The universal fascination with twins and triplets, and misunderstandings about the nature of twinning, perpetuate a mythology which has serious consequences for multiples and their families.
MYTH #1: Twinning skips a generation.
FACT: Dizygotic or two-egg twinning passes down the female line from generation to generation.(1)
IMPACT: An expectant mother may disregard her symptoms of a multiple pregnancy, because she believes that she can't have twins since her mother did.
MYTH #2: Since multiple births are most often the result of costly infertility treatments, twinning is not a problem for middle- and low-income populations.
FACT: Although twinning rates are influenced by infertility treatments the majority of multiple births occur naturally. The highest rates are in the African-American population, which is at additional high risk for poverty.(2)
IMPACT: Policy makers and funders fail to provide resources to address the special needs of low-income families with multiples.
MYTH #3: Every pregnant woman thinks she's having twins.
FACT: Pregnant women have been found able to accurately identify the presence of multiples as much as three months ahead of the medical diagnosis. (3)
IMPACT: Under the influence of this myth, obstetricians sometimes dismiss maternal suspicions of twin pregnancy and manage the pregnancy as if there is just one baby, such as limiting maternal weight gain to 20 pounds instead of the optimal 40 pounds for twins; inducing premature labor in the mistaken belief that a seven-month twin pregnancy is a post-mature singleton pregnancy.
MYTH #4: You can't breastfeed multiples, or if you breastfeed you must never use bottles.
FACT: Mothers who breastfeed multiples report that the judicious use of formula as supplementation, in times of illness or extreme fatigue, can prolong the duration of the breastfeeding period. (4)
IMPACT: Mothers of multiples who are willing to breastfeed are discouraged from attempting it. This can mean that low-birthweight infants, who are most in need of breast milk, are unnecessarily deprived of its benefits. In addition they may miss regular physical contact with their mother which the process of breastfeeding requires and which promotes the bonding process.