Did you know that within the past three decades or so the occurrence of multiple births has increased?
There were over 137,000 twins born in the U.S. each year from 2006 to 2009, compared to 68,339 twins in 1980, state Joyce A. Martin, M.P.H et al. in their 2012 National Center for Health Statistics report (“Three Decades of Twin Births in the United States, 1980–2009”). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (womenshealth.gov) adds that in 2005 there were 6,208 triplets born in the United States compared to 1,337 in 1980.
The Office on Women’s Health explains that more women over the age of 30 are getting pregnant and more women are using “fertility treatments to help them conceive”—which both increase the likelihood of multiple births.
Signs You May be Carrying Multiples
So how can you tell if you are pregnant with twins, triplets or more babies? There are various theories on the symptoms a woman carrying multiples has. These might include a more extreme form of morning sickness or fatigue, faster weight gain, greater uterine stretching and the baby moving earlier and more frequently than expected. There are even scenarios where women have intuitively known; and there’s the old wives’ tale that if you ask a pregnant woman to pick up a key and she picks it up by the middle, it means she’s having twins!
But each woman will experience a pregnancy a little bit differently. The only way to know for sure when you are pregnant with multiples is through an ultrasound examination, says the American Pregnancy Association.
“Multiple gestation [pregnancy] can be diagnosed with transvaginal ultrasound as early as the fifth week of development by detecting two or more gestational sacs,” according to Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Volume 1: Obstetrics edited by Eberhard Merz. (The exception for determining a multiple pregnancy this early on, the book says, is in the case of monochorionic monoamniotic pregnancies, which are rare and means the fetuses are sharing the same placenta and same amniotic sac.)
Herz’s book also adds: “But the definitive diagnosis of an intact multiple pregnancy requires more than the detection of multiple sacs. It is also necessary to detect a viable embryo in each sac. This can be done as early as the sixth or seventh week by documenting embryonic heart activity.” Most women will get their first trimester ultrasound past this time, so in most cases you should find out whether you are pregnant with multiples during your first sonogram!
And if you’ve always wanted twins, but are disappointed that it doesn’t seem to run in your family, there’s still hope! According to a 2007 New York Times article by Anahad O’Connor, women may be predisposed genetically to have fraternal twins, but identical twins can happen when any woman’s fertilized egg splits randomly into two!