Women today are waiting longer to start families. The use of infertility treatments has also gone up over time, raising the likelihood of multiple births.
As a result, twin births are more common today than ever.
If you’re looking to conceive twins, there’s no surefire method. But there are certain genetic factors and medical treatments that might increase the possibility.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one type of assisted reproductive technology (ART). It involves using medical intervention in order to conceive. Women who use IVF may also be prescribed fertility medications before the procedure to increase their chances of getting pregnant.
For IVF, the women’s eggs and man’s sperm are removed before they are fertilized. They are then incubated together in a laboratory dish where an embryo is formed.
Through a medical procedure, doctors place the embryo in the woman’s uterus where it will hopefully implant and grow. To increase the odds that an embryo will take hold in the uterus, more than one may be put in during IVF. This raises the likelihood of having twins.
Medications designed to increase fertility typically work by boosting the number of eggs produced in a woman’s ovaries. If more eggs are produced, it’s also likely that more than one can be released and fertilized. This occurs at the same time, causing fraternal twins.
Clomiphene and gonadotropins are commonly used fertility drugs that can increase your chances of having twins.
Clomiphene is a medication available only through prescription. In the United States, the brand names for the drug are Clomid and Serophene. The drug is taken by mouth, and dose will depend on a person’s individual needs. It works by stimulating the body’s hormones to cause ovulation. Studies have shown that women who use this drug for fertility treatment are more likely to have twins than those who don’t.
Gonadotropins describe a type of fertility medication given by injection. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is given by itself or combined with luteinizing hormone (LH).
Both hormones are made naturally by the brain and tell the ovaries to produce one egg each month. When given as an injection, FSH (with or without LH) tells the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Because the body is making more eggs, there is a higher chance that more than one will become fertilized.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that up to 30 percent of pregnancies that occur while using gonadotropins result in twins or multiples.
Both of these drugs are generally considered safe and effective. But like any medication, there are potential risks and side effects that go along with using fertility drugs.
If both you and your partner have a history of multiples in the family, your chances of conceiving twins is higher. This is especially true for women who have fraternal twins in their family. That’s because they’re more likely to have inherited the gene that makes them release more than one egg at a time.
According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, women who are fraternal twins themselves have a 1 in 60 chance of having their own twins. Men who are fraternal twins have a 1 in 125 chance of fathering twins.
Some research has shown that differences in ethnic background can impact your chances of having twins. For example, black and non-Hispanic white women are more likely to have twins than Hispanic women.
Nigerian women have the highest rate of twin births, while Japanese women have the lowest.
Women who are over age 30 — especially women in their late 30s — have a greater chance of having twins. That’s because they’re more likely to release more than one egg during ovulation than younger women.
Mothers between ages 35 and 40 who already have given birth have an even higher chance of conceiving twins.
Fraternal twins are more common in women who are larger. This could mean taller and/or overweight. Experts aren’t sure why this is the case, but suspect it might be because these women take in more nutrients than smaller women.
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Many doctors recommend taking it before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk for neural tube defects like spina bifida. Prior to becoming pregnant, doctors recommend taking about 400 micrograms of folic acid per day and increasing this amount to 600 micrograms during pregnancy.
There have been some small studies that suggest folic acid may increase the likelihood of conceiving multiples. But there aren’t any large-scale studies to confirm that this increases your chances for multiples. If you are trying to get pregnant, taking folic acid will help protect your baby’s brain development.
In 2006, a study was published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine that found that women who were breast-feeding and got pregnant were more likely to conceive twins. But there aren’t additional studies to support this information. For this reason, breast-feeding isn’t considered to be a factor that increases your likelihood to conceive twins.
A quick internet search reveals many “home remedies” and diet suggestions for conceiving twins. A healthy diet can help you grow a baby after conception. However, eating certain foods doesn’t mean you’ll have multiples.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports that twins happen naturally in about 1 out of every 250 pregnancies. The rate is much higher in women who get fertility treatments. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, approximately 1 out of every 3 pregnancies with fertility treatments will be multiples.
Pregnancies with twins and multiples are considered higher risk than single pregnancies. If you do get pregnant with twins, you’ll likely need frequent doctor visits so you can be closely monitored.
You asked, we answered
- Myth or fact: Can you conceive twins naturally?
While a woman is more likely to conceive twins if she uses fertility medications and other assistive reproduction techniques, there are also many women who conceive twins naturally. The factors that can increase a woman’s likelihood for conceiving twins include getting pregnant after age 30 and/or having a family history of twins. But many women conceive twins without any of these factors.- Rachel Nall, RN