Are twins still special?

When I was growing up we had one set of twins in our grade. They were a brother and a sister – obviously fraternal and not identical. But we still thought they were so cool being twins!  I was always fascinated with twin secret languages and often read books about twins.

Last week I ran across a story about how more unmarried, older, educated women are having babies.  Here’s the story in full with all the details on that.

But the fact that I found most shocking from this entire story was buried deep at the bottom:

Since the 1980s, there has been a 70 percent increase in the twin birth rate!!!!!!!!!!

From The Huffington Post:

“Multiple births associated with the trend toward older motherhood were up sharply, including a 70 percent increase in the twin birth rate from 1980 to 2004.”

” ‘Not only are women in their 30s more likely than younger women to conceive multiples on their own, they also are more likely to undergo fertility treatments, which are linked to births of multiples,’ the researchers said.”

I didn’t need a story to tell me that the twin rate had increased. (Although I didn’t realize it was that much.) I pretty much assume almost anytime someone tells me they’re having twins that there was some type of intervention involved.

But my questions is with 70 percent more twins walking around, are they still special? Is it still unique to be a twin? Does it still carry the same cache as it did when I was in elementary school (in the ’80s)?

How does having twins in such a twin-heavy environment affect the mother of the twins? (More support? More mothers with advice on how to get through those first few crazy months/years?)

How does it affect the child being a twin — more twins at school?

41 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

May 17th, 2010
7:31 am

I observed twins at my daughter’s chorus show this past weekend. It was neat to see their bond…I enjoyed watching them. While I think all twins are wonderful, it must be incredible birthing 2 children who look exactly alike and welcoming them into the world!

My husband’s Mother had twin sisters and I always wondered if we would have twins. I cannot imagine the sleepless nights when they are babies ( or for that matter any multiples) .

I roomed with a twin during college and it was fun, she and her sister ( who did not room with us….we started out with 4 girls in a room…imagine it) were great to be around!

T…get ready for Fred….he is not a fan of the Huffington Post…nor you either, I fear. I think he needs to find a blog that appreciates his eccentricity ( sp?) and I am not sure this is it.

Darla Dixon

May 17th, 2010
7:48 am

As a mother of twins and two singletons, I think every kid is special. My twins are fraternal, and we’ve raised them as two sisters that just happen to be the same age. We never called them “The Twins” or dressed them identically. I’m not sure if a higher incidence of twinning means more support. There’s always plenty of people who want to help because they think twin infants are cool, but when they become toddlers and more destructive and less cute (to the ‘helpers’) the amount of help declines. My twins are now 16 and getting ready to drive. NOW I need support!!! LOL!

motherjanegoose

May 17th, 2010
7:57 am

@ darla…no you need cash…for insurance…LOL. Congrats to you!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 17th, 2010
8:01 am

MJG — Fred shouldn’t get bent out of shape about The Huffington Post — at least not in this case — It’s an AP story — that’s just where I happened to find it.

Jeff

May 17th, 2010
8:10 am

It would be interesting to study the moms that undergo these fertility treatments and their post-partum behavior.

I had some friends that had twin girls (yes fertility enhancement was involved). The first twin out has been dominant from day one and the second out of the chute has always been more passive/submissive.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 17th, 2010
8:16 am

I think there’s always a dominant twin — there’s generally a dominant twin in utero — one who gets more of the nutrition and comes out heavier. We had twin neighbors for a while and their mom used to talk about that a lot. It think they were natural twins.

DB

May 17th, 2010
8:21 am

T, I think you begged your own question: If there are 70% more twins than there used to be, they can’t really be *that* special anymore. Yeah, mildly interesting — but not “oooh, look — twins!”

My daughter had friends in high school who were identical twins. It was a matter of great interest to everyone when one of them decided she was tired of being a “twin” and cut her hair. I overheard her respond to one person who complained, “Now you aren’t identical!” “Yes,” she drawled, “that was the idea . . .”

abc

May 17th, 2010
8:30 am

I have mixed feelings on all of this fertility treatment. I don’t know why exactly, but part of me feels like its not a good thing. I can’t really explain my feelings. Its just a gut feeling that this is a bad thing.

