Doing a Doubletake on Twins Rates

Fertility treatments impact increased twin and triplet births

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The number of twins born in the U.S. each year has almost doubled in the past three decades. And an increase in twins means increases in potential health problems and healthcare costs.

From one of every 53 children in 1980, the rate of twins has increased to one in every 30 babies in 2009, thanks primarily to the increasing age of women having children and the improvements and greater use of fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization.

That's an almost 76 percent increase in twin births. The highest increases in twin birth rates were seen in women aged 30 and older.

"Attend all prenatal appointments with your caregiver."

Researcher Barbara Luke, of Michigan State University, presented these findings at the 14th Congress of the International Society of Twin Studies in Florence, Italy.

"Prior to 1980, the incidence of U.S. twin births was stable at about 2 percent of all births, but it has risen dramatically in the past three decades," Luke said. "Older maternal age accounts for about one-third of the rise, and two-thirds is due to the increased use of fertility treatments."

She reported the numbers initially in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report which also included information on a more than threefold increase in triplets and other multiple births.

In 2009, one in every 651 babies was a triplet or part of another multiple over two. In 1980, the figure was one in 2,702 babies.

Because giving birth to multiple children from a single pregnancy has been linked to a long list of possible health risks for both the mother and the children, Luke recommends further research on the phenomenon and best practices.

The types of fertility treatments that can lead to multiples at birth assisted reproductive technologies and medications that stimulate the ovaries, and approximately 12 percent of U.S. women have availed themselves of these kinds of fertility treatments.

Luke presented her findings at the 14th Congress of the International Society of Twin Studies in Florence, Italy, along with preliminary research related to the potential impact of a lost twin or multiple embryo on the surviving babies.

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Review Date: 
April 5, 2012
Last Updated:
April 5, 2012