The natural tendency to have a twin pregnancy a single conception is a well-known and common occurrence among many biological species. Humans especially cherish the prospect of having twin pregnancies and other multiple births. To think that these were the same set of beings that were being thrown into wild forests and running water in some places is quite baffling. Thanks to Mary Slessor, twins are not people’s fantasies.
What do you know about twin pregnancy? Are you among the multitude of people wishing to have a twin pregnancy? Well, you are definitely not alone in this. However, you might need to brush up on your knowledge about twin pregnancy and also brace yourself up if you are already expecting one. Some people actually get it quite easy; do you wish to know why?
Generally, twins seem to attract a lot of admiration these days. We just love the fact that two different people came from the same tummy and have so much in common. Whether identical or fraternal, twin pregnancy seems to bring so much joy. Our article today will focus on explaining some stuff about twin pregnancy and also giving you some tips about how you can increase your odds of getting your own set of twins.
Some Facts about Twin Pregnancy
1. Twins are by far the most common form of multiple births in humans. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 132,000 sets of twins out of 3.9 million births of all kinds each year, about 3.4%, or 1 in 30. Without fertility treatments, the probability is about 1 in 60; with fertility treatments, it can be as high as 20-25%.
2. Dizygotic (fraternal) twins run in families; however, the male does not influence the chances of his partner having twins, even if there are twins in his family. The hyperovulation gene is the cause for having twins and is only a factor for the mother. Although the male does not influence his partner’s chances of having twins, he could influence his children’s chances of having twins. If a male carries the gene for hyper ovulation and has a daughter, she may also have the gene for hyper ovulation and then have twins herself.
3. Monozygotic (identical) twins do not run in families. The twinning is random, due to the egg splitting, so all parents have an equal chance of conceiving identical twins
4. Multiple births are more common than they were in the past, due to the advancing average age of mothers and the associated rise in assisted reproductive techniques, in particular the use of fertility drugs. Twins account for over 90 percent of multiple births. There are two types of twins – identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic).
5. According to 21st century statistics, the chances of twins can be up to three percent. Statistics also show that from 1980 to 2009 there has been a 76 percent increase in the birth of twins
6. To form identical twins, one fertilised egg (ovum) splits and develops two babies with exactly the same genetic information. This differs from fraternal twins, where two eggs (ova) are fertilised by two sperm and produce two genetically unique children, who are no more alike than individual siblings born at different times. Twins are more or less equally likely to be female or male. Contrary to popular belief, the incidence of twins doesn’t skip generations.
7. The normal length of gestation for a single baby is around 40 weeks. However, gestation for twins, either identical or fraternal, is usually around 38 weeks. This shorter time is due to the increased demands on the mother’s body, and the inability of the babies to receive all the nutrients they need in utero.
Types of Twin Pregnancies
As you must have noticed, not all twins look alike. Well, it is not unexplainable. Over time, science has furnished us with all possible reasons why this happens. This disparity in looks and other features have given rise to us having different kinds of twins. Let’s take a look at the different types of twins.
1. Identical (Monozygotic) Twins
Around one in three sets of twins is identical. This occurs because the fertilised egg divides in two while it is still a tiny collection of cells. The self-contained halves then develop into two babies, with exactly the same genetic information.
Twins conceived from one egg and one sperm are called identical or ‘monozygotic’ (one-cell) twins. The biological mechanisms that prompt the single fertilised egg to split in two remain a mystery.
Approximately one quarter of identical twins are mirror images of each other, which means the right side of one child matches the left side of their twin.
2. Fraternal (Dizygotic) Twins:
Around two in three sets of twins are fraternal. Two separate eggs (ova) are fertilised by two separate sperm, resulting in fraternal or ‘dizygotic’ (two-cell) twins. These babies will be no more alike than siblings born at separate times. The babies can be either the same sex or different sexes, with the odds roughly equal for each.
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Having Twins with Fertility Treatments
If you’re familiar with artificial reproductive technology (ART), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and other fertility treatments — like intrauterine insemination (IUI) — you may already know that twins are a heightened possibility.
1. IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)
While the procedure of IUI itself doesn’t increase your chances of having twins, certain drugs associated with it might. Clomiphene citrate and letrozole are ovulation-stimulating medications.
Both of these drugs are often given in IUI cycles and may help the body produce multiple eggs that may release at the same time. If two (or more) are fertilized and implant, twins are a possibility.
And there’s more. Gonadotropins, like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), stimulate the growth of egg follicles. These injectable medications are also often used in IUI and other fertility treatments, and the rate of twins while using these medications is a whopping 30 percent.
2. IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
Drugs are also a part of IVF. But one of the main factors that increases your chances of twins with this reproductive technology is the number of embryos you decide to transfer.
