For most of us, giving birth to just one child can be daunting enough. But when we talk about delivering twin babies, it’s a different ballgame altogether. Even so, there is a certain allure around being pregnant with twins. Countless movies have twins that are the centre of the plotline, so many ancient cultures revered twin babies, and considered them to be a sign of good luck. And truth be told, all of us who aren’t twins have wondered what it would be like to have a twin ourselves!
Twin babies are 2 offspring that are produced by the same pregnancy. This means that the mother will go through multiple births during the time of delivery. There are 2 types of twins, namely: the identical twins and fraternal twins.
The formation of twins could be of 2 types: identical twins, that are also known as monozygotic, which means that they develop from one zygote that gets split into two. Identical twins tend to look almost exactly alike and share a lot of the same genetic makeup with each other, they are split from the same cell after all. Fraternal twins on the other hand are twins that develop from two different eggs and each egg is fertilized by different sperm cells. Fraternal twins share the same similarities that two siblings of the same parents would share. They aren’t identical to each other.
When we look at India, the statistics of having twins are very low. The rate of twins in India is at about 9 twin births for every 1000 births. However, twin births are becoming a commonality around the world now that fertility treatments are more accessible to couples. That being said, lets get into the actual conception of twin babies.
While the science behind conceiving twins is not based on any empirical evidence, there are some genetic factors that have shown susceptibility to twin births in families!
Factors affecting conception and formation of twins:
- Genetics: When it comes to birthing identical twins, there is no conclusive proof that genetics plays a big role. The likelihood of having identical twins is not determined by age or ethnicity and is not inherited. However, there are a lot of families where there are more than an expected number of identical twin births, which means that genetics could play a role. There is a phenomenon, known as cell adhesion (cells sticking together, is one that can be passed on genetically. A lot of research hints towards this as a possible genetic cause in having identical twins but there is no conclusive proof. However, for fraternal twins, women with mothers or sisters that have fraternal twins are more likely to have fraternal twins as compared to the general population.
- Race: Statistics show that women of African-American descent have more twins than any other race. Caucasian women are also a part of this group. The rates of Asian and Native American women having twins is very less.
- Health standards: There is a link between obese women and carrying twins. Research suggests that because of the higher fat percentage in the body, more estrogen is produced that causes over stimulation of the ovaries. More than one egg is released every month and this could be a probable factor as to why heavier women tend to have twins. Women who are underweight, produce low estrogen and because of this there is a possibility of the zygote splitting into 2 resulting in identical twins.
- Age: This is perhaps the biggest factor that goes into having twins. A lot of studies have shown that women who are older (35 years of age and plus) tend to produce more eggs every month as compared to younger women. The closer you are to menopause, the more eggs your ovaries release. Hence when fertilization occurs, it is very likely that 2 eggs might be present to receive the sperm cells, hence resulting in carrying fraternal twin babies!
Now let’s address some common misconceptions that people have about carrying twins and having twins:
Myth 1: You’ll have to deliver via C-section.
No, a lot of twin births happen vaginally!
Myth 2: Twin pregnancies last longer.
No, they last an average of 35 weeks rather than a regular birth’s 40.
Myth 3: You’ll become massive during the pregnancy.
No, a second baby takes up only around 350 extra calories a day, not enough to significantly bloat you during pregnancy.
Myth 4: Twins tend to grow up and have similar personalities and can feel each other’s pain.
Absolutely not, each twin is their own person and has their own distinct personality, just like 2 siblings would!
Myth 5: It runs in the family.
While it is true that being a twin yourself or having mothers or sisters who have had twins can increase your chances of carrying twin babies, the truth is that the conception of twins occurring naturally happens at random.
If you’re really into the idea of having twins, then there are certain steps you can take naturally that others have tried. Here are certain foods and herbs that people associate with increasing chances of having twins:
- White Nigerian Yams: These yams make up the staple diet of a lot of African women, (who are known to have more twins than any other race).They contain phytoestrogen that could possibly cause an increase in the amount of eggs laid, hence resulting in fraternal twin births.
- Dairy products: Cow’s milk contains a protein called Insulin growth Factor. Theories state that when IGF is released into our bloodstreams- itcould cause an increase in estrogen, hence resulting in release of 2 eggs per month.
- Nutrition for your partner: Foods like green leafy vegetables, seeds and oysters are known to help boost sperm production. Being healthy in general will improve the fertility overall, hence maybe resulting in fertilization of more than one egg successfully.
- Herbs for boosting fertility and health overall: These are in no way proven to help having twins, but they are used for overall reproductive well-being.
- Liquorice: this helps in controlling and regulating your menstrual cycle so that you keep a better track of the days you are ovulating. It improves fertility as well.
- Black cohosh: this is known for strengthening pelvic floor muscles and uterine walls and helps with controlling symptoms related to PMS.
To supplement all these dietary changes, there are also some sex positions you could try to increase the probability of you having twins.
- Doggy style: In this style, your partner enters from behind so that there’s not only deep penetration, but also the sperm is as close to the cervix as possible.
- Woman on top: This position also ensures that deep penetration will occur so that the sperms are as close to eggs as possible.
Stopping birth control pills right before trying to get pregnant could also help. When your body’s hormones suddenly have to come back to normal after stopping the pill, there is a higher chance of you producing more eggs because of a rise in reproductive hormone levels.
However, if having twins is something that’s really important for you, then you might want to look into medical treatments like In-Vitro- Fertility treatments. (IVF)
The procedure consists of a fertility doctor taking multiple eggs from the mother’s ovaries using needles, and then fertilizing them with the sperm in a laboratory. After a waiting period of 3-5 days, the fertilized eggs or embryos are taken and re-introduced into the mother’s womb. A laser or chemical solution might also be used to ensure that the embryos are successfully implanted onto the uterus. If the embryos attach, then the chances of having twins increases significantly.
It is quite a delicate process, and it isn’t affordable for most of the population. Consult your doctor or gynaecologist before reaching a decision to using IVF treatment.
Oftentimes couples tend to want twins just so they could get a head start at having a big family. Sometimes the idea of having identical twins is very appealing. With all factors considered, having twins cannot really be determined by anything we choose to do differently. Yes, treatments like IVF are proven to boost chances of being pregnant with twins but there are flipsides to it as well. The chances of having twins at a younger age are fairly rare! Having said this, there is double joy when you could be expecting two little ones. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and hope for the best!