HB

May 17th, 2010
8:53 am

Are there more identical twins, though? I don’t feel like I see more than I used too. They are more likely to catch the attention of people walking down the street (“oooh, look — twins!”) who may not even notice fraternal twins. I thought the increase was almost entirely in sets of fraternals. Outside if school where everybody knows your age/grade, I think they probably go largely unnoticed.

fred(with a lowercase f)

May 17th, 2010
8:56 am

When I was growing up we had one set of twins in my class, now in my school of 500 there are 4 sets of twins, two fraternal and two identical, and at my last school of 1500 there were 7 sets. more than I would have suspected but still rare enough to be considered cool. a 70 % increase in anything is pretty amazing. Aside from the increase in the age of the mothers and the use of fertility treatments are there any other causes for this increase? Are there increased numbers of twins for younger mothers who have not had fertility treatments?

JATL

May 17th, 2010
8:56 am

I’m sure they’re very special to their families! However, no, it’s not the “OOOH -how cool!” thing it used to be. I went through school with identical twin sisters, dated one (or maybe both?) of identical twin brothers and have two pairs of fraternal twin cousins. It was always really interesting and cool though when I was growing up. Now, it doesn’t even seem to be much of a surprise if you find out you’re carrying twins or that someone close to you is having them.

Something I have always found interesting is when you work with a person or otherwise know someone for a pretty long time, but somehow you didn’t know they had an identical twin. For some reason it’s always strange to me to start thinking of them with a sibling who looks (and possibly acts) almost just like them.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 17th, 2010
9:23 am

fred — the story said that older mothers have twins more frequently even without fertility treatments — i guess the release of eggs isn’t as regulated by their bodies maybe??? I guess they are more likely to release two eggs??? the why on that is a good question.

Cheryl

May 17th, 2010
9:29 am

Theresa – “I pretty much assume almost anytime someone tells me they’re having twins that there was some type of intervention involved.” What an uninformed, stereotypical comment. I would have thought better of you. I had a 3 year old and a 1 year old when I found out I was pregnant with twins. I don’t think anyone (except the Octomom) would have tried for that.
Yes, twins are still special, but so are my other two children. Weird topic if you’re just going to make general assumptions anyway.

Michelle

May 17th, 2010
9:32 am

I think that the incidence of identical twins is still pretty amazing! Fraternal twins are not all the “interesting” to me anymore because of the increased possibilities in fertilitly treatments.

Perhaps the huge increase is because there are MANY more women who are able to have children now through fertility than what there were naturally! AND, let’s not forget the independent women and single sex partners that choose fertility to have children that would not have had any in the past except through adoption!

So, I guess overall, I’m still in awe of the identical twins, but the fraternal twins…not so much.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 17th, 2010
9:42 am

Will IVF not produce identical twins??? Does anyone know?? Are they only fraternal twins if IVF or other fertility treatments??

Cheryl – I think I worded that poorly. When I was younger — maybe 10 years ago — and someone said they were having twins I would have assumed that it ran in their families and probably would have said something like oh are twins on your side or your husband’s side? Now because I wouldn’t ever want to force someone into talking about fertility treatments I just wouldn’t ask. It’s so much more likely that it is from fertility treatments and I don’t want to out something if they don’t want to share that info. So I assume the opposite and don’t get into the origin of the twin conception. does that make sense –? Not sure I’m explaining that thought process well either.

Becky

May 17th, 2010
9:43 am

Maybe not to all, but twins are tsill special in my family..We have 4 sets ot them..One set of girls, two sets of boys and one boy/girl..Just from looking at them though, you would never know that any of them are twins..Yeah, there are some similatries (sp), but you have to look for them..No drugs were taken by any of the mothers to have twins, we were just lucky I guess..The oldest set will be 60 in Sept. and the youngest set will be 8 in June..

With all of the twins in my family, I can’t really say that one is the more dominant..Each one has his or her strenghts and weakess, but thats about it..Based only on having the youngest twins most every weekend, MJG, I don’t think there is any less sleep lost..I’m sure that 24/7, there can be, but really it wasn’t all that much trouble having one vs two..

@Darla..We never dressed our two alike either..My husband wanted to dress them alike for a picture and I said no..The only thing that we did was use the same colors..I figure if they want to dress alike, they will have plenty of time for that when they get older and can choose to do that on their own..

Cheryl

May 17th, 2010
9:46 am

I can’t tell you the number of strangers that come up to me and ask if I had fertility treatments. They also ask if they are identical (mine are girl/boy). I tend to be polite on both questions, but would really like to say “I guess I can pull down their pants and let you check”. I get the “does it run in your family” question too and then have to explain my whole family tree.

