Everyone's Having Twins (& It's Not Just IVF!)
I'm sure I'm not alone in noticing there's a major twin trend happening right now. I have three friends who've all given birth to twins within the last year, and stars like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Angelina Jolie's twins are paparazzi favorites. We as a society just can't seem to get enough of twins. Why? It's simple. Because there's twice as much to love!
The double baby boom has been a long time coming. Between 1980 and 2009, the rate of multiple births increased by 76 percent. As of 2012, about one in 30 babies born in the United States is a twin. Two-thirds of the increase is likely due to the growing use of IVF. The remainder is mainly attributed to a rise in the average age women give birth. Older women are more likely to produce more than one egg in a cycle, and 35 percent of births in 2009 were to women over age 30, up from 20 percent in 1980 (This age-induced increase applies only to fraternal twins, though; the rate of identical twin births does not change with the age of the mother).
Due to IVF, many moms-to-be are faced with the question: How many fertilized eggs do I want implanted in my uterus? One is the safest for both mom and baby, but many couples who've suffered with infertility are afraid to rely on a single egg per try. Aside from it being a costly process (usually around $10-15k per cycle), the thinking is the more embryos the higher chance of pregnancy. But according to Dr. Amos Grunebaum, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist at Weill Cornell, having multiple embryos implanted during IVF doesn't necessarily increase your chances of pregnancy, it simply increases your chances of being pregnant with multiples.
In fact, when a woman carries more than one fetus, it's less likely that she'll be able to carry that pregnancy to term. Dr. Grunebaum thinks mothers should ask for only one embryo to be implanted because of the health risks involved with having multiples for both the babies and the moms (In some European countries it's actually illegal for docs to implant more than one embryo because of the risks it poses to the mother's health).
About 60 percent of twins are born prematurely (at an average of 35 weeks). More than half of twins are born at less than 5.5 pounds. Low birthweight babies—especially those born before 32 weeks and/or weighing less than 3.5 pounds—are at an increased risk for breathing, vision, hearing and heart problems.
Mothers expecting twins are in danger too. They are more than twice as likely to develop preeclampsia, a mix of high blood pressure, protein in the urine and general swelling that can be dangerous for both mom and baby. Gestational diabetes—which can cause the baby to be larger—is also common, and can increase risks of injury to mom and baby during vaginal births, and can lead to poor feeding, jaundice, breathing problems and seizures in infants. And, finally, women due with twins are more likely to need a cesarean section, which is a more evasive birth with a higher chance of hemorrhaging during and after delivery, and requires a longer period of recovery.
The stress of twins is not over once they're born, either. Two babies at the same time means more feedings, diaper changes, and temper tantrums. More clothes, gear and childcare, which can add up to be very pricy. But it also means twice the smiles, hugs and giggles too. While the moms of twins I know love having twins, they'll be the first to tell you it's an awful lot of hard work—that goes far beyond picking out perfectly coordinated outfits. So think twice before you decide to implant yourself with more than one egg. You might not be ready for what you're wishing for.
TELL US: Would you want twins? If you have them, how are you dealing with double the work, double the pleasure?
Image of twins courtesy of Shutterstock.