Feb 09, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Hollywood is seeing double! Last month Beyoncé announced she is expecting twins, and today People magazine reported George Clooney and wife Amal will be welcoming a set of their own bundles of job. 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),” says Harker, an obstetrician with University of Utah Health Care.

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.

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.”

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. Some studies also point to tall women being more likely to have multiples.

Oh, and then there’s your family tree. “Some couples who have a family history of twins are more at risk for twin pregnancy,” says Harker.

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. STAT 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.  

twins IVF reproductive technology.

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