Most people tend to think that having twins just comes down to the luck of the draw, but did you know there’s actually way more to it than that? In fact, a woman’s age could play one of the biggest roles when it comes to seeing double.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two weeks, we have no doubt that you’ve heard the news—Queen Bey is having twins. She made the announcement on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, with an epic glamour shot photoshoot that looks like it was taken by Deb from Napoleon Dynamite herself, and we mean that in the best way possible.
Her fans were nothing but overjoyed to hear this type of news in what many of us are considering to be a pretty dark time in our nation.
Now, we’re not suggesting that Beyonce is old in the slightest bit, but having twins over the age of 30 is something that’s pretty significant for any woman.
However, it’s not as if having twins is uncommon—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has actually reported that the birth rate for twins has been on the rise since 1980, especially for mothers over age 35. Is it just sheer luck, or is there something going on in the mid-30s female body that makes it more of a possibility?
As it turns out, there are actually a few different factors that make having twins more common among women who are 35 years old or more.
Some of the reasons are:
- Their hormone levels tend to fluctuate more often, particularly their levels of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), the hormone that is responsible for stimulating ovulation and egg production.
- As women get older, they tend to rely more on fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and fertility-increasing medications, both of which can make it easier to conceive multiple babies.
- Women in their mid-30s who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more may also be more likely to conceive multiple babies, fraternal twins in particular. This is thought to be because heavier women produce more luteinizing hormone, which is what causes ovulation. It is said that women who are overweight may actually release up to two eggs during each monthly cycle.
As women get older, they tend to be subject to more prenatal screenings than younger women, and this is especially true for women who conceive twins at an older age. It definitely makes sense, as the risk of experiencing pregnancy complications increases when a woman gets pregnant when she’s older, especially when she’s carrying more than one baby.
Carrying twins at any age isn’t easy, and women who carry twins when they’re older are more likely to give birth to their babies prematurely. They may also:
- Give birth to babies with low birth weights, even if they aren’t born prematurely
- Be more likely to develop gestational diabetes, as there are obviously different dietary needs for women carrying multiple babies
- Be more likely to develop high blood pressure because of the additional placenta and increase in hormone production
- Have issues with the placenta like placenta previa, which leads to excessive bleeding either before or during birth
In general, older women who become pregnant at all tend to feel everything pregnancy has to offer pretty intensely, much more than a younger woman would. Unfortunately, it really does have everything to do with age—the body doesn’t handle stress as well as it ages, and just isn’t as well-suited for pregnancy as a younger body would be. Additionally, mothers of any age might experience certain symptoms more intensely while they’re pregnant with twins, including:
- General achiness, pain, and fatigue throughout the entire body
- Much more fetal movement
- Increased constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and general digestive upset
- Strong feelings of nausea, no matter what time of day it is
Many of these exacerbated symptoms occur because of the extra hormones produced during a pregnancy carrying with twins, along with the extra weight that comes along with it. The bright side, though, is that double the babies doesn’t always mean double the pregnancy trouble—ultimately, every woman is different.
So, are there any other factors that can increase the chance that a woman of any age will conceive twins?
- In general, women with a history of twins in their family will be more likely to have twins themselves.
- Women who have been pregnant before are more likely to conceive twins during later pregnancies.
- Women who are vegan or vegetarian, along with women who typically follow a fairly low-fat diet, are much less likely to conceive twins. It is thought that these types of diets can alter women’s hormone levels, and those who don’t consume a lot of fat will probably have a lower BMI.
- Apparently lightning can, and may, strike twice—women who have had twins before are also more likely to conceive multiple babies at once in the future.
- Black women are most likely to conceive twins, followed by white women. Asian or Hispanic women are the least likely to have twins, but obviously anything is possible.
Prenatal care is definitely an incredibly important aspect of a twin pregnancy, especially for older women with twins. These women will typically be scheduled for more appointments with their doctor, even if their pregnancy is completely normal, to ensure that no complications are developing with either baby.
It’s also pretty vital to make sure that the mother is eating enough, eating the right things, and gaining enough weight to support each baby.
A doctor can help you to determine what you should be eating more of, what you should be eating less of, and how you can safely gain weight throughout your pregnancy to ensure that you avoid complications like gestational diabetes.
Many of the guidelines that apply to pregnant women in general also apply to any women carrying twins, they just recommend more of certain things. For example, women with twins will require more protein and iron than a woman carrying a single child.
When complications occur for any pregnant woman, the symptoms can definitely be alarming, and it’s especially true for an older woman pregnant with multiple babies. They tend to feel all of the pregnancy-related symptoms much stronger than others, so it can be difficult to determine if a random ache is just a bout of gas or something they should really be worried about.
Depending on where a woman is in her pregnancy, certain symptoms may be more or less alarming, but it’s important to talk to your doctor if:
- You don’t really feel the babies moving or kicking anymore after they have already started to move around regularly.
- You have strong and persistent pain in your abdomen.
- You begin to notice spotting or more severe vaginal bleeding.
- You start to produce more discharge than normal, or if you notice any changes to what you normally produce.
- You begin to feel intense lower back pain or pressure in your pelvic area.
- You don’t urinate as much, or feel pressure and pain when you do.
Of course, certain complications can happen no matter what you do to avoid them, but there are certain steps women carrying twins can take to keep their pregnancy as normal and as healthy as they can.
- Start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you can—we’re talking the day you find out you’re pregnant. Women with twins naturally need more of it, and studies show that folic acid can reduce the chance of a fetus developing any sort of neural tube defect.
- Make sure you’re eating! It is recommended that women carrying twins add 1,000 extra calories to their daily diet. As a comparison, women carrying only one baby are only supposed to add an extra 300 calories to their daily intake.
- If you suffer from frequent morning sickness, try to keep a small snack handy all throughout the day to help ease it. Fresh fruit, crackers, protein shakes, and yogurt are all good options to keep around.
- Keep chugging water throughout the day. You won’t be happy when you’re running to the bathroom every five seconds, but your body will need the extra fluid to make sure all that extra blood is flowing as it should be.