Are Twins Pregnancies Hereditary?

DNA renderingAn often asked question when you tell people you are pregnant with twins is “do twins run in your family?” There is a lot of talk about twins “skipping” a generation, and other misconceptions also exist.

As it turns out, dizygotic (or “fraternal”) twins are hereditary, but only on the mother’s side. A genetic trait that tends to cause “hyper-ovulation” (the releasing of multiple eggs per cycle) can be passed from mother to child. Of course, as babycenter.com points out, it’s important to remember that “a man who carries the gene doesn’t have a greater chance of having twins himself because his genes don’t affect his partner’s ovulation.” Hence, it may seem to “skip a generation” when a father passes on his mother’s gene to his daughter. (i.e. “My grandmother had twins, so does that mean I could, too?”)

Some cultural groups seem to have a higher incidence of this genetic trait. For example, dizygotic twinning is quite rare in Asian women, about half the rate of Caucasian women. Women of African origin, meanwhile, have four times the chance of Asian women of conceiving twins! That being said, some twins seem to occur spontaneously, too.

Monozygotic (or “identical”) twins, on the other hand, are NOT hereditary, and occur randomly regardless of age or race.

Artificial reproductive technology (ART) has increased the incidence of both types of twins, though mainly dizygotic twins are more common now, due to an increase in fertility treatments which stimulate the ovaries.

Many of our prenatal class clients past and present are expecting or already parenting both mono- and dizygotic twins, triplets or more due to ART.

Worried About Delivering by C-Section?

Man Kissing Woman's BellyOne of the first things many women expecting twins, triplets or more wonder about is whether or not they can have a vaginal birth for their twins. Although triplets are considered by most health care professionals to be a mandatory “section” delivery, it is often possible to deliver at least one if not both babies vaginally in a twins pregnancy.

Benefits of Vaginal Birth

Delivering twins vaginally offers many benefits to both babies and mom. A recent study reported on in the Toronto Star suggests that in addition to previously known benefits such as respiratory development and transfer of antioxidant reserve, delivering vaginally can also positively impact the make-up of gut bacteria in newborns, which is thought, in turn, to benefit overall health.

The trouble is that even with a healthy twins pregnancy, one doesn’t always have as much control over the delivery as one might with a singleton. Although you may initially hope (and your OBGYN plan) for a vaginal delivery of your twins, you will have to prepare yourself for unexpected circumstances which may arise later in the pregnancy.

Preparing for Labour and Delivery

Some expectant couples choose to read and get as much information about their twins or triplets pregnancy as possible, for example, by taking a multiples-specific prenatal course. Preparing in this way can be helpful in knowing what to expect in a variety of circumstances.

It’s also helpful to read carefully and think critically about information given. The study quoted in the article above, for example, is based on a very small sample size (24 babies) from a narrow geographic and cultural focus (Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario). Many other things can affect the overall health of your babies, and unless you read every scrap of research out there, it’s impossible to know all the factors. So if you end up delivering your twins by caesarian section, that doesn’t mean they are doomed to a lifetime of ill health!

Inform yourself, but don’t hang on to predicaments beyond your control. If labour and delivery don’t go as planned, be forgiving of yourself and others involved. The journey is just beginning, and dwelling on one small phase in that journey can be crippling to you as a parent, especially a parent of twins, triplets or more!

twins-playing

Moving from Pregnancy to Parenting

A good multiples-specific prenatal class will walk you not only through your multiples pregnancy, labour and delivery, but will also offer guidance as you consider life with twins, triplets or more in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Parenting multiple birth children is both a rewarding and a challenging endeavour. Doing whatever you can while pregnant with your twins, triplets or quads is important, but sticking with it for the long haul is even more critical.

Strollers for Twins… but not Doctors!

twin-stroller2The Toronto Star recently published an article about a mother of twins who was asked to leave her stroller outside in the hall at the doctor’s office.

Anyone who has been on the go with a newborn will surely sympathize with the woman in this article; imagine having to juggle two babies, a purse or diaper bag, and whatever other “stuff” comes along on the trip (or, if grocery shopping or running other errands, comes as a result of the trip).

Families with Twins Face Challenges their Singleton Counterparts Don’t

It’s not uncommon for parents of multiples to struggle with strollers, even when not traveling the confines of narrow hallway at the doctor’s office or other tight space.

The truth is, being out and about with twin or triplet babies is both visually attention-grabbing and physically challenging. People are intrigued by seeing two, three or more same-aged babies side-by-side or in a row, and may often stop to chat, even when it’s inconvenient to you. And erecting that fancy, “easy-to-assemble” triplet stroller that’s been folded up in the trunk when you venture out to the mall for the first time, to run some errands with your babies in tow, can seem like an insurmountable task!

