Friday, March 23, 2012

The Twin Effect

There are three main reactions you get when you tell someone you are having twins. Some people get REALLY excited. They gush and say congratulations over and over and ask if there are twins in your family and talk about what a blessing twins are. Then there are the folks that seem horrified. They gasp in shock and stare at you as if wondering why you aren’t freaking out more. They say things like “What are you going to do?”, ”Better you than me” or even ”Good luck with that.”

Then there are the folks that seem much more interested in how you came to be than in the fact you are coming. Fertility drugs have certainly increased the number of twins that are around. But, most IVF twins are fraternal twins. Fraternal twins occur in nature when the woman ovulates more than one egg at a time and both eggs are fertilized at the same time. Fraternal twins are just as likely to look alike as any two siblings are, they are just carried at the same time. IVF involves implanting already fertilized eggs into the uterus. Because it is expensive and doesn’t have a horribly high rate of success, frequently more than one fertilized egg will be implanted at once. Many times only one egg makes it into a viable pregnancy, but other times, two or more eggs survive and twins, or even higher order multiples occur. Identical twins occur when one egg is fertilized, and then at some point after fertilization, the zygote splits into two embryos. Identical twins occur in about 2-3% of pregnancies and account for about 30% of all twins. Although identical twins can happen with IVF, it is about the same rate as occurs in non-fertility assisted pregnancies. Identical twins don’t run in families. No one knows what causes the egg to split, it is just the luck of the draw. But, the average person doesn’t know this and so I patiently explain that while there are two sets of fraternal twins in my dad’s cousins, there aren’t any identical twins that we know of in my family. But, identicals don’t run in families and this was just a fluke. However, this usually doesn’t answer the question these people are trying to ask. Usually what they want to know is if I was taking fertility drugs or if we did IVF. So, they then ask something they perceive as a tactful way of getting at this information, but that kind of make me cringe.

“So, were you trying to get pregnant.” I feel like asking “Well, what do you mean by trying? Like did we MEAN to have sex? Are you really asking me about my sex life?” But, I know that they aren’t trying to be rude, they are just curious. A twin pregnancy is still rare enough that people are somewhat fascinated. I will usually say that we did not use fertility drugs. Most people seem surprised by this and I guess given how many fertility multiples there are, people are much more likely to know someone who had twins via IVF or Clomid than not. I try not to get offended, but after the 1000th time you answer that question, you start to get kind of irritated. I hear from other Mothers of Multiples that I will get even more tired of people asking if you are identical when you are here. I can see how that would be.


  1. So.. to be clear (and because I'm curious, and this post doesn't really answer the question..) are you having Fraternal, or Identical twins?

  2. "But, identicals don’t run in families and this was just a fluke."

    She's having identical twins. :)