What Are My Chances of Having Twins?

Odds of Conceiving Twins Naturally or With Fertility Treatment

Caucasian twin baby girls in car seats
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What boosts your odds of having twins? Fertility treatments like Clomid (clomiphene), Gonal-F (follitropin alfa), and Follistim (follitropin beta) make it more likely you'll conceive multiples. But other factors like your height, age, and even family history can also increase your odds of conceiving more than one baby in a single pregnancy.

Causes of Twins Without Treatments

Fertility treatments are not the only cause for twins and higher-order pregnancies. Here's an overview of the other factors that increase your chances of getting pregnant with multiples.

Age

People over 30 are more likely to conceive twins. This is because follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) rises as birthing parents get older. FSH is responsible for the development of eggs in the ovaries before they are released.

As people age, they require higher levels of FSH because their eggs require more stimulation to grow than before. Sometimes, the follicles overreact to higher FSH levels and two or more eggs are released and fertilized, resulting in a multiple pregnancy.

Family History

A family history of identical twins does not necessarily make you more likely to have multiples, although the offspring of male identical twins may be more likely to have their own identical twins. However, if you have fraternal twins (non-identical) in your family, your chances of conceiving twins rise. If there are fraternal twins on both parents' or egg or sperm donor's sides, your odds for twins go up even higher.

A history of fraternal twins on the maternal side of the family indicates a higher likelihood of ovulating more than one egg per cycle.

Weight

People with a BMI over 30 are more likely to conceive twins than people with a lower BMI. Extra body fat leads to increased levels of estrogen, and higher levels of estrogen can lead to overstimulation of the ovaries. Instead of releasing just one egg at ovulation, the ovaries may release two or more. While the odds of twins may increase, other factors associated with being overweight can make it more difficult to conceive.

Height

People who are taller than average are more likely to have twins. One study found that people averaging 164.8 cm in height (about 5'4.8") were more likely to conceive twins than people averaging 161.8 cm (about 5'3.7"). Why this happens isn't clear, but one theory is that better nutrition (which may lead to more height) is partially behind the increased rate of twins.

Breastfeeding

People who conceive while breastfeeding are more likely to conceive twins than people who are not. It's true that breastfeeding can also suppress fertility and prevent pregnancy, specifically during a baby's first six months if the baby is exclusively breastfed. However, it is possible to get pregnant when breastfeeding—and with twins!

One study found the rate of twins to be 11.4% among breastfeeding people as compared to just 1.1% among non-breastfeeding people.

Diet

While research is still ongoing, some studies have found that people who eat a lot of dairy products are more likely to conceive twins. One theory is that the growth hormones given to cows affect the hormone levels in humans.

Other Factors

Twins are more common in people who have carried many pregnancies and have large families. Meanwhile, Black people also are more likely to conceive twins than White people, while Asian people are the least likely to conceive twins.

Odds of Having Twins With Treatments

Fertility treatments that boost ovulation can lead to twins, triplets, or higher-order multiples. Conceiving multiples is a potential risk of fertility treatments and one that can possibly be reduced with careful monitoring and targeted treatment such as single embryo transfer with IVF treatment or using the lowest possible effective dosage when treating with gonadotropins.

You may wonder why conceiving multiples is considered a "risk" and not a potential benefit to fertility treatments. After all, if you've been struggling to get pregnant, wouldn't a double or triple blessing be a good thing? The fact is that multiple pregnancies come with added risks to the parent and babies.

Not all treatments for infertility increase your odds of conceiving twins, but most do. Here are some of the treatments that may lead to twins.

   Overall Clomid and Femera Gonadotropins  IVF (under 35) IVF (ages 35–37)  IVF (ages 38–40)
 Twins  3.21%  5–12%  Up to 30% 12.1% 9.1%  5.3%
Triplets and Higher-Order Multiples   0.1% <1%  Up to 5%   

Clomid and Femera have the lowest rate of twins, ranging from 5% to 12%. The rate of triplets and higher-order multiples with these medications is under 1%. Gonadotropins, whether used with or without IUI treatment, have the highest rate of twins and higher-order multiples.

