There’s quite possibly nothing like the surprise of being informed that you are not only having one, but two, three (or more!) children — at the same time! Adjusting to the news of twins, triplets or more can be a bit daunting, but careful preparation will help you cope with the challenges of multiples. An exhausting pregnancy may be a walk in the park compared to life after the babies arrive!
Twin and Multiple Births on the Rise
Since the early 1970s, the number of twin births has more than doubled — today, about one of every 35 births in the United States are twins. Even more significant is the number of triplet and higher multiple births, which have increased 200 percent over the last three decades.
It’s not something in the water or some strange evolutionary leap, but rather a reflection of the availability of fertility drugs and treatments. The fertility industry has grown in leaps and bounds since the early 1980s, and these medical interventions are most often the reason for births of four or more multiples. Recent studies from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show that approximately 43 percent of live births resulting from assisted reproductive techniques (ART) were multiples.
Fertility Drugs Aren’t Totally to Blame
Where you live could make a difference in the rate of multiple births. If you reside in Massachusetts or Connecticut, a study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the rate for twin deliveries was as much as 25 percent higher than the overall national average. If you’d like to boost your chances of giving birth to triplets, consider relocating to Nebraska or New Jersey — both states boast a percentage of triplets that is twice the national average.
On the other hand, if you reside in Hawaii, your chances of having a multiple will decrease to about 30 percent below the overall U.S. rate. The time of year and the number of daylight hours also has an impact on multiple births. More fraternal twins are conceived in July than in any other month, while January has the fewest twin conceptions. Scientists speculate that this is probably due to more daylight hours in July, which allows for a higher secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in women.
Enhanced medical care and good nutrition may play a role in skyrocketing multiple birth rates, although experts caution that it is difficult to directly link these influences. In fact, if access to state-of-the-art medicine were a deciding factor, then why does the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria have the highest rates of twins in the world? The Nigerian people attribute it to their consumption of a specific type of yam. There may be some scientific basis to their claims — scientists have discovered that these colorful vegetables that are grown only in Africa contain high levels of a substance that is similar to the hormone estrogen, which may stimulate multiple ovulation.
Ironically, though age can contribute to infertility, it can work in a woman’s favor when it comes to conceiving twins. Older mothers traditionally have a higher chance of delivering fraternal twins, with the odds increasing to one in 27 when the mother is 35 years or older. This may be due in part to a reproductive system nearing menopause that may be releasing multiple eggs in a last ditch effort to procreate.
While the tendency to have identical twins has no hereditary connection, it is true that fraternal twins can run in the family. Female fraternal twins score an impressive one in 17 chance of giving birth to their own set of fraternal twins, probably because many carry a gene for hyper-ovulation, which means they sometimes release more than one egg during ovulation. And, if a woman has already given birth to fraternal twins, the chance of another set increases fourfold.
The benefit of this increase in multiple births is that you’re not alone. There are numerous resources available online and in communities nationwide to help you cope with the difficulties of carrying multiples, preparing your home to welcome more than one baby and the challenges of managing a life with multiples.