No, it’s not your imagination. More people are having twins or multiples than ever before. Twins are becoming more common due to a variety of reasons. More women are waiting to have children, many couples are using fertility drugs, and the rate of in vitro fertilization has increased.

According to the CDC, the rate of twins has increased 76 % from 1980 to 2009. That means 1 in every 30 babies born today is a twin! Generally, the increase in the twin rate is related to fraternal twins. Fraternal twins occur when two individual eggs are fertilized separately by two different sperm.

Identical twins have not seen a significant increase in birth rate. Identical twins develop from only one fertilized egg that splits and forms two embryos. If you’ve ever heard of twins running in families, it’s usually fraternal twins due to hereditary hyperovulation (ovulating more than one egg at a time).

An Increase in Older Moms

One reason more twins are being born today is due to the rising trend of women waiting longer to have children. More and more women are putting off starting a family until they’re 35 or older. Older women may have more dramatic fluctuations in their hormones, which can lead to releasing more than one egg during ovulation, causing twins.

Use of Assistive Reproductive Technology

The other explanation for why more people are having twins is due to a rise in the use of assistive reproductive technology. Advances in medicine have made it possible for couples experiencing fertility problems to still be able to conceive. A side effect of fertility treatment, however, is an increased rate of twins. Why and how does this occur?

Fertility Drugs – The first method of treatment doctors suggest for couples having difficulty conceiving are fertility drugs. Drugs like Clomid and injectable hormones help increase your chances of getting pregnant by promoting ovulation. With this comes the increased chance of releasing multiple eggs; which in turn is how many women end up pregnant with twins.

In Vitro Fertilization – Some couples need a more invasive method of conception and use IVF to help them get pregnant. A woman’s eggs are fertilized outside of her body. Then her doctor transfers the embryos back into her uterus.

It used to be common practice to transfer several embryos at a time to help increase the chances of getting pregnant. Now, fertility doctors aim for a single pregnancy and tend to advocate for single embryo transfer. But some couples still opt to transfer two or more embryos to increase their chances, which could result in a twin pregnancy.

Risks Associated With Multiple Births

While the thought of having twins seems like a double blessing, the reality of twins may be little different. Being pregnant with two or more babies means you may be more likely to experience complications. Here are some potential issues that can occur with twin or multiple pregnancies.

Premature Birth – Women pregnant with twins may go into labor earlier than the typical 37 weeks. Babies that are born early can sometimes experience problems such as underdeveloped lungs, an increased risk of cerebral palsy, and a rise in risk for developmental delays. The good news is that due to advances in neo-natal medicine many premature babies will grow and develop normally, despite their early start in life.

Low Birth Weight – Twins are also more likely to have a lower birth weight than their singleton counterparts, due in large part to their tendency to be born early.

Maternal Complications – Carrying multiples is harder on your body (for obvious reasons). Women pregnant with twins are more likely to experience gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, higher weight gain, a caesarean birth and other complications. 

While it’s important to be aware of the risks, it’s also worth noting that most twins do fine in the long term. But due to the increased chance of complications, it is very important for pregnant women with twins or multiples to have more frequent checkups and take extra precautions. Your doctor will help you come up with a birth plan that suits your individual pregnancy and overall health.

If you’re a mom who is pregnant with twins, you might want to check out the highly recommended book; What To Do When You’re Having Two. You’ll also want to consider some products designed specifically for multiples, like tandem strollers.