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Chances of Having Twins on the Rise


Twin Birth Rate on the Rise

Hollywood is seeing double! Beyoncé says her life has been transformed by twins and George Clooney and wife Amal also have their own bundles of joy. But the twin trend isn't only happening among the rich and famous.

Nationwide, the number of twin births has been on the rise, increasing by more than 75 percent over the past 30 years. So what's behind the numbers? The answer is actually quite simple, explains Melani Harker, MD.

"The rise in twins is mostly related to the increased use of assisted reproductive technology (ART)."

Obstetrician Melanie Harker

While neither Beyoncé nor the Clooneys have commented on whether they used reproductive technology to conceive, the reasons why such procedures lead to multiple births are clear. Often medications are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than one follicle containing an egg. This means more than one egg could be fertilized, resulting in twins.

Assisted Reproductive Technology Increases the Likelihood of Twins

Also, with in-vitro fertilization a doctor will almost always implant more than one embryo to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. In doing, so the likelihood of multiple births is increased.

"Multiple births are not the aim of reproductive technology," says Harker. "But people choosing to use ART should be aware it can happen."

Other Factors that Increase the Chance of Having Twins

Reproductive technology aside, there are several factors that increase the chances of a natural twin pregnancy:

  • Older moms are more likely to have twins since females over the age of 35 produce more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)—meaning they may need assistance in getting pregnant.
  • Some studies have also found that women of African-American descent are slightly more likely to carry twins.
  • Other studies also point to tall women being more likely to have multiples.
  • Genetic history

Oh, and then there's your family tree.

"Some couples who have a family history of twins are more at risk for twin pregnancy."

Obsetrician Melani Harker

Twin Pregnancy Complications

While twin pregnancies bring the promise of double the blessings, they also bring a higher risk of complications. The March of Dimes reports close to 60 percent of all twins are born prematurely (before 37 weeks). That means their organs may not be fully developed, their immune systems may not be able to fight off infection, and they may have problems feeding. There are also increased risks for the mother.

"There is a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension, preterm labor and preterm birth, also higher risk of blood loss at delivery and cesarean," says Harker.

We're not likely to see a decline in twin births in the future. The Atlantic reports that more and more women are choosing to have babies later in life—meaning more of them will be using ART to conceive. That means we will all be seeing double much more often.

Revised Apr. 17, 2019
Originally published Feb., 2017