Why twin pregnancies ‘run in families’ and risks involved

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Several years ago, Dandriquez Winfield was shocked to learn his girlfriend was pregnant with twins, but recently she became pregnant again with another set of twins.

“My mind was blown,” he said. “I was like, ain’t no way!”

Dr. Phillip Greig, maternal fetal medicine obstetrician gynecologist explained that this most often occurs in fraternal twin pregnancies like Winfield’s when the mother releases two eggs which are fertilized at the same time.

“These types of twins are the ones that can run in families,” he said. “About 70 percent or about 2 out of 3 are this type of eggs.”

Dr. Greig said that typically happens if a woman has a gene to release 2 eggs. That gene, he said, can also be carried by men and passed on to their daughters.

Even with the gene, Dr. Greig says its not guaranteed that she will have twins. “The minority will have twins with the next pregnancy, although the chances are greater.” he said.

He warns that twin pregnancies increase health risks for the babies.

“These pregnancies are at high risk of preterm delivery which is the main risk to the baby.”

The number of twin pregnancies saw a big jump decades ago, he explained, by about 70 percent from the 90s up into the 2000s.

Dr. Greig said in vitro fertilization increases the risk of twin pregnancies, although this is a risk many of his patients are willing to take while rushing to start families in their 30s.

For those parents, he recommended patience.

“Unfortunately, the advanced maternal age has been labeled at 35. That was an arbitrary number created in the 70s, so I guess I would take the pressure off the parents that the clock is ticking and they need to get pregnant,” he said.

If you would like to submit a health question for our series, click here.

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