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How Common Are Twins?

Twin pregnancies are either fraternal or identical. Fraternal twins share the same womb, but come from different ovum. Genetically, fraternal twins are as alike as any pair of siblings. Identical twins on the other hand, come from the same fertilized ovum and theefore share the same genetic makeup.

The ratio of fraternal twin to single births varies from country to country. The highest incidence occurs in the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria where 46 of every 1000 pregancies involves fraternal twins. The lowest is in Japan, where the incidence of fraternal twinning is 4 per 1000. America and other European countries have about the same rate of 11 to 12 per 1000 births.

The ratio of identical twin to single births is constant across countries and nationalities. About 3 out of every 1000 births involves identical twins. Scientists don't know why some pregancies involve identical twins and others do not, but it seems to be independent of such issues as heredity and diet.

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Multiple Births on the Increase

Incidences of multiple birth pregnancies have increased by 8% in the past 10 years. The increase has been attributed to later pregnancies by working mothers, which are more likely to result in twin births and the increased use of fertility drugs. "Twins and even triplet births are much more common these days, " says nurse Denise Schoeder of St. Judes hospital in Beaverton, Illinois. "Fortunately we are much better equipped to handle the special complications that arise with these type of pregnancies than we were, even five years ago." Statistics bear this out. Complications resulting from low birthweight babies (a common occurence with multiple births) are down 25% in the past ten years.

In Dade County, Florida, two quadruplets have been born in the past 18 months. "I think we'll need to increase the size of our marternity ward if this keeps up," says Dr. Lawrence Jacobs of Miami Community Hospital.

Sociologists worry about the effect of these multiple births on families and parents. "Parents usually prepare for a single child. When they're suddenly faced with a larger family than expected, it can cause stress and tension." reports a study recently published in the American Journal of Family Sociology.

Nonetheless, parents seem to recover from the surprise. "There's an initial shock," reports Schoeder, "but after they get over that, parents are usually very pleased. In fact, they begin to see the humor in the situation. I think we tend to underestimate the coping abilities of parents."

Miriam Lasker

Chicago Convention A Great Event


by Miriam Lasker

The 1999 meeting of the Illinois chapter of the Multiple Birth Association was another eagerly anticipated and much-enjoyed event. Almost 500 parents of twins, triplets, quadruplets and even-more-plets gathered together at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago for three days of information, support and fun. Dr. Brenda Patterson, president of the Illinois chapter (and a mother of triplets to boot) opened the proceedings on Friday afternoon with a welcoming speech and new information on the psychology of multiple births babies. The speech was fascinating and Twin Life hopes to have a copy of her talk in an upcoming issue.

During the next few days, there were several booths and workshops that covered such topics as multiple birth complications, fertility drugs, school issues and adolescent problems. The vendors were, as always, a welcome addition to the convention. Many attendees left with great bargains on strollers, clothing and toys, designed with the multiple birth child in mind.

A moonlight cruise on Lake Michigan, along the Chicago shoreline was provided on Saturday night. While I'm not a big fan of big cities, I greatly enjoyed the view of Chicago at night. Not at all the impression one gets from reading Carl Sandburg!

The convention broke up on Sunday morning. We all left happy, refreshed and exhilirated, having spent time with old friends and made new ones.

See you at the 2000 convention in Joliet!

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