FYI…the husband doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact that two eggs are fertilized to create fraternal twins. It truly is amazing how you can tell someone’s intelligence by the random questions they ask.

motherjanegoose

May 17th, 2010
10:02 am

@ Becky…guess I was thinking about breastfeeding two babies…it seemed like I was always nursing with just one infant and getting up in the middle of the night ( little or no sleep) …I could not imagine it with 2…or more!
I know folks who breastfed two and that really seems exhausting JMHO.

TechMom

May 17th, 2010
10:04 am

I didn’t realize the increase was that great though I guess I do see more now days than I did when I was a kid. I still think twins are neat, regardless of how they were conceived and want to give the mom a high-five for surviving taking care of twins (not that the dad doesn’t too but dad usually goes back to work after a week or two and mom now has two hungry, crying mouths. What a job!

The unfortunate part about multiples is how much more stress they not only put on the mom’s body but the likelihood at which they’ll have health problems and be born premuature. I know most will catch up within a couple of years, the same as any other premie but really I think that’s where the concern with the huge increase on multiples lies.

I don’t think it’s that IVF can’t produce identical twins, I would guess it’s just extremely rare- especially in IVF since the eggs are technically fertilized outside the womb. If a doctor fertilizes 12 eggs that they’ve harvested from a woman, they will usually only inject her with a couple of those fertilized eggs (unlike Octomom anyway). But unless the IVF doctor watches to see which egg split, those two eggs could potentially end up in two different pregnancies. Statistically speaking, I couldn’t even imagine how rare that is but I’m guessing there is at least some tiny possibility of that. I think there is a great chance, albeit still small, of a woman on fertility meds having identical twins if she’s biologically inclined already.

ATL06

May 17th, 2010
10:04 am

My grandmother had two sets of twins my aunts are identical and my aunt and uncle are fraternal. I think that it has hindered the identical twins. They seem to have an obsession with each other they do basically everything together and they are in their 50’s.

TechMom

May 17th, 2010
10:05 am

*greater chance (versus a woman who does IVF)

HB

May 17th, 2010
10:27 am

Good explanation, TechMom. My understanding is, as you explained, that IVF iteslf doesn’t cause identical twins, and if identicals occur, it happens naturally, so to speak (egg splits on its own). IVF does of course, directly contribute to fraternal multiples by implanting multiple eggs. I think fertility drugs (non-IVF treatments) work by causing women to release more eggs, so again, identicals would be coincidental, and I expect statistically as likely or not as in any pregnancy, and not caused by the drugs.

As women get older, they are more likely to release more than one egg due to hormonal changes. I wonder if that’s a failure of the body to regulate, or simply nature’s way of increasing the odds of conceiving a single child in less fertile years. Biology really is fascinating.

Becky

May 17th, 2010
10:33 am

@MJG..My oldest sister has twin boys and she breastfed them..I’m sure it was tough on her, but she was (kinda)a SAHM..The husband worked during the week and she worked on Sat. & Sun..Not sure if this made things better for her or not..There is only about 19 months between them and her daughter..She breastfed all of them, made their food and used cloth diapers..

YUKI

May 17th, 2010
10:35 am

The whole twins, triplets, multiples thing fascinates me. My cousins are fraternal twin boys and look very different, which has always been so strange to me. The identical thing is even more interesting. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a mirror image of yourself….but if that is all you know then it’s normal to you. I don’t always assume when I see mothers of twins that they had fertility treatments, but I can’t lie and say I’m not curious. I would never ask, however and I find that very rude. Now that my son is a toddler, I sometimes wish I would have had twins so that now he would have someone to always play with! It would have been hard at first but then I would have been done with having kids and I imagine twins share a bond that the rest of us could never understand.

Becky

May 17th, 2010
10:44 am

@YUKI..The youngest twins are the boy/girl and it used to tickle me when they were younger that people would ask if they were twins, when I would say yes, theywould look at me and say, but they don’t look alike..One woman even wanted to know if they had different parents..

