A Little Science behind Conceiving Twins

Some factors contributing to the increased rate of having multiples is becoming pregnant in the 30s or 40s and/or assisted pregnancy. Particularly the drug Clomid has been linked to an increase in the number of twins and triplets. In order to be able to conceive non-identical twins naturally, there must be the gene in a woman’s body from her father or mother. The ability to conceive dizygotic twins is a female related issue. On the other hand, having identical twins has nothing to do with the genes! There are basically two types of conception that can happen with twins:

  1. A single egg is fertilised by a single sperm and between three to 15 days after conception it splits and the result is identical or monozygotic twins. If the split happens by day five, the twins will have two amniotic sacs, two chorions, even two placentas. If the split happens between day five and nine, then the twins will have one chorion, one placenta and two amniotic sacs. If the split happens nine days after conception, then the twins will share one chorion, one placenta and amniotic sac. If division happens later on, then conjoined twins are formed.
    Identical twins normally share one placenta, but each can have its own amniotic sac. However, a small percentage of identical twins have two placentas. In that case you may be under the impression that you will have dizygotic twins and get a surprise after birth. The placenta’s function is to deliver nutrients to the babies. There can be complications for babies who share a placenta. Of course, identical twins are the same gender and share the same DNA. However, they will have their own unique fingerprints!
  2. Two eggs are fertilised by two sperms and the result is fraternal, non-identical or dizygotic twins. Fraternal twins usually do not share placentas. Each has its own placenta and amniotic sac. They are basically womb neighbours. However, in some cases, the two placentas can fuse together and give the impression of being one placenta. In all reality, you can only be sure what type of twins you are having after you give birth.


Some early indicators of a twin pregnancy: With the advance in technology and health system, it is very rare these days to have a surprise twin pregnancy. Most people will know they are having twins from the beginning or at least from week 16 when a routine ultrasound is scheduled.

You may end up having an ultrasound test earlier if your doctor suspects twins, as it was in my case. I believe when you do the blood test to confirm your pregnancy and the HCG levels (pregnancy hormones) are too high, it can either indicate a twin pregnancy, or you have been pregnant longer than you anticipated.

Even if you do not have any ultrasound test, at some point with regular check-ups, your doctor will hear two very distinct heart beats. Also, your tummy size is a good indicator of what you are carrying in there! It seems funny to mention this but mothers carrying twins tend to look bigger than their weeks. There are people who tend to hide their pregnancies until the three month thresh-hold is reached. Now this would be difficult for most ladies pregnant with twins.

Another possible indication of twin pregnancy is that your morning sickness and other early pregnancy symptoms may be exaggerated like severe nausea and vomiting.

Preconception and pregnancy: It is of utmost importance to take care of yourself during your twin pregnancy. Every pregnancy is important but one with multiples is even more so. Technically, before becoming pregnant you should take prenatal vitamins. Even if you have not, as soon as you learn that you are pregnant you should start taking them.

Nutrition also plays an important role. You should follow the food pyramid guide and increase your calorie intake. This is not the time to be concerned about dieting. That is part of the postpartum fun.

When pregnant, always be free and frank with your doctor and donʼt hesitate to communicate your worries and fears to her. Never miss your appointments and make sure you file your records properly for quick reference. Tell your doctor about any chronic illnesses running in your family like blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, heart problems etc. There are specific tests for each of them and these help to ascertain the general health of the mother and child at all stages.

I developed gestational diabetes and a condition called placenta previa during my pregnancy. Placenta previa is a complication of pregnancy in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the womb (uterus) and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix. During pregnancy, the placenta moves as the uterus stretches and grows. In early pregnancy, a low-lying placenta is very common. But, as the pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus should “pull” the placenta toward the top of the womb. By the third trimester, the placenta should be near the top of the uterus, leaving the opening of the cervix clear for the delivery. If the placenta is near the cervix or is covering a portion of it, you may need to reduce activities and stay on bed rest.

If there is bleeding, however, you will most likely be admitted to a hospital for careful monitoring as in my case. Women with placenta previa most likely need to deliver the baby by Cesarean section. This helps prevent death or danger to the mother and baby.

Donʼt lose heart or wallow in pity for the doctors know their job and will do everything possible to protect you and your baby. Believe in them.  You may have the best pregnancy possible, but you also have to be prepared for the unseen and complications. And with twin pregnancies the chances of having complications might just about be doubled. It is a special time and you will be treated differently even by your doctor. You will see your doctor more often, especially after week 28/30. You will also have more ultrasound tests.

It is common with twin pregnancies to do a non-stress test toward the end. You are hooked to a machine that will evaluate your babiesʼ heart rates for about 40 minutes (20 minutes each). If all is normal you may return for another test in a few days. This tool gives doctors an idea how well babies are doing or maybe an induction is in order.

Normally, twins are considered of full term in 36.5 weeks. If you give birth at any time after that would be wonderful. I have heard of a mother who made it to week 41. But that is rare. It is normal for twins to show up early especially around week 35-36. I myself barely reached the 32 week, when my daughters were born. Many women are worried whether they will have a C-section or natural birth. The best thing to do is relax and go with the flow and your doctor’s advice. If you have a natural birth, good for you. Be proud. If you end up with a C-section, still be proud – and congratulations are in order. It is a major surgery and you need time to recuperate, but it is the end result that matters.

To me, the most important factor was delivering healthy twins. There are people who have their minds set on having their babies naturally. But sometimes it is necessary to have the operation for your health and for the health of your twins. So relax and enjoy your destiny.

The arrival of the twins: After the little ones arrive, you need to be prepared for what feeding method you want to use. Everyone agrees that breast milk is the best option for twin babies, specially the first milk that comes out your breast called colostrum.

It is lighter in colour and apparently filled with antibodies. Normally, nurses will urge mothers to breastfeed for at least a year or even two. It is really up to you how long you would like to breastfeed. Sometimes, if babies are in the nursery, you may need to use a pump to give milk to your twins. If your twins are healthy, you may even consider formulas or a combination of both. The plus side of giving formulas it that your husband or other members can help with the feedings from time to time. The only thing you need to be careful about is the proper sterilisation of the bottles, scoops for putting the formula and the breast pump (if youʼre using one).

It is very funny how rules can bend when you are having twins. This is the time that if you decided to bottle-feed no one will look down on you. Letʼs face it, breast-feeding two babies is not very easy for some of us. And breast-feeding is not for everyone, so if you decide to bottlefeed, do not let guilt take over, and just enjoy the process of getting to know your twins. Bottlefeeding  with love is a lot better than breast-feeding with guilt.

Some tips:

  • If you plan to breast-feed, you may want to consider a twin nursing pillow.
  • It helps if you get your baby twins on the same schedule for nursing or bottle-feeding.
  • When you bottle-feed your twins, just feed them one after the other. Even at night when one wakes up crying, after feeding the hungry one, feed the other baby even if you have to wake her or him up. This will make your life easier in the long or even short run.

Where should the babies sleep?

Some say that twins should sleep in the same crib because they have been together for so many months and feel safer.

As a matter of fact, in the hospital they are placed in the same crib as well. This may be true for twins who shared one amniotic sac and placenta.

As babies grow they become so restless and move so much that if they are sharing a bed, they may wake each other up. Remember what a luxury sleep becomes!

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