Some couples choose to transfer just one. While the single embryo might split and turn into identical twins, this isn’t too likely.
The more likely scenario is with regard to fraternal twins. If you transfer two (or more) embryos and they both successfully implant and develop, twins (or more!) are on the way.
Dietary Habits and Practices Favouring Twin Pregnancy
Still on positioning yourself to gain advantage in having twin pregnancy, attention about your eating habits, your nutrition and the kind of lifestyle you lead is very necessary. Some of the areas of concentration include:
1. Dairy Product Intake: According to research, dairy products can also cause the pregnancy of more than one child. It is believed that women who consume dairy products increase their chances of twin pregnancy by five times. Some scientists believe that it is not just dairy products, but the hormones present in milk, which helps in having twins.
2. Wild Yam: Wild Yam is a type of vegetable. It stimulates the ovaries, causing more than one egg to ovulate during ovulation. This increases your chances of having twins. Let me tell you that African women have better chances for twins, as they include it in good amounts in their diet. The Yoruba tribe in West Africa has the highest twinning rate. Apart from this, protein-rich things like tofu and whole grains, etc. also stimulate the ovaries.
3. Stop the Use of Contraceptive Medicine: By stopping contraceptive pills, your body will start working naturally. By doing this, more hormones will be released from your body than normal. When you plan to conceive at this time, the chances of twin pregnancy may increase.
4. More Likely to Breastfeed Women: If you breastfeed your baby and try to become a mother again during this time, the chances of having a twin baby in the next pregnancy may increase. Actually, prolactin is produced in high amounts in lactating women, which can increase the chances of a twin pregnancy.
5. Eating Zinc-Rich Things of the Partner: By eating zinc-rich things, such as green leafy vegetables, etc., sperm are produced in large quantities. This may increase the likelihood of more eggs being fertilized.
6. Making a Difference Between Pregnancies: To increase the likelihood of a twin pregnancy, it is important to have a substantial difference between your first and next pregnancy. Getting pregnant too early can reduce the chances of a twin pregnancy.
Sex Position that Boost Twin Pregnancy
Though we may not really be able to affect the outcome of a pregnancy, it is suggested that having sex in certain positions can increase the chances of twin pregnancy. Some of these positions include?
1. Side by Side: This position involves facing each other and lying down for sexual intercourse. It is considered a much better position. It is believed that sperms can easily reach the cervix at this stage, which can increase the chances of a twin pregnancy.
2. Standing up Position: This is also a doggy style, which increases the chances of a twin pregnancy.
3. Missionary Position: During this time the man is above the woman. In this position, eggs are easily ingested with sperm. This twin is considered the best position for pregnancy.
4. Penetration from Behind: In the meantime, partners form relationships from behind. In this position, sperms live near the cervix.
Fertility Supplements for Twin Pregnancy
If your desire is to have twin pregnancy, then you might consider taking some of these supplements. These supplements have been suggested to boost the chances of twin pregnancy.
1. Folic Acid Supplements: According to a study, women who take folic acid before pregnancy have an increased chance of having a twin pregnancy. However, there are some studies that have shown the opposite results.
Nevertheless, taking multivitamin supplements as well as folic acid supplements helps prevent neural tube deformity, leading to healthy children. A new study has also shown that women who take more folate with IVF treatment have an increased likelihood of having twins.
2. Gonadotropins: These drugs help in making the eggs healthy, which increases the chances of twin pregnancy. Its use produces more eggs. If you want to consume it, contact a doctor.
3. Progesterone: It strengthens the lining of the uterus (the layer inside the uterus), increasing the chances of having twins.
Birth of Twins
It does not finish with having twin pregnancy, giving birth to twins is also a very vital aspect of the process. There are special points to note and look out for concerning twin pregnancy. These issues range from the babies positioning in the womb, to the type of birth procedure and all. Lets consider some of them below.
1. Position of Twins during Labor
The position of the babies in the uterus will largely determine how the twins are born—vaginally or by cesarean. About 40% of twins are both head down (vertex) at term. In another 30%, the first baby (Twin A) is vertex, and Twin B is in a breech position. Both of these positions are acceptable to consider a vaginal birth.
There are scenarios where a cesarean is advisable in a twin birth, such as when both babies are breech. Usually, this is known ahead of time with ultrasound technology. However, twins can change positions late in the game, even into labor. This is particularly true of Twin B after the birth of Twin A.
2. Vaginal Birth of Twins
More than half of twins will be born vaginally. The good news is that even though you have two babies, you only have to labor once.
Once the cervix is open, each baby will have its own pushing stage. This means you will have to push twice, but the majority of the time the second twin is born much more easily than the first. This is because the first twin has paved the way, so to speak.
The average time between the birth of the first and second baby is generally about 17 minutes. However, as long as the monitor shows the second baby is doing well there’s no great need to speed things along. Sometimes during this phase of waiting, you will have an ultrasound to confirm the position of the second twin and your practitioner will decide how it is best to deliver them.
3. Cesarean Birth of Twins
While having twins does increase the chances of having a cesarean (C-section), fewer than half of twins are born this way. While the positioning of your babies will play a large part in the decision as to what type of birth you will have, there are also other reasons for cesareans, such as placenta previa, active genital herpes, and labor complications like fetal distress.
If you give birth by cesarean prior to labor, the date will most likely be set between 37 and 40 weeks. If you go into labor prior to the scheduled date, your cesarean will likely happen then. The post-cesarean recovery period with twins is generally the same as with a singleton birth.
4. Combined C-Section and Vaginal Twin Births
Sometimes, one baby is born vaginally and the second twin is born via cesarean. This is rare; it occurs in only about 4% of all twin births.
Usually, this happens when there is an emergency with Twin B. Emergencies may include a cord prolapse (when the cord comes out before the baby, thereby cutting off the baby’s oxygen supply), severe malpresentation (like a transverse baby that cannot be moved by internal or external forces), or placental abruption (when the placenta tears away from the wall of the uterus prematurely).
Possible Complications with Twin Birth
There are some medical complications that usually occur with twin pregnancy and other multiple pregnancies. Without seeming to intend bad omen, it is important that we know some of these birth complications beforehand so we can know how to effectively deal with them.
Birth Complications both Fraternal and Identical Twins
There are some of these twin birth complications that are common to both kinds of twins that is, fraternal and identical twins combined. These are listed below:
1. Premature Labor and Birth
The most common complication of multiple births is premature labor. If you’re pregnant for multiples, you are more likely to go into premature labor (before 37 weeks) than a woman carrying only one baby. The goal for many moms of multiples is to complete 37 weeks.
This is considered a term in a twin pregnancy and reaching this week of gestation increases the chance the babies will be born healthy and at a good weight. Babies that are born prematurely are at risk of another complication of multiple births — low birth weight.
2. Preeclampsia or Gestational Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
High blood pressure is called hypertension. During pregnancy, your healthcare provider will watch your blood pressure carefully to make sure you don’t develop gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy). This can lead to a dangerous condition called preeclampsia.
Complications related to high blood pressure happen at twice the rate in women carrying multiples compared to women pregnant with only one baby. This complication also tends to happen earlier in pregnancy and be more severe in multiple pregnancies than single pregnancies.
3. Gestational Diabetes
You can develop diabetes during pregnancy. This happens because of the increased amount of hormones from the placenta. The size of the placenta can also be a factor in this condition. If you have two placentas, there’s increased resistance to insulin.
4. Placenta Abruption
This condition happens when the placenta detaches (separates) from the wall of your uterus before delivery. This is an emergency situation. Placenta abruption is more common in women who are carrying multiples.
5. Fetal Growth Restriction
This condition can also be called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) or small for gestational age (SGA). This condition happens when one or more of your babies is not growing at the proper rate. This condition might cause the babies to be born prematurely or at low birth weight. Nearly half of pregnancies with more than one baby have this problem.
Birth Complications Peculiar to Identical Twins
Due to their peculiar nature, identical twins have some birth complications that are mostly common to them. These include:
1. Twin Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)
This is the consequence of vascular communications at the placenta level between the twins. Due to these communications, the twins may share their blood. When this happens — if nothing is done — there is a 90% risk that the twins will die in-utero. In-utero procedures are performed to decrease the fetal death risk for the twins.
2. Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence (TAPS)
This is due to blood that goes from one twin to the co-twin because of vascular communications at the placental level. In this condition, one twin becomes anemic (low red blood cells), whereas the co-twin becomes polycythemic (too many red blood cells). Several treatments/interventions are performed when this happens.
3. Selective IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction)
One twin grows well, whereas the co-twin does not experience much growth.
4. Twin Reversed Arterial Perfusion Syndrome
In this condition, the heart of one twin pumps blood for the circulation of both twins. One twin does not have the heart and will not survive following birth. The outcome of the twin with the normal heart varies. Fortunately, this syndrome is rare (1 in 20,000 to 40,000) and it is amenable to in-utero procedures.
I am sure if we had magical powers right now, we would have just conjured up some amazing set of twins; only if wishes were horses. However, you at least have some idea about what twin pregnancy is all about. Also, you must have discovered if you have any hope of getting a twin pregnancy in the future. Whatever the case, you can at least continue to admire these awesome creatures.
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