In our prenatal course, we address some of the challenges parents of multiples face when traveling – whether it’s around the block or across town – with their babies, and offer practical solutions to the stroller dilemma.

twin-strollersFinding Your Way in a World Designed for Singletons

I remember helping a client with quadruplets take public transit to the pediatrician several years ago… The stares of disbelief we got from our fellow passengers as we tried to wrestle two double strollers down the escalator at the subway were plentiful, but practical help from passers-by was not. People seemed just too stunned by the image of four babies to offer any sensible assistance!

The fact is that much of the world is not built to accommodate longer or wider strollers and the babies (and their gear) that accompany them. The consequences for those of us who have to navigate said world on a daily basis with two or more babies can range from minor irritant to major daily frustration.

Plan Now for Later Travels

If you’re pregnant with twins or triplets, take the time to think about how you’ll manage multiple babies with limited hands when you are out and about after they are born. Talk to other parents of multiples to find out what worked for them, and ask your prenatal instructor for practical suggestions, too.

A walk to the park or a visit to the doctor should be a fun adventure for you and your little ones. And with a little planning and foresight, it can be!

Lamaze for Twins?

family of twinsI recently received an email from someone taking our prenatal course asking about Lamaze for twins.  She was surprised that there was so little emphasis in the course on labour and delivery, and wondered about learning breathing techniques and so on to prepare for childbirth.

Her question caused me to reflect on my own philosophy as a multiple births-specific prenatal instructor, and dig deeper into why I choose to focus on the topics I do in my course.

Child Birth or Prenatal?

The internet is full of information on childbirth and prenatal courses.  What’s the difference, and why does it matter when it comes to preparing for twins, triplets or more?

As the name suggests, “Childbirth Classes” get you ready for, well, “childbirth”.  They may focus very specifically on breathing techniques, as in Lamaze classes, or on coaching through labour (a-la- Bradley method), or they may encompass a little more of the pregnancy and the first few weeks beyond birth.

Prenatal classes, on the other hand, focus more on the pregnancy as a whole, and on things the parent(s)-to-be can do before the birth (“pre-natally”) to prepare for life with a bigger family.

When pregnant with twins, triplets or more, it is important to consider the long-term implications raising multiple birth children, and so a broader perspective can help.

“Child-birth prep” can still be useful in alleviating fears and concerns some women and their partners may have of labour and delivery, but much of this sort of medical, technical information can be found in a good book, and — depending on the circumstances – the birth of your twins or triplets may not go as you had planned.

In my opinion, the birth is only the beginning of this grand adventure, and so a course that helps you to consider the road ahead is ideal.

What Should You Learn in a Twins Prenatal Course?

Port Perry Lamaze in Ontario, Canada, offers this advice to expectant parents looking for prenatal classes in general:

Ask for – and carefully examine – an agenda or course outline.  Look at the topics to be covered.  Some classes jt focus on labour and delivery, while others spend equal time on what happens after the baby is born, such as feeding, diapering, bathing, settling crying babies, caring for the mother immediately after birth, postpartum depression, changes in the family, and other related topics.

twinsSage advice when you consider classes that offer only “Comfort Techniques for Labour” and “Cesarean Birth Class”, as two I found recently on the Internet.

Be sure to check that the prenatal classes you sign up for, especially if you are expecting twins or higher-order multiples, include a wide range of topics that will address the many questions you may already have (or that will arise as the pregnancy progresses)!

Twins Pregnancy and Twins Parenting

A good multiple births-specific prenatal class will allow you to get started as soon as possible (ideally 12 weeks pregnant with twins or sooner, if you already know you are pregnant with twins or triplets). Beginning early will allow you to take advantage of the many things we already know can help foster a healthy twins pregnancy, possibly reducing the chances of pre-term labour and early delivery of your babies.

Becoming knowledgeable about your unique pregnancy early on may also help to alleviate discomfort later on in the pregnancy, and yes, during labour and delivery, too.

Additionally, starting prenatal classes early gives you and your partner plenty of time to prepare mentally for the arrival of two or more babies.  Feeding twins, buying all the gear (do you really need it?  We address this in Class 2 of our course, “Gear and Supplies”, researching twins strollers, considering the social-emotional implications of naming your triplets, joining a multiple births support group so that you can meet other parents of twins, triplets or more… all this will be far more consuming in the long run than the few hours of breathing you may or may not be able to do, depending on the type of delivery you end up having.

Preparing for childbirth is critical, and a good prenatal course will cover this topic, even for twins births.  But preparing for parenting twins, triplets or more is equally important, and a multiples-specific prenatal class will help you and your partner get ready for this joy and challenge!