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

May 17th, 2010
11:14 am

HB — very interesting theory — more eggs to help conceive later — increase your chances — that would make sense –

RJ

May 17th, 2010
11:26 am

Recently had a friend give birth to fraternal twins at the age of 38. They run in the family, all natural. It is more common to see twins today so they’re not as unusual as they used to be. I do think much of it has to do with the use of fertility drugs (which I have mixed feelings about). However, all kiddies are special, twins included. They’re just not as unique as they once were.

Becky

May 17th, 2010
11:32 am

I have sisters that own their own cleaning service and they have a customer that has two sets of twins..No drugs were invovled with either pregnancy…

TechMom

May 17th, 2010
12:10 pm

Interesting stuff about twins running in families:
But do twins really run in families? Actually that’s probably one of the most widely perpetuated myths about multiples. While some families do seem to have a preponderance of multiple births, it’s often more than a coincidence than a connection.

Of the factors that influence multiple birth, there is only one that could be identified as genetic or explained by family history: hyper ovulation.

Although theories and research abounds, there is no established connection between genetics and monozygotic (identical) twinning.

All this is from: http://multiples.about.com/od/pregnancy/a/familytwin.htm

I do think this is interesting because I’ve heard so many times that it is genetic and skips generations, etc. A girl in our church just had twins last week (naturally and she’s only about 25) and was told if she ever got pregnant again that she had a higher probablity of having twins again. My parents knew a couple that had a set of twins and a set of triplets naturally so I can see how a woman might be more inclined to having multiples more than once.

mom2alex&max

May 17th, 2010
12:14 pm

My sister has twins (boy/girl) through fertility treatments. We were (and still are) in AWE of them in our family, since twins do not run in the family at all. We couldn’t find a set of twins in 4 generations. We have a lot of fun with them!

I am wondering if we see more twins now, not only because of fertility treatments, but because of medical advancements if they are just not surviving more? Maybe back in the day not many made it?

Rally One

May 17th, 2010
12:47 pm

Twins have been the norm in my family, my grandmother had three sets of twins and her grandmother had two sets…and this was all before you knew you were having twins until they were coming out! my cousin just had twins…so I may be next. None of them are identical but still fun to see!

HB

May 17th, 2010
12:51 pm

Thanks for the extra info, TechMom. I know a family that seems to fit into the genetic scenario you described. Several siblings and cousins through three generations have had multiples (one woman had a set of twins and triplets!), all fraternal, all without fertility treatments. They also have a history of early menopause. They have been told that they basically have more eggs release each month, much like women in their 40s, but because they are young when that begins to happen (20s), the individual eggs are in better shape and more likely to actually result in babies, hence the super high chance of multiples. The woman who I knew well from that family had twin girls and thought she might want to have one more child, but given the family history, her husband was scared to death to try for one more. He was convinced they’d end up with 5 or 6 kids instead of 3!

G.R.I.T.S.

May 17th, 2010
5:17 pm

wow good topic for me…im always telling people how many twins i knew growing up..AND triplets…i knew 5 sets of twins…3 were identical 2 were not–one set was male and female…and i knew 2 sets of triplet…of 1 set 2 were identifcal and 1 just looked a whole lot like the other 2…the other set you couldnt tell any of the 3 apart easily…i am old enouigh that im failry confident these were all natural occurances…no fertility drugs…i dont think they had them back then…but ive always been amazed that i knew so may mulitples in my younger life…since high school i havent met many at all…i do have a couple of friends who have twins…and my kids know a couple of sets…but i havent met any ttriplets at all since i was out of high school

Twins205

May 17th, 2010
8:30 pm

From the response you have received from the article, I would say people are still interested. I have twin(fraternal) girls that are five years old and we attracted lots of attention when they were infants. Even though they are getting older,people still have lots of questions and seem to get a kick out of the fact that they are twins.

cp

May 17th, 2010
9:21 pm

I graduated from a metro Atlanta high school in 1984 with a class of about 200, and we had FIVE sets of twins. Crazy!