According to some studies, up to 30% of pregnancies conceived with gonadotropins lead to multiples. Most of these pregnancies are twin pregnancies, but up to 5% are triplet or higher-order pregnancies.

Contrary to popular belief, IVF treatment is not the main source of triplet and higher-order pregnancies. Data collected by the CDC indicates that the rate of IVF-conceived triplets in 2014 was 1.5% of pregnancies (but only 0.9% of live births due to pregnancy loss).

IVF twins are relatively common, with the twin rate highest for people younger than 35 at 12.1% per transfer in 2014. The IVF twin rate is lower for people over age 35 at 9.1% for people aged 35 to 37 and 5.3% for people ages 38 to 40, likely due to the overall decreased success rate as the gestational parent ages.

How Common Are Twins?

According to CDC birth statistics, there were 120,291 infants born in twin deliveries in the United States in 2019. That's 32.1 twins per 1,000 live births, or put another way, about 3.21% of live births. There were 3,136 triplet births and just 150 quadruplet and higher-order births during the same year. These numbers include naturally occurring multiples, along with those conceived with fertility treatment.

The rate of multiple births increased and peaked during the 1990s but has been declining over the past decade. The percentage of triplet and higher order pregnancies has dropped 36% since 2004.

Chances of Having Identical Twins

In the general population, identical twin pregnancies occur 0.45% of the time, or 1 in 250 births. While most multiple pregnancies conceived with fertility treatments are fraternal twins, the use of fertility treatment also increases your risk of having identical twins.

According to one study, identical twins made up 0.95% of the pregnancies conceived with treatment. That's double the general population's risk. It's unclear why fertility treatment leads to more identical twins.

One theory is that the culture embryos are placed in during IVF increases the risk of identical twinning. Another theory is that treatments using gonadotropins lead to the increased risk of identical twins.

Odds of Higher-Order Multiples

Anyone trying to conceive will find their chances of having higher-order multiples much lower than twins or singleton births. Without fertility treatments, the odds of conceiving triplets spontaneously is around 1 in 1,800. For quadruplets, the odds are estimated to be around 1 in 729,000.

With fertility treatments, the chances of a higher-order pregnancy rise substantially. In 2019, for example, the rate for triplet and higher-order multiples was 87.7 per 100,000 births (0.877 per 1,000 births). Estimates are that just over three-quarters of triplets and higher-order multiples are the result of fertility treatments.

A Word From Verywell

Your chances of having twins will depend not just on whether you undergo fertility treatment to conceive but also on your family history, race, age, and many other factors. These factors are also cumulative. In other words, a tall person with a family history of fraternal twins is more likely to conceive twins during fertility treatments than a short person without any family history of twins.

The twin and multiple rates also vary from fertility clinic to clinic. Twin rates differ based on how carefully they track ovulation stimulation during fertility drug use and how many embryos they routinely transfer during IVF.

While having twins may sound like the kind of two-for-one deal any couple would love to have after experiencing infertility, it really is best to aim for one healthy baby. Your doctor can reduce the odds of multiples with careful monitoring and single-embryo transfer during IVF.

However, if you do conceive twins or more, know that good prenatal care can reduce your risk of complications. There are also many positive benefits to having twins.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the chances of having twins if they run in your family?

    A family history of identical twins will not necessarily increase your chances of having them yourself, although the offspring of male identical twins are more likely to have them. However, you are more likely to have twins if there are fraternal twins in your family. If there are fraternal twins on both your mother's and father's sides of the family, your chances of having fraternal twins yourself are even higher.

  • How can I increase my chance of having twins?

    Many of the factors that increase your odds of having twins are out of your control, like your family history and height, for example. But there are other ways to improve your odds if you're hoping for multiples. Factors that increase the chance of twins include: consuming high amounts of dairy foods, being over the age of 30, and conceiving while breastfeeding. Many fertility drugs including Clomid, Gonal-F, and Follistim also increase the odds of a twin pregnancy.

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