Having one baby is amazing, but getting pregnant with twins can be twice the blessing and twice the worry. Many women think that twins are a fluke- just something that happens sometimes when women create a baby. But the rate of twins in modern society has increased greatly over the past 3o years, so scientists have worked to figure out the conditions that make it happen.
Of course, a lot of the factors these days can include treatments, but just because a mom has twins doesn't mean that she had any medical help in the process. People have been having twins for centuries, so it isn't all because of science. The research tells us that there might be a genetic component to the situation since fraternal twins can run in families. It's also happening more since older moms are more likely to have twins, and people these days tend to be starting families later in life than they did a generation or two ago.
Some women relish the idea of having twins, but others are concerned about it and want to avoid it, since twins can be hard on a woman's system and her bank account. Here are 15 things that increase a woman's chances of having twins (and five ways to prevent it).
20 Taking Fertility Medications
Twins have been surprising moms throughout history, but the rate has increased by about 75 percent (that's not far from doubled) between 1980 and 2009. That is all thanks to fertility treatments, which have been helping women get pregnant for a generation now.
There are lots of different methods for fertility treatments, and for most women the first step is oral medication. The two most popular in the U.S. are Clomid and Femera, and they can come with a 5 to 12 percent chance of having twins, compared to an overall rate of 3.35 percent. This is actually the lowest rate of twins for fertility treatments, but it's still an increased chance compared to naturally conceiving.
19 Being An Older Mom
When women get older, their reproductive system isn't in top shape. Many times, that can mean that it's harder to get pregnant, but some moms might be surprised to learn that they are actually more likely to get pregnant with twins, whether they use fertility treatments or not.
Doctors think that the incidence of twins might increase because older women ovulate less regularly, but when they do they occasionally release more than one egg. It's usually a bit of a miracle if a woman conceives naturally after 40, but it's a double blessing if she becomes the mom of twins or more.
18 Bigger Mom Problems
Another health issue that can be bad — or can lead to twins — is if the mom is overweight. Most women who are in that situation are worried that they could have complications because of their weight, and that's true. Obese women are at higher risk for everything from gestational diabetes to high blood pressure or even stillbirth. But they are also at risk of conceiving twins.
Many bigger moms have issues with fertility, since they are more likely to have conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. But excess fat can mean extra estrogen, and that can cause the ovaries to be overstimulated. While it's a major blessing, twin pregnancies can be dangerous, so it's another complication that bigger moms have to face.
17 Eating A Lot Of Dairy
There is one research study that has shown that moms have a greater chance of conceiving twins if they eat a lot of food in the dairy film, such as milk. But the truth is that the study results didn't point as much to the calcium as people would think.
Scientists realized that the moms who had twins had likely increased their chances because of the growth hormones that they had ingested along with the dairy products. That is, the food products that we eat are more likely to have a lot of hormones in them because of the things that are given to cows before they produce their milk. Although some people are wary of it, most of the time, it doesn't really impact our health, but it could increase your chances for twins.
16 Big Family Makes It More Likely
Twins don't happen as often in a woman's first pregnancy — in fact, one of the risk factors for having more than one is the number of pregnancies that a mom has gone through. A woman who has had a lot of children is more likely to have twins.
According to research from Johns Hopkins Medicine, the chances of a mom having twins goes up if she's had a baby before — and it continues with subsequent pregnancies. That doesn't mean that all moms of four should worry, as twins are still rare, but it is a lot more likely than if it were the first baby.
15 Getting Pregnant While Nursing
Some women don't think it's possible to get pregnant while they are breastfeeding. That's because sometimes their period doesn't start again until after they wean. But not only is it possible, there is an increased risk if you do get pregnant that it could be twins.
According to one research study, the rate of conceiving twins is 10 times higher for breastfeeding moms — it's 11.4 percent compared to 1.1 percent for women who aren't breastfeeding. That means that you could have three babies in no time, so be careful if you want to avoid expanding your family that quickly.
14 Twins Run In Families
One of the biggest predictors of whether or not you will have twins is if they run in your family. That's not necessarily true of identical twins — those seem to happen randomly when an egg splits after fertilization. But if you have fraternal twins in the family, the possibility increases that it could happen to you.
According to research, the likelihood goes up if there are fraternal twins on both the mom's side and the dad's side. That's because for the mom it might mean that it's more likely to release more than one egg, and for the dad it might indicate a higher sperm count. Together, that's an increased likelihood of twins for sure.
13 Origin Is a Factor
There are a lot of factors that contribute to pregnancy and any complications that could arise. That is also true of conceiving twins. Race doesn't determine it, but it is a factor.
According to research studies, Asians are the least likely to conceive twins, although it does happen. And African-Americans are much more likely than Caucasian women to bring two babies into the world at the same time. But there is one caveat to that — white women over 35 are the most likely to have higher order multiples, which is likely because they are the ones who use fertility treatments the most.
12 Going Through IUI
IUI is called intrauterine insemination. It's less costly than IVF, although most people are more familiar with IVF. IUI involves injecting sperm into the woman while she is ovulating, and often it can be coupled with fertility medications.
The drugs and the increased concentration of sperm can cause women to conceive more than one baby. It's the treatment that caused the Busby family from Outdaughtered to conceive quintuplets, and there have been a lot more cases of higher order multiples because of the treatment.
11 Tall Mamas More Likely
Women who are larger in general are more likely to conceive twins than other women. It's not just about the pounds, as research has shown that it is also about height. This information comes from a study that compares women who are just about one inch different in height, with women who are nearly 5'4 more likely to conceive twins than those who were nearly 5'3.
