Does giving birth to twins run in the family?
Wondering whether giving birth to twins runs in the family or is just nature’s way of springing a pleasant surprise? Get the answers as we unravel this mystery.
Sonal Aneja, a 30-year-old Delhi-based homemaker, recently gave birth to fraternal twins. The minute she mentioned having twins to her friends, they reacted by asking if giving birth to twins ran in her family.
This is not an unusual question considering the twin gene runs in the family, but is it always the case? The answer to this age-old genetic question isn’t always affirmative.
The twin gene pool
Giving birth to twins depends largely on the type of twins and the gene pool of a family. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the identical twin gene runs in a family, there are studies that indicate that birth of fraternal twins depends on genetic history.
Dr Rahul Manchanda, consultant & head gynae-endoscopic surgeon at Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI), New Delhi, says, “It is true that twins run in the family from the mother’s side. But with the advent of advancements in reproductive techniques such as IVF and availability of advanced drugs, multiple ovulations have become possible.”
As the name suggests, identical twins look alike and are born when the fertilised egg splits into two. Such twins are also called monozygotic twins. They have the same genes and are, therefore, of the same sex.
These twins are born when two sperms fertilise two eggs at the same time. Such twins are called fraternal or dizygotic twins.
Non-identical twins are usually inherited from the mother’s side. In other words, if the mother’s family has a history of twins, there are chances she will give birth to twins. This occurs because of hyper-ovulation, which causes a female to release several eggs at once during ovulation.
If one female in the family has this genetic tendency, she can pass it on to her daughter and possibly even her granddaughter. Interestingly, if the female has no daughters, it can skip a generation and resume in the next generation of females.
Take a look at this video to know about conception of twins:
Even though birth of identical and non-identical twins depends on the gene pool of the parents, there are four possibilities of whether or not you will give birth to twins.
Continue reading to understand the possibilities of giving birth to twins.
Will I give birth to twins?
Apart from the gene factor, the following come into play while conceiving fraternal twins:
- Ethnicity: Some studies suggest that ethnic groups are more likely to give birth to twins than others. For instance, Asian women are less likely to give birth to twins. While African women are more likely to give birth to twins as compared to other ethnic groups. “This has got to do with the gene pool of African women since their race is known to have multiple pregnancies,” says Dr Manchanda of PSRI, New Delhi.
- Weight and height: This factor largely depends on diet. Those who consume large amounts of foods that have folic acid (green vegetables and citrus fruits and juices) have a high probability of conceiving twins. It is also said that women who are heavier also have a likely chance of giving birth to twins.
- Age: Women who have children late in their lives are likely to give birth to twins. That’s because older women produce a large amount of follicle stimulating hormone. This hormone allows the ovaries to prepare eggs for ovulation. If there is a large concentration of this hormone in your body, you will produce more eggs and that can result in multiple pregnancies given that both the eggs are fertilised.
Giving birth to identical twins does not run in the family and can just happen randomly.
- Split fertilised egg: Identical twins are a result of split-fertilised egg.
- Sheer luck: Science does not really have an explanation for this but some just call it good luck or a mere coincidence.
Giving birth to twins can also happen if you use drugs to increase your chances of having a baby.
- Birth control pills: The birth control pills that you are on can also be responsible for conceiving twins. When women stop their consumption, it takes some time for the body to get into its normal natural rhythm. This causes the body to develop high-level of hormones during the first two menstrual cycles. So if you do conceive during this time, there is a likely chance that two eggs would be available for fertlisation. “Birth control pills are used to suppress ovulation and after stopping their use, extraneous hormone release is seen in the body which can result in multiple egg fertilisations,” says Dr Manchanda of PSRI, New Delhi.
- Fertility drugs: It seems that taking fertility drugs or treatments can help women conceive twins and even multiples.
Answer: Not Really
Giving birth to twins may be a stroke of luck to some but there are new-age enthusiasts who state otherwise.
- Sexual positions of conception: Some experts claim that certain sexual positions can aid in conceiving twins and multiple babies.
Whether you believe in this or not, there is no harm in actually trying as long as you don’t get too obsessed or too absorbed about it. Remember that if you are carrying twins you must take good prenatal care. You will have to undertake more frequent checkups to monitor the progress of your health as well as that of your feotuses’.
This will also help you to be on the look out for risks or health problems that may develop during twin pregnancies. Although there is a likely chance you might not develop any of these risks, but it is always better to be informed about the risk do you can proceed with caution.
Continue reading to know more about giving birth to twins.
Risks of giving birth to twins
When you consult with your OB-GYN, you must ask them about complications related to twin pregnancies. Experts from Apollo Centre of Fetal Medicine, New Delhi, list the following risks:
- Anemia: This is caused by iron-deficiency in the body and can only be treated by taking iron-rich supplements. During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to nourish the growing feotus. However, lack of iron may lead to slow production of red blood cells that is needed to generate blood.
- Premature delivery: Many twins are also born premature. This could be before the 37th week and, therefore, this could increase the risk of lifelong disabilities and cause other health problems. So ask your specialist if there is a possibility and changes you can make to prevent this. Or how to deal with premature twins.
- Preeclampsia: The problem of high blood pressure or preeclampsia is common among women pregnant with twins. It is characterized by swelling of hands and legs and protein in the urine. You may be put on bed rest in case this problem is detected during prenatal testing.
- Low birth weight: Women who are carrying twins are also at the risk of delivering babies with lower-than-normal birth weight. Such babies are prone to developing cerebral palsy, vision or hearing loss and mental disabilities. So consult your doctor about low birth weight as well.
- Gestational diabetes: This problem of high blood sugar causes the baby to grow way above the normal size. This in turn will increase the possibility of complications during delivery. Your baby can also develop high blood pressure problems or breathing problems in the future.
So if you are rooting for twins, it is best to look at your family tree for any twin relatives. If you don’t want to let luck make the decision, you can choose to undergo fertility treatments to further surge the chances.
Do note that these fertility treatments cost a lot of money and can take a toll on you and your spouse. Remember to consult a specialist first before taking any medication or undergoing any procedure.