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Twin Pregnancy: How It Is Conceived, Factors That Increase The Chances, And Complications

Twin pregnancy refers to pregnancy with two fetuses of the same gestational age; ovulation, fertilisation and implantation of both the fetuses happen simultaneously, along with the same delivery dates or due dates.

Medical experts do not understand the exact cause behind the occurrence of twin pregnancies; however, several factors play important roles in the birth of twins. In this article, we will discuss some of the essential details of twin pregnancy. Take a look.

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How Are Twins Conceived?

Before diving into the basics of the conception of twins, let's understand how a pregnancy occurs. Pregnancy occurs by the fertilisation or say, the fusion of the sperm and the egg. Millions of sperms enter the vagina during an intercourse, out of which, only a few are able to move towards the egg successfully and fertilise it.

Also, in women, each month during ovulation, only one egg is released from the ovaries that gets mature, fertilises with sperm and results in pregnancy.

Conception requires the fusion of one egg with one sperm. This process is governed by egg cortical reaction, a process characterised by the secretion of cortical granules from the egg that prevents polyspermy or entry of other sperms.

Twins are conceived in two ways and they are:

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1. Identical or monozygotic twins

Identical twins originate from a single egg. When a single egg gets fertilised with a single sperm, sometimes it gets divided into two sperate embryos and cause monozygotic twins. The prevalence of this type of twin pregnancy is around 3-5 per thousand births.

Identical twins share the same genes and placenta, but they are not phenotypically identical, meaning they can have differences in emotions, intentions, human qualities or weaknesses. [1]

Monozygotic twins are either two boys or two girls as they are twins originated from the same egg.

2. Fraternal or dizygotic twins

Fraternal or non-identical twins originate from two eggs. Sometimes, the ovaries release two eggs in a month within the same cycle and at the same time. This causes fertilisation and implantation of both the eggs with two different sperms and of same gestational age.

This type of twin pregnancy is far more common than the identical one and accounts for 70 per cent of all twin pregnancies. They don't share the same genes and the placenta.

In dizygotic twins, the two babies can be either two boys, two girls or one boy and one girl. [2]

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Factors That Increase The Chances Of Twin Pregnancy

Pregnancy with identical twins happen on its own but for fraternal twins, certain factors are responsible. These factors may increase the chances of twin pregnancy and they include:

  • Fertility treatment methods such as In vitro fertilization or IVF, intrauterine insemination or IUI and fertility drugs.
  • Genetics
  • Age (above 30 years)
  • Height (average height of 5 foot and 5 inches
  • Racial background
  • Weight
  • Diet (increased intake of folic acid and proteins by females and zinc-rich foods by males)
  • Breastfeeding
  • Delay in the next pregnancy
  • Certain sex positions such as missionary

How Is Twin Pregnancy Diagnosed?

A twin pregnancy can easily be diagnosed by a routine ultrasound examination and by abdominal x-ray examination.

However, in some cases, the results seem to change after examinations. A study talks about the diagnosed of 85 patients before the onset of labour. Out of the 85 patients, 80 were diagnosed with ultrasonography within 14-37 weeks while the remaining five were diagnosed with x-rays within 35-38 weeks.

Fourteen of the eighty patients with at least one prior ultrasound examination were later reported with a single fetus and one patient was reported with a single fetus at 32 weeks. This is commonly known as vanishing twin syndrome and can be heartbreaking for the parents. [3]

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Complications of Twin Pregnancy

Some of the associated complications of twin pregnancy include:

  • Maternal preeclampsia or increased blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preterm labour
  • Fetal growth restrictions
  • Some chronicity in twin gestations such as the unique risk of intraplacental vascular connections between the circulation of both foetuses. [2]
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight
  • Cesarean
  • Increased bed rest

To Conclude

While getting pregnant itself is the most satisfying and rewarding experience in many women's lives, twin pregnancy can double the happiness. While identical twins are usually accidental, fraternal twins are not, and can be due to many factors. Regular medical checkups will help in the proper management of the two growing babies without any complications. Also, the parents must be prepared for caring the twins equally, without hampering their own health.

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Common FAQs

1. What are the symptoms of twins in early pregnancy?

The symptoms of a twin pregnancy are usually the same as being pregnant with a single child. They include morning sickness, fatigue and weight gain. However, some of these symptoms may be more intense in some women with a twin pregnancy.

2. How is Twin pregnancy different?

Twin pregnancy is different in a way as the mother gives birth to two babies at the end of a gestational period or say, due dates, unlike the single baby that happens in a regular pregnancy.

3. Which parent carries the gene for twins?

The possibility of fraternal twins (fusion of two sperms with two eggs) is mainly due to the family background of twins from the mother's side. This is because the production of two eggs in the same menstrual cycle happens in females.

Story first published: Monday, February 15, 2021, 15:03 [IST]