ICSI singletons; however, when excluding the costs incurred during the birth admission period, hospital costs of multiples and singletons were comparable. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Concern has risen over the long-term outcome of children born after IVF. The increased incidence of multiple births in IVF as a result of double-embryo transfer predisposes children to a poorer neonatal outcome such as preterm birth and low birthweight. As a consequence, IVF multiples require more medical care. Costs and consequences of poorer neonatal outcomes in multiples may also exist later in life. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION All 5497 children born from IVF in 2003-2005, whose parents received IVF or ICSI treatment in one of five participating Dutch IVF centers, served as a basis for a retrospective cohort study. Based on gestational age, birthweight, Apgar and congenital malformation, children were assigned to one of three risk strata (low-, moderate- or high-risk). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS To enhance the efficiency of the data collection, 816 multiples and 584 singletons were selected for 5-year follow-up based on stratified (risk) sampling. Parental informed consent was received of 322 multiples and 293 singletons. Individual-level hospital resource use data (hospitalization, outpatient visits and medical procedures) were retrieved from hospital information systems and patient charts for 302 multiples and 278 singletons. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE The risk of hospitalization (OR 4.9, 95% CI 3.3-7.0), outpatient visits (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.8-3.6) and medical procedures (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.2-2.2) was higher for multiples compared with singletons. The average hospital costs amounted to €10 018 and €2093 during the birth admission period (P < 0.001), €1131 and €696 after the birth admission period to the first birthday (not significant (n.s.)) and €1084 and €938 from the second to the fifth life year (n.s.) for multiples and singletons, respectively. Hospital costs from birth up to age 5 were 3.3-fold higher for multiples compared with singletons (P < 0.001). Among multiples and singletons, respectively, 90.8 and 76.2% of the total hospital costs were caused by hospital admission days and 8.9 and 25.2% of the total hospital costs during the first 5 years of life occurred after the first year of life. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Resource use and costs outside the hospital were not included in the analysis. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This study confirms the increased use of healthcare resources by IVF/ICSI multiples compared with IVF/ICSI singletons. Single-embryo transfer may result in substantial savings, particularly in the birth admission period. These savings need to be compared with the extra costs of additional embryo transfers needed to achieve a successful pregnancy. Besides costs, health outcomes of children born after single-embryo transfer should be compared with those born after double-embryo transfer. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This study was supported by a research grant (grant number 80-82310-98-09094) from the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). There are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER Not applicable.