Since I was a twin, it was always in my mind that when I finally got pregnant, I could potentially have a set of my own. I wasn’t sure if this was likely, so I researched some message boards about twins while I was trying to conceive (TTC). I was shocked about how many women suggested trying to have sex in early pregnancy to “make twins.” Pretty sure that wasn’t a thing, I decided to ask an OB-GYN (and fellow twin, I might add) his thoughts on the big question — can sex during early pregnancy cause twins?
According to Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, who is an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger along with his twin brother for TwinDoctorsTV, I was right, and no, that’s not how that works. “Having sex during early pregnancy cannot lead to a woman having twins because by definition, twins are two children produced during the ‘same’ pregnancy. If someone were to have sex while pregnant, and then they became pregnant again, these pregnancies would by definition be ‘different’ pregnancies,” Abdur-Rahman says.
So what does cause twins? Abdur-Rahman says, “Twins result from one of two circumstances. The first leads to ‘identical’ twins. Identical twins result when one egg is fertilized by one sperm. Early in the development of this pregnancy, the fertilized egg then splits, resulting in two fertilized eggs. These two fertilized eggs then grow, leading to a twin pregnancy. Because these two fertilized eggs started as one, they have identical DNA.” And this is why they’re called “identical twins," he explains. “They’re basically clones.”
Fraternal twins occur when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm. “Again, if a woman releases more than one egg while ovulating, and if two of these eggs are then fertilized by two of the millions of sperm a man releases while ejaculating, then fraternal twins result. Fraternal twins are basically just like your run-of-the-mill brothers or sisters. They share a mother and a father like all other brothers and sisters, but they don't have identical DNA. They're still twins though because they are a part of the same pregnancy,” he explains.
Hoping to increase your chances of having twins? You’ll have to start way before you become pregnant in the first place, and Abdur-Rahman says to do this, you’ll need to increase the chances that you’ll release multiple eggs while ovulating. How does one go about doing this? Abdur-Rahman says taking fertility medications, such as Clomid, Femara, or Gonadotropins, can increase your chances. “These medications increase the likelihood that a woman will get pregnant because they increase the likelihood that a woman will not only ovulate, but potentially hyper-ovulate, releasing more than one egg. If more than one egg is released during a cycle, then chances that a woman will have fraternal twins increases.” If you don’t want to go the medicinal route, Abdur-Rahman says you can use natural ovulation aids like Maca, Tribulus, Shatavari, Vitex, Chasteberry, and Ilasa root. “My brother and I actually looked into why Nigerians have a higher rate of twins than most people, and one thing that we found was that their ingestion of Ilasa root might play a role,” he says.
How much do genetics play into having twins? If your partner was a twin (and a male), he isn’t more likely to father twins, Abdur-Rahman says. However, if you’re a twin, or you have twins in your family, you’re more likely to give birth to twins. “This is because there is a genetic aspect to women releasing more than one egg while ovulating. So in short, releasing more than one egg while ovulating can run in the family. This means that having fraternal twins can also run in the family. Statistically, a woman who is a fraternal twin or who has fraternal twins in the family has around a 6 percent chance of also having fraternal twins,” he explains.
So if you're hoping you won't suddenly become pregnant with twins while celebrating your early pregnancy with a romp in the sack, rest assured that cannot happen. If you were hoping doing this would cause you to have twins, I'm sorry to say you're out of luck, but you do have some medical and natural options to try to increase your chances of multiples. Oh, and if you're a twin like me, Abdur-Rahman says your chances of having twins increases by 6 percent. May the odds be ever in your favor. (If you want.)
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.