In the past two decades, the number of twins has been steadily rising mostly due to advances in medical science such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and a number of other social factors such as the trend towards older moms (women over 35 have a greater chance of hyperovulation). But with the explosion of the blogosphere, there’s also a rise in misinformation on twinning. I’m talking about blog posts that promote potentially dangerous techniques to women who want to deliberately conceive twins.
First, I need to make the distinction between writing about why some women find themselves pregnant with twins versus risky advice from nonmedical professionals on how to increase your chances of twinning. The former is merely an explanation for the rise while the latter is just irresponsible journalism often fraught with erroneous information. For instance, I recently read a blog post on a so-called healthy pregnancy website proclaiming getting pregnant with twins is an “even more wonderful experience than becoming pregnant with a singleton.”
So the increased chance of developing preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure that’s way more common in moms carrying twins), gestational diabetes, and even placenta previa (a condition where the placenta covers part of the cervix) are good things? (And don’t get me started on the enormous weight gain a mom with twins must sustain.) And what about twin fetuses? They also have their share of “excitement,” too, like twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), intrauterine growth restriction (where one or both fetuses grow poorly), and even preterm birth.
But the blogger continues to encourage woman who desperately want to become pregnant with some “simple tips” on achieving a multiple pregnancy. Yet it’s one thing to suggest eating an abundance of yams (although the average woman would have to eat the cassava sweet potato from cradle to conception for the naturally occurring progesterone to have any effect) but it’s quite another to recommend using a progesterone cream or the prescription drug Clomid to help induce hyperovulation. Eating a plate full of yams every day may be just plain silly but at least it has no real negative effects. Playing around with hormones, on the other hand, is irresponsible and just downright dangerous.
But these misleading blog posts continue.
Another website suggests packing on some pounds might be the ticket to twins. The blogger goes on to suggest that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology agrees with this “tip.” Although I’m sure ACOG recognizes that overweight women have a higher incidence of twinning, the organization doesn’t promote gross weight gain for the sake of achieving a multiple pregnancy.
Not long ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abigail Pogrebin, author of One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular. Her book not only examines her relationship with her identical twin sister but also takes a tough look at the rise in twinning. Although I absolutely love and whole-heartedly recommend this book, if you are currently pregnant with multiples, I’d hold off on reading it until your babies are born as the chapters on Risky Business: The Shoals of Birthing Twins and Twin Shock 101 are not for the faint of heart. Pogrebin doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that a twin pregnancy is often fraught with complications or that infant twins—many of whom are born with problems—can be an enormous disruption to the family.
When I asked her why she included these chapters, Pogrebin told me that she was startled at how sobering the facts on multiples pregnancies were and that she felt they were underreported in the media. “I think the full picture had been underplayed,” she said. “And I talked to a lot of parents [of twins] who wished there had been more honesty about what was at stake and what could be ahead.”
And there in lies my problem with bloggers who promote twin conception. They are misleading and prey on women who are desperate for any information on how to increase their fertility. And as twins become more commonplace, it seems that getting pregnant alone isn’t enough—now a woman needs two buns in the oven.
So what’s the take-away message from all of this? If you are having trouble conceiving, speak with your doctor first. And if you do look to the Internet for advice, always consider the source.