From my experience following baby boards and chat rooms I realize that the notion of purposely trying to conceive twins can be a touchy one. It usually starts with someone saying how they really wish they could get pregnant with twins. Then, three or four mothers of twins jump in and say “that isn’t something you wish for. While I love my twins and I wouldn’t trade them it is very hard with two babies” yada yada yada. Well, you know what I say? Screw that! If you want twins then go for it.
I think most couples who are trying to conceive a baby for the first time usually have a romanticized version of what having a baby will be like in their head. How can you not with all the cute baby stuff, television shows, magazine ads, you name it?
I have always wanted twins. When I got pregnant with my son, a part of me was disappointed at that first ultrasound when I discovered it was just one baby (I was measuring large so I thought there was a chance). After her was born, however, I thanked my lucky stars because I was so overwhelmed with him I felt like there was no way I could have handled two babies.
However, as time goes by and the memories fade, I knew I wanted a second child. I had always wanted two children (I was the first of two and so was my husband). I wasn’t hoping for twins then, but by the time I got pregnant again, I was hoping for twins so badly that I was already looking up information about local twins groups and shopping for a double stroller.
I love having twins and I know that I am an extra special mom because I got a two for one deal. Just remember, that nothing worth having comes easy and if you want twins be prepared for heartache and sacrifices (I will explain more about that in another post). The human body is really only designed to carry one baby, so with each additional baby you up your risks of complications throughout the pregnancy and during labour. Once they are born, they are double the work, double the cost (but double the love).
Due in part to early ultrasounds we now know that there many more twin pregnancies than we once thought. Due to a phenomenon referred to as vanishing twin syndrome it is estimated that about 21-30% of all twin pregnancies result in a single live birth. I have even read a theory that all lefties are actually produced from twin pregnancies because the rate of left-handedness amongst twins in 35% compared to less than 10% in the general population/
The odds of getting pregnant with identical twins are about 1 in 285 and nothing can change that. However there are several factors that are said to increase your odds of having fraternal (non identical) twins. Remember, these are only theories, based on limited research, which are intended to be a jumping off point for research on the topic.
AGE: The older you are the higher your chance of having twins. All women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Each month follicles develop in your ovaries until the largest one breaks through at ovulation. Once you reach 35 your body starts going through hormonal changes that can include an increase in FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and this causes more than one egg to ripen and mature and produce fraternal twins. It’s almost like as you age your body knows it is running out of time so it will start releasing more eggs to increase your odds of pregnancy (when you are older your odds of miscarriage go up as well so two eggs really gives you a better shot at a single viable pregnancy). Also, since your eggs have been with you since birth the older you get the older they are, which means they are more prone to genetic mutation (and technically speaking, that is what identical twins are). By the time you reach 40 your chances of conceiving twins can be as high as 17%.
ETHNICITY: Statistically speaking, African-Americans have the highest odds of conceiving twins (about 1-60). Caucasians have about a 1-69 chance, and Hispanics and Asians have the lowest (about 1 in 250).
GENETICS: If you have fraternal twins in your family or you are a fraternal twin your odds of having twins increases. In fact, if you have given birth to a set of twins (conceived spontaneously) your odds of having another set quadruples (because you are probably one of those women who tends to ovulate more than one egg monthly). As I mentioned, sine identical twins are completely a fluke even being one does not increase your odds of having twins.
SIZE: Overweight women have slightly higher odds of having twins. This is due to hormonal changes brought on by the excess weight. Women who are taller also have slightly higher odds because they produce a higher amount of insulin growth factor which not only stimulates the ovaries, it stimulates growth and development of the fetus allowing more twin pregnancies to thrive.
BREASTFEEDING: In order to breastfeed your body produces a hormone called prolactin. This also suppresses your regular menstrual cycle for anywhere from a few month to a few years depending on your body and how long you breastfeed for. As your cycle starts to kick back in gear there is a higher chance of multiple eggs during ovulation and so your odds of having twins goes up.
BIRTH CONTROL: Same idea. After coming off the pill (which has been regulating your hormones) as your body kicks back into gear and your hormones are regulating you have a slightly higher chance.
NUMBER OF PREGNANCIES: The more times you are pregnant the higher your odds (look at Michelle Duggar, she has a few sets of twins in there).
SUPPLEMENTS: There are several things you can take that are though to give you a higher chance of twins.
- Folic Acid: Folic acid is frequently advised to women of reproductive age group to decrease the risk of developing anemia during pregnancy and to minimize the chances of neural tube defects in the baby. However, it has also been observed that folic acid increases the chances of twin pregnancy. Oral intake and supplemental forms are equally effective. Australian study indicates that folic acid increase the chances of twin pregnancy by 40%.
- Maca/ Wild Yams: Wild yams especially cassava are known to hyper-stimulate ovaries to release multiple eggs; thereby increasing the chances of twin pregnancy. Igbo-Ora is a town in Africa that has the highest incidence of twin pregnancies that is attributed to their staple diet, consisting primarily of wild yams.
- Soy Isoflavenoids: Soy isoflavenoids contain phytoestrogens (estrogen from plants). This is similar to as human estrogen and can bind to estrogen receptors in your body causing it to think it is not producing enough estrogen. To counter that, the body produces extra estrogen which can lead to the production of multiple eggs.
- DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone is a steroid hormone found naturally in the body. It is a precursor to the reproductive hormones testosterone and estrogen. Taking DHEA can increase the amounts of estrogen produced in the body which could increase your odds of twins.
- Dairy: Dairy contains that IGF we talked about earlier. One study showed that women who consumed dairy were five times more likely to have twins than those who didn’t (vegans).
MEDICATIONS: Obviously this is the big one, and the most common reason for the increase in multiple births. But what about IVF you say? Well, actually doctors are taking a much more cautious approach to these procedures and instead of implanting several embryos they will usually limit to two. With medications on the other hand, doctors have no control over how many eggs can be produced which results in more multiple pregnancies. A few of the common medications that stimulate follicle production are Clomid (clomiphene), Femera (letrozole), Bravelle, Follistim, Gonal-F. Please note: you should not use fertility medications without doctor supervision.
As I mentioned above, really the odds of having twins are just luck in the end, and I am so so so thankful that I got mine.
Happy Baby Dancing!
- Post Partum Twin Belly Pics: Warning Graphic Images
- What is it Like to Give Birth to Twins?
- Happy Birthday Girls: What I Learned During My First Year With Twins
- Why Twins Are A Blessing