Scientists think that the difference in height is about overall nutrition, which might help a person to grow taller and also help them conceive and bear twins. Women who are petite are more likely to struggle with more babies on board, so it makes sense in our book.
10 More Shots Make It More Likely
We've already mentioned the increased chance of having twins when you take fertility meds, but the oral medications have nothing on the injections. The treatment, known as gonadotropins contain hormones that stimulate follicles to release eggs.
The injections are usually coupled with following your ovulation cycle or even IUI or IVF, but even without those, gonadotropins are likely to work even better than expected. The injections might take a while, but they have a 30 percent chance of conceiving twins, which means that one in three women who get pregnant with that method are going to welcome more than one baby.
9 Implanting More Than One
In-vitro fertilization changed the landscape for so many women who struggled to get pregnant. It's been an entire generation since the first so-called "test tube babies," and now thousands of families have changed because of the procedure, which involves taking eggs and sperm out of the bodies (and possibly using donors), fertilizing them, analyzing them and then implanting them.
IVF is an expensive procedure, and many times even the healthiest embryos don't implant when they are put into the uterus. That is why many specialists recommend trying to put more than one in during a procedure. In the past, families have been able to implant five or more, but that isn't allowed these days because of regulations — mostly thanks to the notorious Octomom. But implanting more than one embryo in IVF definitely increases the likelihood of multiples, so moms have to be aware of the risk versus the reward when going through the procedure.
8 Taking Folic Acid
Folic acid is an amazing thing. It is proven to make a big difference in avoiding some of the most severe birth defects, known as neural tube defects. The issues happen when the baby's spine and brain don't close properly in the very first weeks of the baby's development. The defects can cause paralysis or be deadly, so many moms are encouraged to start taking folic acid when they are trying to get pregnant so that their body is ready to form the baby's neural tube early.
But at the same time, having excess folic acid might cause a woman to get pregnant with twins. That might excite some women, but it's not a guarantee. It's just another possibility when your body is primed with folic acid before getting pregnant.
7 Eat Wild Yams
This item might not be possible for mothers in America, but research has proven that there can be some strange things that account for conceiving twins. There is one tribe in Nigeria that is known to have a very high twin birth rate, and researchers have tried to figure out if there are environmental or nutritional reasons for the high rate. They have found that it might be related to wild yams that are a big part of the women's diet.
The scientists say that the cassava, a member of the tuber family, has high levels of certain chemicals that increase the number of eggs released during ovulation. The food might be impacted by the place where it is grown, so just eating yams might not help, but it won't hurt.
6 Get Pregnant Right After Stopping Birth Control
Many women these days start off their fertile years on birth control pills for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, when they choose to have children, sometimes getting off of the hormone pills can be hard, and it can take a while before the body returns to a state where the hormones are at the appropriate level to conceive.
But that isn't always true. There are times when a woman is lucky — maybe even a little too lucky — and gets pregnant right away. And sometimes that means that she gets pregnant with more than one baby. That's because her body is going through a bit of a hormone roller coaster, and it might result in ovulation where more than one egg is released. The happy news could come quicker than she expected — and even bigger than she imagined.
5 Prevent It: Lower Dosage Of Fertility Meds
There are definite downsides to having twins, and if you are already in a fragile state, that is one reason to try to do your best to prevent it. But that can also mean lowering your chances of conceiving at all. For example, one way to try to prevent it is to get the lowest dose possible of fertility meds.
The drugs that come with the lowest chance of conceiving twins are the oral medications, and if the doctor prescribes the lowest amount possible, there is still the possibility of two babies, but the chances are not much more than they would be if you get pregnant without help. It might still scare some, but it might be the only way to get pregnant at all.
4 Prevent It: Only One Embryo
If moms want to try to prevent twins during fertility treatments, they need to do all that they can to control the process. That might mean paying for an expensive IVF procedure but only trying to implant one embryo. The chances of the procedure working go down by a lot, but so does the possibility of twins.
For some reason — doctors don't know why yet — fertility treatments increase the chance of identical twins, which happens when a fertilized egg splits. So that means that there is still a chance of twins, even with one embryo, but it's a lot less likely than if you send in more than one fertilized egg in the first place.
3 Prevent It: Selective Reduction
We hate to bring up this option, but doctors consider it a viable choice for parents who end up conceiving multiples through fertility treatments. Basically, if they conceive multiples, they might want to consider reducing the number surgically so that one baby has a better chance of survival and good health.
The procedure is basically abortion for some of the embryos, while it lets the parents choose to let the healthiest survive. It's not even a consideration for some parents, but others agree that it might be a way to prevent twins and make it a safer situation for the mom and their singleton.
2 Prevent It: Become Vegan
We've talked a lot about how diet changes can increase your chances for twins — from eating dairy to rooting around for wild yams. But there is one diet change that doctors have found might help prevent it. It might seem dramatic, but at least one research study has pointed to a vegan lifestyle as a way to reduce your chances.
The 2006 study from a Long Island physician found that taking animal products out of your diet entirely can help you ensure it's a singleton, although family history will still play a role. The doctor who conducted the study thinks that it's because of the growth hormone that can be found in the animal products. Going vegan is a drastic lifestyle change but so is having twins, so some moms might think it's worth it.
1 Prevent It: Get fit
There are a lot of factors for having twins that moms can't control. They can't change their race or their height or their family history. And most of the time they don't really have a say in how old they are when they get pregnant. But they can change their diet and their weight.
Pregnancy is tough on the body when you are having one baby and even worse when you are having more than one. That's why doctors will always recommend starting out at the best physical condition possible, so losing weight before you get pregnant is always a good idea if you are overweight. Having twins is a pregnancy complication, not to mention a lifestyle change like no other, so be sure to be as prepared as you can.