C

May 17th, 2010
9:35 pm

I am the mother of fraternal twin girls-although everyone swears they are identical…but to me they are very different in personality, athletics, and even the way they look, but I am also their mother. I constantly am asked are they twins? I reply nicely yes and usually the next question is well you had fertility right? It makes me kind of mad when people just “assume” that I had fertility. My great-great grandmother had three sets of twins. It was supposed to hit my mother’s generation but skipped not only her generation but a sister, and two cousins of mine. My husband and I tried to get pregnant for 11 months and finally conceived and not only convceived but with twins. It was a pure shock and I wondered how in the world I was going to do this. On top of that I didn’t ask to get pregnant with twins but that is what God pre-destined for me and now looking back there is no way I could ever choose between either one and its amazing that I have the same amount of love for each one. It is difficult at times and each stage has their own set of challenges but it is the greatest blessing and I am lucky to have been blessed with two Healthy little girls. So…don’t assume that a person has fertility…it may very well be within their genes and does it really matter? A baby…any baby is a pure gift from heaven. I had no help and I feel for those that do seek the help because I was there….11 months I was about ready to go on fertility. Thank god I didn’t or I may have ended up like Octomom. You can’t blame a person for wanting a child. I have met the best of the best of people who cannot have children and I have met some that have an entire baseball team and quite honestly don’t deserve a single one of them. However its not up to me to decide that. There is only truly one person to decide what is best. Sometimes even fertility doesn’t work for some so isn’t God still in control of that? Who knows I guess I will find an answer to that question when I die.
My girls only have one other set of twins in their grade which are boys so they are treated as “the twins” alot and get upset at some of the children because they mix them up. They are very competitve with one another and argue all of the time but in the midst of the storm I can turn around and they are hugging on one another and comforting one another when one gets upset. It is the sweetest most precious thing a mother could ever witness because through it all I know that blood is thicker than water and they will always have one another. Both of my children knew from a very young age that they shared mommy’s tummy at the same time and they know that in itself is unique. I treat them both as special not just because they are twins but because they are my TWO special little girls. My twins are unique because they have different birthdates which always has to be explained. Usually twins share this day so even when they become older and not want to share everything….at least they have their own seperate days….God really knew what he was doing with me I guess-lol! One was born December 14th at 11:43 p.m. and the other followed December 15th at 12:21 a.m. which is so typical of her because lord knows she wasn’t willing to share everything! lol! I was 27 years old when I became pregnant with the twins-it was just my destiny and I didn’t always embrace it but now I do and I will hold them close to my heart for the remainder of my days on this earth….now if only they would stay small forever……but I want them to grow too but I miss the “younger” years and feel as time passes by too quickly.

Ellen

May 18th, 2010
9:24 am

They’re only “special” when they’re identical. Because we haven’t figured out how to do it in a fertility lab.

Becky

May 18th, 2010
12:01 pm

Uhhh..No Ellen, they aren’t only “special” if they are identical, my aren’t identical and trust me on this..THEY ARE VERY SPECIAL…

Kat

May 21st, 2010
2:10 pm

We have fraternal twin girls (4 years old), and yes they are quite special. The “younger” twin is the dominant one in that relatioship. They are quite different. People ask us are they twins all the time due to the disparity in their sizing. We never dress them alike, as it’s not for me. They have their own personalities and express them as such.

trying hard to be patient

May 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

My mother always told my twin sister and I(fraternal) that we were two sisters born on the same day. We are the 9th and 10th of 11 children and the only set of twins. She is blond and straight hair and I am black and curly hair(well, silver now). She has always been 3 inches taller than I. Growing up there were 8 sets of twins in our very small town(in another state). 2 identical – 1 girl/girl and 1 boy/boy and 6 fraternal – 4 boy/girl and 1 girl/girl(us) and 1 boy/boy. Our older sisters would sew cute matching outfits when we were very small but by the time we started school we put a stop to it. Neither of us were the dominant twin. We were always in the same class(small town) in elementary school(Catholic) but had different classes in high school. I only recall having band and biology together. We were the only twins on my mom’s side of the family and my dad had very distant 4th cousin twins. My husband’s side of the family had 3 generations in a row with twins so when I got pregnant with our first child the doctor was sure I would have twins. I did not. I have one boy and one girl 3 1/2 years apart. Twins still fascinate me and when I tell people I have a twin the first thing they ask is if we are identical. I think it would have been neat to be identical, but, it is just way too cool to even be a twin.

Cobb Woman of Color

May 25th, 2010
3:10 pm

I am a single, educated woman who had fraternal twin girls in my mid-forties. They are a blessing and a joy! I know many women who are forty and older who are just starting a family.

They are multiple sets of twins in my family, fraternal and identical. I was told that Black women were more likely to have twins…not sure about the research that backs that up, but heard it a lot during my pregnancy.