Twins’ Birthday Coming Up?

twins birthdayOne challenge faced by parents of multiple birth children is the need to foster their individuality while celebrating their twinship. (Or triplet-ship, or… you get the idea!) Especially during holidays, where all children in the set will get a gift, it can be tricky to strike the right balance between “special” and “fair”.Making each twin or triplet’s special day unique need not be an expensive endeavour, but it can be time consuming.

A Unique Valentine’s Day Treat

Our family celebrates valentine’s day each year with a little something for the kids. Usually this is a small chocolate heart or something of that nature tucked into each boy’s lunch bag. The treats are equal in size, but different in design. One year Alex got a chocolate “A”, for example, while Simon got a chocolate “S”; another year each boy got a chocolate heart, one wrapped in red foil, the other in gold.This year, my girlfriend made each twin a bag with his name on a card that read “26 things that I love about (name)”. Inside the bag were 26 little cards, one for each letter of the alphabet. On each little card was written word that begins with that letter of the alphabet, and that describes that twin.

Being Fair With Twins Or Triplets Is Critical

Although the boys loved their little alphabet card bags, they immediately checked their adjectives against their co-multiple’s bag to ensure that both had gotten similarly flattering descriptors. Thankfully, my girlfriend had suspected this might happen, and had carefully selected each child’s words to ensure fairness. (Nevertheless, Simon noticed that Alex got “quick” for Q, and protested loudly that he hadn’t therefore gotten “fast” for F!)

Celebrating Both The Twinship And The Individual

Although coming up with a fair yet unique gift for each child can be somewhat time-consuming, it is a great way to let your twins, triplets or more know how special each of them is to you individually, as well as in a group.So, if you have a birthday or another holiday coming up soon in your multiple births family, consider how best to celebrate both their collective and individual identities!

What Do You Do If You’re Pregnant with Triplets?

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tripletsMany people who sign up for our multiples-specific, online prenatal course are expecting twins. But what if you are expecting triplets or quadruplets?

If you are pregnant with triplets, then finding high-quality prenatal classes that deal specifically with multiple births pregnancies is even more important.

Most people wait until they are at least 8 weeks pregnant with twins before looking for prenatal classes, and I have had couples contact me as late as 33 or 34 weeks pregnant with twins!

Although the old adage “better late than never” could certainly apply to prenatal classes, in my opinion, sooner is better, especially with triplets. There are many things you can do early on in your pregnancy to increase the chances of a healthy outcome later on, and with a multiples pregnancy, you may not have as much time as you think you do…

Triplets Arrive Early

A full-term singleton pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Twins born at 37-38 weeks are considered “term”, and according to an article posted on Baby Centre’s website, most triplets are born at 33 weeks gestation (quads often arrive at 29 weeks or before).

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Twin Names – To Match or Not To Match?

twin names

Naming twins, triplets and more can be an exciting part of preparing for the arrival of your multiples.

Websites for choosing twin names abound (even Googling “names for triplets” turns up a number of online resources), but the research on the impact of naming your twins, triplets or more is less publicly accessible.

As both individuals and members of a set, multiple birth children face a unique self-identity struggle which their singleton counterparts don’t.

The frenzy with which some expectant parents choose “matching set names” underscores this:

Help!”, writes one expectant mother of triplets in an online forum post, “I really need 3 beautiful matching girls’ names! TRIPLETS!”

Matching Names for Multiples

Although the image of three beautiful little baby girls makes me smile, the alarming sense I get is that mom is already seeing her babies as a group only, and forgetting to consider their individual identities.

In her 2011 article addressing “ego fusion” in monozygotic (a.k.a. “identical”) twins, researcher Sophie Cassell considers the naming of twins:

“On a basic level”, Cassell notes, the naming of twins often takes into consideration the twinship. Parents often use rhyming names or alliteration to signal that they are part of the same unit (Stewart, 2000, quoted in Cassell, 2011).

This automatically labels the twins as two parts of one whole set, which is a social reinforcer of ego and identity fusion.”

 Read the full article here.

Although there is good evidence to support celebrating the special bond between twins, triplets and higher-order multiples, expectant parents of multiples should consider the importance of helping each child develop her own unique, “whole” identity in addition to her identity as part of a set.

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee?

Having rhyming names or some similar “twinsy” type name may seem cute when they’re babies, but can cause considerable turmoil to multiple birth children as they grow up, especially if they are too closely coupled.

Another option that is less obvious but still signals the special relationship between multiple birth siblings is to use anagrams, names whose letters can be rearranged to form another name, for example:

Alan and Nala for boy/girl twins, or Alanis and Salina if you’re expecting two girls.

This way, the “match” can be more subtle.

Considering how best to address the individuality and co-identity of multiple birth children is an important subject matter for families expecting twins, triplets or more.  We explore this topic and many other relevant issues in our twins-specific prenatal class online.  If you or someone you know is pregnant with multiples, we encourage you to sign up here.  

 

Pregnant with Twins? You’re Not Alone!

