How Does It Happen?
Several factors can increase the odds of having double the multiples, says Dr. Stephen P. Emery, MD, an OB-GYN and director of perinatal ultrasound for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. In fact, just giving birth to twins once raises your odds of having twins again to one in 12—about four times greater than the average woman. Being a twin or triplet yourself, being taller or overweight, and being over 35 all increase your odds of conceiving multiples during any given pregnancy.
But the biggest reason by far is assisted reproduction. Around one-third of all assisted conceptions result in multiple births.
History repeating itself can happen in a number of ways. In some cases, the treatment that originally worked and resulted in a multiple birth is used again and results in a multiple birth, again. Other times, Dr. Emery explains, a couple that has battled infertility for years may not use contraception after a multiple pregnancy. Then the woman gets pregnant and—as happened to the Mullinses—the couple ends up with a spontaneous set of twins.
Being Pregnant with Multiples (Again!)
It took Herrold about a month to fully realize she was going to be a mommy of multiples again. "I was in denial, but I knew that I had to get with the program," says Herrold. "I had to start getting ready for another hard pregnancy while continuing to take care of my older boys."
Herrold was right to brace herself for trouble. These pregnancies can be fraught with risk, says Dr. Emery. Like any multiple pregnancy, the danger of preterm labor is much higher than a singleton pregnancy. In addition, there are increased risks of complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. The chances that a woman will need a C-section and perhaps also experience lengthy periods of bed rest or hospitalization are higher as well.
Now imagine going through this kind of tough, stressful pregnancy—with not one, but two or three demanding toddlers at home. "It's a real challenge for these moms," says Dr. Emery. "The issues sort of compound themselves. Having multiples to care for makes it hard for a woman to get the kind of rest she needs during another multiple pregnancy and recovery from birth."
However, Mullins notes that for her, it wasn't as bad as it sounds. "My doctors were very concerned about my stress factor, especially since I'd had severe preeclampsia in my first pregnancy. But I think that I was so busy caring for my first set of twins that I actually had less stress during my second pregnancy. I just didn't have time to think about all the things that could go wrong." Mullins adds that she also made a conscious effort to keep herself as calm as possible and get plenty of rest.