July Issue

Facts about twins and multiple conceptions – Twin Times                                                                                                                           

Many women have a secret fantasy about giving births to twins, especially identical twins. There’s something magical about having two identical bundles of joy that no one can tell apart, except for you. But twins are a rare phenomenon, especially in India.

What are your chances of having twin babies and if you do, what are the implications?

There are two kinds of twins-

Fraternal twins
Are the result of two individual fertilized eggs. Fraternal twins develop in their separate amniotic sacs and have their own separate placentas.

Identical twins
Result when a single fertilized egg splits after conception. Identical twins may share an amniotic sac or the placenta or both.

Some facts

  • A woman is not likely to conceive more than one set of identical twins, but a woman who conceives fraternal twins naturally, has a quadrupled chance of conceiving fraternal twins again.
  • Normally twins run in families through the female line, not the male. Female fraternal twins have an increased chance of having twins themselves, but male fraternal twins do not.
  • Worldwide, Black people have the highest rate for fraternal twins while Asians have the lowest. The rate for identical twins, however, remains the same worldwide.
  • Of all twin births, one third are identical, one third are boy-girl fraternal twins and the remaining third are same-sex fraternal twins.

What causes multiple conceptions?
Twins are conceived when a women has high levels of the hormone FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) which causes several eggs to be released at a single time. This can happen because of –

  • Increased age – Older women are more likely to release more than one egg during a menstrual cycle. It has been calculated that women in the age group of 35-40 are five times more likely to have twins than mothers in their twenties.
  • Fertility treatment – Fertility drugs and in-vitro fertilization enhances the chances of multiple births.

Having twins may make you a star in your family and neighborhood, but it also poses double trouble for you. Apart from the double expense and problem of running after two active children instead of one, there are certain complications unique to multiple births.

  • Women carrying twins can easily gain upto 45 pounds and are more susceptible to problems of calcium deficiency, anemia and high blood pressure.
  • Delivery is often difficult and caesarian section has to be resorted to.
  • Medical information and help is sometimes hard to get – most doctors are not experts on multiple births. Abroad there are several organizations that deal with information dissemination and provide support. However, in India this concept is yet to take off- the closest being chatting with other moms in the same situation through Mom to Mom!
  • The normal problems associated with pregnancy may sometimes appear more severe, partly because of the increased size of the uterus and partly because the placenta or placentas produce higher levels of hormones. You may also have to take greater precautions against iron deficiency.
  • A more serious problem that often arises in multiple births is the problem of premature labour. It is estimated that nearly half of all twin births are preterm. The only prevention is lots of bed rest especially after the 28th week, a positive attitude and a very careful selection of your doctor and maternity hospital.

There are certain special problems that twins face that you may have to be prepared for in advance. A twin is different from all other children because of the overwhelmingly close bond shared with the other twin. But this bond is not always a good thing. Sometimes the stronger twin dominates the weaker one to the mutual detriment of both. Sometimes both twins become so close to each other that they have problems in socializing and in relationships with others. So the parents of twins have to be more alert for such problems and have to constantly encourage the interests and talents of each twin. You may also have to encourage them to make friends independent of each other. And never make the mistake of thinking, particularly for identical twins, that because they look alike they have the same personalities or interests.

When all is said and done however, a multiple birth is a magical event not given to many. So lie back and look forward to the time when you’ll have not one but two little rosy bundles in your arms for you to proudly display – and run after!