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twins statsI remember when my partner and I first got the news that we were pregnant with twins… there were days when we felt lost and overwhelmed, and as if no one else could relate to the challenges we were facing. It was important for us to find other expectant parents of multiples to connect with who were facing the same uncertainties we were. 

If you have recently discovered that you are pregnant with twins or higher-order multiples, it can be very comforting to know that you’re not alone. The number of multiple births have increased dramatically over the last several decades, and around the world, you are in good company!

 

Multiple Births Are On The Rise

• 3.3% of all births each year in Canada and the United States are twins. That’s 137,000 each year in the US, and about 12,000 in Canada. 

• According to U.S. data collected in 2009, the likelihood of becoming pregnant with twins has multiplied by about 75%, when compared to 1980. 

 

What Increases the Chances of Multiple Births?

You guessed it – Age!

Statistically speaking, the odds of having multiples increase dramatically once you’re above the age of 34. 

• For mothers-to-be aged 35 to 39, the likelyhood of having twins increases by 100%.

• Above 40, the chances of having twins increase by a whopping 200%!

A number of theories exist as to why the odds of concieving multiples increase with age. One strongly observed correlation has been made between multiple births and the increasing use of fertility treatments.  According to Barbara Luke, a biology professor at Michigan State University, the increase in twins pregnancies could also be attributed to the use of birth control; apparently the odds of having twins increase from the moment you stop taking “the pill”.

 

The Internet is Buzzing About Twins!

pregnant with twins chart

International queries for the term “pregnant with twins” according to Google Trends (January 28, 2013)

If you do a quick search on Google Trends, you can see that the number of people searching for the phrase “pregnant with twins” has also increased dramatically since 2005.

Searches "pregnant with twins" by Country

Search Queries by Region

When you break the searches down by country, the Republic of South Africa is in the lead.

Right behind them is the U.S. and… Ireland?!

Canada falls to number 7 on the list. 

Keep in mind that these are only search queries, and are only for general interest; you can make your own guesses as to why these countries are in the top three.

 

Connecting with Others

One fun way to get the conversation started with other parents of multiples is to do a quick Twitter search for something like “expecting twins”.

Once you filter through some of the initially superficial chatter, it can be great way to connect with others who are also pregnant with twins or triplets, and make new friends; maybe even in your own city!

Finding the right support early on can change your entire experience during the weeks of pregnancy… and beyond!

Once your babies arrive, you’ll quickly realize how important it is to have a network of people around you who can help. This is only one of the many practical topics we cover in our online prenatal course for multiples. Enroll today!

Sources:

USA Today

Wikipedia

 

Why You Should Write Letters To Your Twins – Before They’re Even Born!

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Writing a journal while pregnant with twins keeps precious memories you may otherwise lose track ofAlthough I briefly address documenting your journey with twins, triplets or higher-order multiples in a few of the lessons of my twins prenatal class, I’d like to go into more detail in this blog post, especially for parents and expectant parents of multiples who find the more traditional methods unappealing.

If you are not a journaler or a scrap-booker, and you don’t want your pregnant twins’ belly cast or bronzed baby feet hanging from your wall, there are still ways you can make a special keepsake to document the experience of carrying and caring for newborn, preschool, toddler and school-age twins and multiples.

Before I knew I was expecting twins, I was convinced that my one baby was a girl. Although I had tried several times, I am not very good at keeping journals. But since I write fairly well when I have an audience, I began to write “Letters to Maiya”, (which soon became “Letters to Alex and Simon!”)

Periodically, I go back and reread these letters, which I wrote about once every 10 – 14 days from my pregnancy until the boys were about 3 months old.  It is such a wonder – now that I’ve known the recipients for nearly 9 years – to read my thoughts and reflections I had while I was pregnant with them.

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Oops, I Did it Again!

I cannot believe I succumbed to it… the allure of the flashy children’s clothing store, at the mall, with the perfectly coordinated outfits for every occasion… ugh!

My Bulletwin readers from a few years ago will know exactly what I am talking about (and if you don’t, you might want to catch up by clicking here, first!)I am so dis-GUST-ed with myself!  For almost four years, I have been “dry”, shopping primarily on Craigslist, at Goodwill or the Sally Ann, or sometimes buying new at discount outlets for my now-8-year-old twins’ clothing.

But, like the true clothesaholic I am, I could not resist the temptation walking past the colourful store window during my most recent trip to the mall, and was beguilingly (and predictably!) drawn into the Gymboree store at Sherway.I was just going to buy a coupla pairs of socks.  Honest.  The boys were down to about 2 hole-less pairs each, and we splurge for so few “new” things for them these days, I figured, would it really be that bad to spend a little more than usual on some stripy or animal-themed socks for my two special little men? Read the rest of this entry »