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Saturday, June 30, 2007


Lately I feel like I'm seeing double. It seems like everywhere I look, I see another pair of twins. They are absolutely ubiquitous. Twins in the movies. Twins on TV. Twins in the White House. Minty fresh twins that double both my flavor and my fun. Freaky "Come play with us" twins that give me nightmares. Julia Roberts has twins. Geena Davis, twins. It seems that every uterus in America is offering double occupancy.

At first I thought maybe it was my imagination. I figured it was the fallacy of memory, where the event stands out in your mind precisely because it is what you are trying to remember. But then I started doing some research, and it turns out that we are in an absolute epidemic of multiple births. Since 1982, the twinning rate has risen 300%. The numbers are even more staggering for triplets. Up until recently, and with good evolutionary purpose, the rate of twins occurring naturally in the human species was 1 out of every 80 births. Triplets occurred once in 8000, quads 1 out of 800,000, and quints 1 in 40 million. As of right now, for a variety of reasons, the twinning rate is roughly 1:33!

As I mentioned, there are several factors that have led to this. Women are becoming mothers at later ages, when there ovulation is more erratic, making them more likely to drop two egg cells, or oocytes, in a single cycle. Also age related is the number of women using fertility drugs to conceive, again adding to the incidence of multiples. Then there is assisted reproduction, where multiple oocytes are fertilized and implanted in the hopes that at least one will take. More often than not, several of then will.

This increase is bound to affect our world in countless ways. Beyond the obvious increases in infant mortality and premature births, there are all the additional expenses in time and money that parenting these broods to adulthood. I started to wonder how this would affect the school system. There doesn't seem to be any consensus as to how multiples should be handles at school. Some districts mandate that the children be separated from the beginning. Others try to keep the kids together. Either way, there are sure to be unhappy parents with different ideas.

I am interested in hearing from my readership how this subject has affected their schools. To me, it seems like a non-issue. There is no need to treat these children differently than the others. Just plug their names into whatever class distribution algorithm currently in use and see what pops out. If the kids are in different classes, fine. They have to get use to being apart sooner or later. If they are together, great. They can't possibly be more disruptive than all the other giggling best-friends out there.

(Incidentally, if you ever happen to be writing a blog post about twins, and decide upon its completion that an image of a multiple birth ultrasound might make for a nice addition, do not simply Google "twins" with the Safesearch off. )

1 comment:

Twice said...

lol on that last note there!

Interestingly, IVF also increases identical twinning for some reason. Last I heard, no one knew why. Weird.

A sometimes overlooked factor is the use of fertility drugs for reasons other than lack of ovulation. For example, clomid is sometimes used for progesterone support in women who ovulate successfully already. It has a pretty good twinning rate for women who don't ovulate on their own (10%), so I suspect it is even higher in the other case.

Regarding the school question, I'm happy to say that our school district lets the parents decide whether to split multiples. (Though for us, I do not think it will matter one way or the other.) However, in many school districts, bitter fights go on. Potential legislation has even been introduced in some states to try to leave the decision to the parents.

Here are some links you might find helpful: