Is It Possible for Twins to Have Different Fathers?

Twin babies one crying

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Twins are defined as "...two young who are simultaneously born from one mother." (Encyclopedia Britannica). Note that the definition only refers to the mother. But what about fathers? Can twins have different fathers?

Twins With Different Fathers

As technology has improved the accuracy and accessibility of genetic testing, it has become more evident that twins can have two different fathers. The situation only applies to fraternal (dizygotic) twins, not identical (monozygotic) twins, which form from a single egg/sperm combination. Monozygotic twins cannot have different fathers.

However, fraternal twins are the result of hyperovulation, the release of multiple eggs in a single cycle. Superfecundation describes a situation where the eggs are fertilized by sperm from separate incidences of sexual intercourse. In a case where a woman has sex with different partners, the twins could have different fathers. The appropriate term to describe this situation is heteropaternal superfecundation.


This situation can also occur when twins are the result of fertility treatments, for example, the case of Koen and Tuen Stuart, Dutch boys who were the result of IVF (in vitro fertilization). In a mixup at the lab, equipment had been used twice, causing another man’s sperm to be mixed with the father's.

In New Jersey, a mother of twins underwent paternity testing when applying for public assistance. After the test showed that her partner was only the father of one of her twins, she admitted that she had had sex with another man within the same week that her twins were conceived.

A mother of twins in Texas acknowledged that she was having an affair with another man when her twins were conceived. Paternity testing revealed that her fiancee was indeed the father of one of the twin boys, but that another man was the biological father of the other twin.

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  2. Hoekstra C, Zhao ZZ, Lambalk CB, et al. Dizygotic twinning. Hum Reprod Update. 2008;14(1):37-47. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmm036

  3. Woods DL, Malan AF. SuperfecundationArch Dis Child. 1980;55(12):974. doi:10.1136/adc.55.12.974

  4. Wenk RE, Houtz T, Brooks M, Chiafari FA. How frequent is heteropaternal superfecundation?. Acta Genet Med Gemellol (Roma). 1992;41(1):43-7. doi:10.1017/s000156600000249x

  5. Curry, Ann. The world's least alike twins. NBC Dateline. Published September 2005.

  6. Mueller, Benjamin. Paternity Case for a New Jersey Mother of Twins Bears Unexpected Results: Two Fathers. The New York Times. Published 7 May 2015.

  7. Lu HL, Wang CX, Wu FQ, Li JJ. Paternity identification in twins with different fathers. J Forensic Sci. 1994;39(4):1100-2. PMID: 8064269

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