Dear Barb – What’s with all the twins?

Dear Barb:

First, I want to say that I enjoy your column. Also, I’ve noticed lately that there seems to be more multiple births, especially twins. Everywhere I go I see someone pushing a double stroller. A few years ago this would be a unique sight and everyone would crowd around to see the babies. Now, most people just walk by, as I do. Has there been an increase in the incidents of multiple births, or am I just noticing them more as my biological clock ticks on?

Alexandria – Maine

Excellent question, Alexandria. The incidence of multiple births has definitely increased in recent years. Since the 1970s the rate of twin births has risen sharply, as reported by Lynda Haddon, an educator who works with multiple birth families. According to Dennis Bueckert, who carried out a report for Health Canada, this increase is a result of advances in reproductive technology.

Bueckert says more women are establishing their careers before starting a family, resulting in childbirth at an older age. Many of these women are seeking the assistance of fertility clinics to become pregnant. Depending on the technique used, these pregnancies often result in multiple births.

According to Statistics Canada the rate of multiple births has increased from 1.9% in 1981 to 2.5% in 1997 and 97% of all multiple births are twin pregnancies. As reported in “Twin Life Magazine News” the highest incidence of fraternal twin births occurs in the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria and the lowest is in Japan.

Fraternal twins comprise 70% of all twins born. Fraternal twins share the same womb, but genetically they are no more alike than any two siblings. Identical twins are caused by one egg being fertilized by one sperm. Shortly after fertilization this egg splits into two identical halves. Identical twins are, in fact, clones of each other.

A woman has a higher chance of having a multiple birth if she has a family history of multiple births. For example in my family, my father has twin siblings, my brother has twin grandchildren and I have twin grandchildren. All the twins in my family are fraternal boy/girl twins.

I don’t know how old you are Alexandria, but since you mention your biological clock, I will assume you may be into your thirties. Therefore keep in mind if you are planning to have children, the longer you put it off the higher your chances of having a multiple birth.

In the next few weeks I will be writing a column on some of the trials and tribulations of caring for and raisings twins.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.