Naturally conceived twins occur in about 1 out of every 89 births. Under normal circumstances, your odds of conceiving twins are slim. Taking fertility medications or undergoing a procedure like IVF can increase your chances of conceiving twins, but you may be curious if there is anything you can do to naturally increase your chances of having twins.
How are twins conceived?
Most twins are fraternal. Fraternal twins develop from two separate eggs. Identical twins are rare and happen as a result of just one egg which splits sometime in early pregnancy. Fraternal twins are conceived when two eggs are released during ovulation whereas identical twins are more of a random fluke.
Can you increase your chances of having twins?
Yes, there are some things that will increase your chances of having twins, but some of these things are really out of your control. Having a family history of twins will increase your chances of having twins. This is true if you have a family history of twins, meaning someone on your mother’s side or father’s side of the family has had twins, especially if they had fraternal twins. If your partner has twins in his family, it doesn’t help you any. The reason being is that there may be some genetic component that may cause you to produce more than one egg during ovulation. This “twin gene” may be passed down from your parents to you. Identical twins are not thought to be hereditary.
Other factors that may affect your chances of having twins are your ethnicity and your age. African American women are more likely to conceive twins than Caucasian women. And, Asian women have a lower chance of conceiving twins. Twins are also more common in older women.
Things you can do to naturally increase your chances of having twins:
Take a folic acid supplement: There have been a few studies on the link between folic acid and conceiving twins. One Australian study found that women who took folic acid before they got pregnant were more likely to conceive twins. In fact, according to this study, you may have a 40% or greater chance of conceiving twins if you take folic acid while you are trying to conceive. Some other studies have shown contradictory results making it hard to say for sure if folic acid actually increases your odds of conceiving twins. Nevertheless, folic acid also helps to prevent neural tube defects so it is a good idea to take a folic acid supplement (or a multi vitamin with folic acid) even if you aren’t trying to conceive twins.
Gain weight: A study published in the March 2005 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who were overweight had a higher chance of having twins. Women who were tall also had a higher chance of having twins.
Eat dairy products: According to a recent study by Dr. Gary Steinman, a physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center who is well known for research on multiple birth pregnancies, women who eat dairy are five times more likely to conceive twins than women who don’t. Dr. Steinman’s study compared women who ate a regular diet with vegan women and vegetarian women who consumed dairy products. Vegans appear to be less likely to conceive twins according to the study. But, it may not be so much that consuming dairy increases your chances of having twins; but rather, that consuming milk or other dairy products from growth hormone treated cows increases your chances of having twins.
Continue breastfeeding: If you are breastfeeding and would like to conceive twins, you may want to hold off on weaning your little one. According to one twin study, women who were breastfeeding when they conceived were nine times more likely to conceive twins than women who are were not breastfeeding.
Try to conceive shortly after discontinuing birth control pills: Sometimes when a woman quits using birth control pills, her body gets “out of wack” as it tries to start regulating its own hormone production again. If a woman has been using the pill for six months or more her body adjusts to the birth control controlling her hormones so when she stops taking the pill, her body may take a cycle or two to get her hormones working the way they are supposed to. When this happens, women sometimes receive a little too much hormone stimulation. This can cause the ovaries to release one too many eggs during the first ovulatory cycle or two after discontinuing the pill. So if you want to have twins, the first cycle or two after stopping the pill is a great time to try!
Eat wild yams: We are not sure if this one will really work but it can’t hurt. The theory behind eating yams is that there may be a chemical in wild yams, or cassava root, which may cause hyperstimulation of the ovaries, resulting in the release of more than one egg during ovulation. We are not sure if this is true or not but one town in Africa, Igbo-Ora, is known for having a high rate of twins. This small town in Nigeria claims to have the highest rate of twins in the world, 4 times higher than the rest of the world’s population. Researchers started looking into the diet of this African town and concluded that the reason for the high rate of twins might be due to their diet. People in the town of Igbo-Ora consume a large amount of cassava root, a wild yam. Researchers believe that the wild yams may play a role in the high rate of twins conceived in this town.
Have a big family: Having a big family also naturally increases your chances of having twins. It makes sense, the more times you are pregnant, the more likely it is that one of your pregnancies will be twins.
Try to get pregnant when you are older: Women who are older are more likely to have twins. Women over 45 have a 17% chance of conceiving twins, but they also have a lower fertility rate so it probably won’t make sense to wait until you are older just to conceive twins. Still, if you are older and are able to conceive, you are more likely to have twins than someone younger. The reason being is most likely related to the fact that older women start producing higher levels of FSH, follicle stimulating hormone. FSH is a hormone that tells your ovaries to start maturing an egg for ovulation. As you get older, you have less eggs and lower quality eggs, so to compensate your body starts producing more FSH. This increase in FSH production may cause an older woman to be over stimulated and result in the release of more than one egg during ovulation; thus, increasing the chances of conceiving twins.