Want to live a long, healthy life? Have twins. Compared with other mothers, women who deliver twins tend to have longer life spans, have more children than expected, bear babies at shorter intervals over a longer time, and are older at their last birth.
But there's a catch. Double birth itself does not provide any extra health benefits for moms. Rather, it's that "healthier women have an increased chance of delivering twins," Ken R. Smith, senior author of the University of Utah study, says in a statement released by the University.
Until now, prevailing wisdom among many doctors and researchers had been that carrying and giving birth to twins and other multiples somehow "took a toll" on a woman's health and longevity. "We found the opposite," says Smith. "Women who naturally bear twins in fact live longer and are actually more fertile."
Because researchers only wanted to look at natural twin births among moms who had not used fertility treatments, the University of Utah team dug through population statistics on 4,603 mothers of twins who were born between 1807 and 1899—a group that didn't have fertility treatments or artificial birth control at their disposal. The women in the study also lived to at least 50 years old.
What did they find? According to the LA Times, these "great-great grandmothers" had an up to 7 percent lower mortality after age 50 than "singleton" mothers and had more children overall compared with non-twin-bearing moms—by virtue of their multiple births, but also because they had more single children than moms of single babies. Twin-bearing moms also had slightly shorter time spans between having children, had babies over a longer period of their life spans, and tended to be a little older than non-twin-bearing mothers when they had their last baby—about 4.8 months older for those born pre-1870, and 14 months older for those born from 1870 to 1899.
For women today "who have access to infertility treatment and who have twins—which isn't uncommon—we simply don't know how that will affect their health," Smith adds. "We're not encouraging women to actively seek having twins so they can live longer ... We're saying that women who twin naturally have something that makes them healthier."