Twins: Myths and Facts
Fiction and mythology have surrounded multiple births since ancient times, but what's the truth? Get the facts here.
"Twins Are Opposites"
Myth: The notion of twins always possessing complementary or opposing character traits is infused in mythology throughout the world and has carried over into modern times as the widespread belief that twins’ personalities counter each other: One twin is apparently “good” and the other “bad,” or one is a leader and one a follower.
Busted: There is no evidence to suggest that twins’ personalities form this type of balance. Often twins are relegated to certain roles by parents, teachers, and friends, but it is best to allow your twins to develop their own unique and individual personalities.
"Twins Share ESP"
Myth: Ah, those mysterious multiples! You may have heard about twins who share thoughts and can feel each other’s pain, but is there any truth to these tales?
Busted: Twins who are reared together are typically very close due to shared experience, and so can often anticipate one another’s statements or actions. Sometimes, twins even develop a special “language” known as idioglossia, which is unintelligible to outsiders. However, there is no proof of a supernatural bond between multiples.
"Twinning Is Hereditary"
Myth: Twins run in a family, so if you’re a twin (or related to twins), chances are, you’ll have them, too.
Busted—sort of: This myth is partly true: There is a gene that may be passed from parent to daughter that predisposes women to hyperovulation, but there is no gene for twinning. Due to the hereditary hyperovulation trait, fraternal twins—who are conceived by the fertilization of two different eggs—may run in a family.
It is quite possible to give birth to twins even if you’re not related to any. Also, keep in mind that multiple births are on the rise, as hyperovulation is also stimulated by certain fertility drugs, like Clomid.
"Twinning Skips a Generation"
Myth: Your grandmother may have told you that twinning runs in the family, but it skips a generation, so if you’re a twin you may be disappointed that you can’t have any of your own.
Busted: This widely-regarded myth is malarky! The root of this falsehood lies in gender. The gene that fosters hyperovulation is passed from parent to child, so a grandmother may pass this gene to her son—but, being a man, this will have no effect on twinning his children. However, he may transfer this gene to his daughter, who could have twins. In this case, twinning does skip a generation.
On the other hand, a woman may inherit this gene from her mother, and pass it onto her daughter, so that both generations have increased chances of bearing twins.
"Seasons Play a Role in Twinning"
Myth: Living—or procreating—in a warmer climate may increase your chance of having twins.
Busted: Actually, this is (probably) true. Although there is no hard proof available, plenty of evidence suggests that heat is a factor in the conception of twins. In fact, Nigeria has the highest rate of twinning worldwide, and multiple births are quite prevalent in places with long summer seasons like Northern Japan and Northern Finland. This may be due to the effect of warmth on heightened FSH levels. So, if you’re looking to relocate to a sunnier spot, here’s just another reason.
Identical or Fraternal? “You Can Tell Just by Looking”
Myth: Identical twins look alike, and fraternal twins don’t. Easy enough, right?
Busted: Like most myths, there is a grain of truth in this one. Identical twins typically have very similar features, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart, and fraternal twins don’t necessarily share a strong resemblance. However, environmental factors, personal style, and growth and development can often make identical twins look completely unrelated, and a fraternal pair may seem like mirror images of one another.
Just remember: You can always feel confident that a boy-girl twin combo is
definitely fraternal. (Brush up on the differences between identical and fraternal twins here.)
"Twins Always Have the Same Parents"
Myth: This one seems pretty cut and dried—obviously, twins share the same parents … don’t they?
Busted: Actually, it is possible in very rare occasions for fraternal twins to have different fathers. Known as “half twins,” these siblings can be conceived if a woman has intercourse with two men in a short time, and sperm from each man fertilize an egg. Sperm can live in the body for up to five days, so twins can technically have different fathers.
"You Can't Breastfeed Twins"
Myth: Mothers are often told—even sometimes by their doctors—that it’s too difficult to breastfeed twins. They may be encouraged to supplement with formula or forget breastfeeding entirely.
Busted: It’s quite possible to breastfeed twins. After all, twins were being birthed long before the days of Enfamil—cavewomen couldn’t just stroll across the street for another bottle. It does prove more difficult for a mother to feed multiple babies, but even the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) says that with consistent feedings, this can be accomplished.
"Older Women Are More Likely to Have Twins"
Myth: As a woman ages, the risk of conceiving twins increases.
Busted: This one is true, but only in the case of fraternal twins. As a woman ages, her FSH levels increase, and her body is more inclined to release more than one egg in a cycle (or hyperovulate), which increases the risk of conceiving fraternal twins and triplets.
"Twins Should Be Separated in School"
Myth: It’s standard practice in many public schools to segregate twins into different classrooms, so they are encouraged to develop independent identities, and flourish as individuals. Even the AAP touts twin division.
Busted: There is no consensus on the best way to educate twins. In fact, this is a hotly contested debate. Some experts suggests twins may thrive when kept together.
It’s best to know your own children and make decisions based on their personalities and relationship with one another.
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