You’re ready for your first — or second, third, or fourth — pregnancy. And this time, regardless of how many children you already have, your heart’s set on more than one. Even if you’ve done everything right, though, you’re still not guaranteed one baby, let alone two.
Although two babies at once seems daunting to some, it’s a dream for others. After all, twins are pretty cool. Before you start doubling up on diapers, though, it’s time to double down on the facts. There’s some important information you’ll want to know. So, let’s start with the basics.
The difference between identical and fraternal twins
In order to know how to increase your chances of having multiples, it’s important to first understand the difference between identical and fraternal twins. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Identical twins come from one fertilized egg called a zygote. The zygote, which usually develops into one child, instead grows and splits early in development to form two embryos.” Therefore, the twins share the same DNA, and are identical.
Fraternal twins, on the other hand, result from two separate eggs. Unlike identical twins, the eggs have been fertilized by different sperm, which means the twins won’t be sharing the exact same DNA. In other words, fraternal twins will share some of the same DNA, just as they would with any other sibling.
Now, if you’re hoping for twins, here are seven things that can increase your odds.
1. Getting pregnant shortly after you stop taking the pill
Oral contraceptives are a popular way to stave off unwanted pregnancies, as they work their magic by halting ovulation. Of course, no form of contraception is absolutely foolproof, but the pill often does the job of keeping pregnancy at bay, so long as it’s taken properly. Because the pill interferes so drastically with a woman’s natural cycle and hormonal balance, it’s not uncommon to assume the body will take time to fully rid itself of the pill’s effects. But that’s not always the case. In fact, your body could be ready to conceive sooner than you’d think — with twins.
The theory behind post-pill twin conception
If you think you should stop taking the pill even a few months before you’re positively ready to conceive, you may want to think again. What is shocking news for some may be great for others — in particular, anyone who’s ready for twins. As it turns out, a 1977 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found women who became pregnant shortly after having stopped taking oral contraceptives were twice as likely to have twins.
Most of these twins were fraternal, meaning two separate eggs were fertilized. Because of this, the theory is a woman’s ovaries release multiple eggs as a result of kissing her pills goodbye. Not surprisingly, it may take several months to readjust to your natural cycle post birth control pills.
2. Conceiving when you’re older
Finally, something to celebrate. If you’re one of the many women who put starting a family on hold until a little later on, you may be in luck. Well, in luck if you’re shooting for twins, that is. Women over 35 tend to be in a better position for having twins. As Huggies mentions, a woman may experience a fertility spike when she enters peri-menopause. During this time, the ovaries release multiple eggs a month. In turn, older women may have the best odds of conceiving fraternal twins.
3. Having a family history of twins
Of course, you can’t pick your genes. But if you’re hoping for twins of your own, consider the odds in your favor if you have a few sets in your family. While having identical twins isn’t genetic, having a fraternal set can indeed come down to family history. In fact, The Tech Museum of Innovation says you’re 2.5 times more likely to conceive twins if you have a sibling who’s a fraternal twin.
Maternal vs. paternal family history: Why it matters
For this idea to hold true, it’s essential twins are prevalent on the maternal side. The paternal genes, in this case, make no difference. Think back to the differences between identical and fraternal twins. Fraternal twins result from two separate eggs, whereas identical result from one egg that’s been split in two. Therefore, the likelihood of a woman releasing more than one egg can only be influenced by the mother’s genetics, not the father’s.
4. Your diet is high in dairy
Got milk? If the answer’s yes, you may be well on your way to twin city. Thanks to a protein called insulin-like growth factor, dairy lovers have an increased chance of ovulating more than one egg at a time, thus increasing their chances of conceiving fraternal twins.
Dr. Gary Steinman, ob/gyn at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, told Mom.Me, “Milk contains IGF, and even just a 10% increase in dairy consumption can influence your chance of having twins.” So, drink up, milk lovers.
5. You’re breastfeeding when you become pregnant
Breastfeeding your child while also trying to become pregnant with your next (or two) will boost your chances of multiples. According to research conducted by Steinman, women who conceive while they’re still breastfeeding are nine times more likely to have twins than those who are no longer nursing at the time of conception. Again, it all goes back to your IGF levels, which are elevated in nursing women to help produce milk. In turn, you’re increasing the odds of releasing more than one egg during ovulation.
6. You’re tall or overweight
We’re certainly not advocating you pack on extra pounds. But, if you’re already a bit overweight, twins may be in your future. In a large scale study of more than 50,000 pregnancies, researchers found women with a BMI of 30 or higher were more likely to have fraternal twins. Additionally, tall women — those who were in the tallest quartile of height — also had an increased chance of having twins. This may just be coincidence, but it’s certainly interesting.
7. You’ve undergone fertility treatments
The choice to begin any kind of fertility treatment is a big decision. Perhaps you’ve been unlucky in your journey to become pregnant at all. Or maybe, you’re dead set on having multiples. If that’s the case, IVF may be the way to go. Research shows women who’ve undergone fertility treatments are more likely to have identical twins.
Of course, discussing any and all family planning with your doctor is key. The health of both you and any potential children depends on a wide variety of factors.