Hospitals provide data on births to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and one thing they keep track of is the number of twins and other multiple births born every year. It takes some time to tabulate the information, but the data for 2014 indicate that the percentage of twin births is higher than ever before.
The Data on Twins
- 2014: 3,988,076 births registered in the United States (1% higher than 2013)
- 2014: 135,336 infants born in twin deliveries
- 2014: 4,526 infants born in triplets and higher multiples
- 1980: Twins were born at a rate of 18.9 per 1,000 births
- 2009: Twins were born at a rate of 33.2 per 1,000 births
- 2013: Twins were born at a rate of 33.7 per 1,000 births
- 2014: Twins were born at a rate of 33.9 per 1,000 births (nationwide high)
- 1998: Triplets and higher births were 193.5 per 100,000 births
- 2013: Triplets and higher births were 119.5 per 100,000 births
- 2014: Triplets and higher births were 113.5 per 100,000 births (lowest in 20 years)
Twin births have been increasing since 1980, with a 76% increase from 2009 to 1980. Triplets and higher multiples, on the other hand, have generally declined since 1998.
Why is the Data Important?
The increase in twin births is generally understood to be because of the continuing increase in fertility therapies, which include women of advanced maternal age and otherwise infertile couples who can now have children. Those procedures often result in multiple births. By the same token, the decrease in triplets and higher multiples is credited to improved techniques in those fertility therapies, where high numbers of births were formerly more common.
Keeping track of the trends helps us to better allocate resources to problems. Twins and other multiple births technically fall under the category of high risk. Babies born as multiples have higher risks, including preterm birth and low birthweight, which can cause a host of medical complications. For example, in 2014 one of every two twins was born preterm or low birthweight.
Risks of Multiple Gestation
There are several risks associated with twins, triplets and higher multiples. Mothers may experience:
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Severe vomiting, nausea and dehydration
- Infection of the kidneys
- Postpartum hemorrhage (serious bleeding after delivery)
- Thromboembolism (blood clots)
Infants born to multiple gestation also have risks:
- Preterm delivery
- Low birthweight
- Cerebral palsy
- Prolapsed umbilical cord (the umbilical cord descends before the baby during delivery, and oxygen and blood are cut off)
- Preeclampsia (extremely high blood pressure)
- Placenta previa (cervix is blocked by the placenta)
The birth of twins or other multiples is typically a joyous occasion, and often recognized as a special event. The data reveals that twin deliveries are up, while higher multiples have decreased. Health care providers must not treat these as routine deliveries, because the risks are higher compared to single births. Instead, doctors must be aware of those risks, and must take care to prevent injury. If you have questions about multiple births, contact us at (440) 252-4399, or send us your questions online.
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