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  • How to Have Twins If It's Not in Your Genes, According to a Dad on a Quest to Have Twins

    The odds of having fraternal twins is higher than identical twins. But have you heard of the “egg-splitter theory?”
    by GP Abrajano .
How to Have Twins If It's Not in Your Genes, According to a Dad on a Quest to Have Twins
PHOTO BY iStock
  • I have just one wish I’d like to ask the Universe, and it is this: Please give me twins.

    I have always been fascinated by twins, as far back as I can remember. The Wonder Twins. Thomson and Thompson. Luke and Leia. Fred and George Weasley. The dreadlocked twins from The Matrix. Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Having been born without a twin, I’m guessing the next best thing would be having twin children.

    And thus started my quest to unlock the mystery of twins.

    Humans are one of those life forms on earth that reproduce by single birth. When we human beings create an offspring, we can only do so one at a time: only one sperm will get to fertilize one egg, only one fetus develops, and only one child is carried in the womb until birth. We are not like dogs that can give birth to, let’s say, a litter of eight little children at one time. We just weren’t designed for that.

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    Despite this single birth restriction, there is an exception: the phenomenon of multiple births. There are many different types of multiple births, such as twins, triplets, quadruplets, and so on, and the general rule is the more multiple offspring conceived, the rarer the occurrence, which makes twins the most common variety of multiple births. There are two types of twins: fraternal and identical twins.

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    Fraternal twins

    Fraternal twins are produced when two sperm cells fertilize two egg cells at the same time. When two people say they’re twins, yet they look nothing alike, they’re fraternal twins. Or twins of different genders, they’re fraternal, too. Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are fraternal twins, as are Cersei and Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones.

    Fraternal twins can happen spontaneously, “without any artificial inducement,” and they can also be induced.

    For fraternal twins to occur, the woman must release two eggs during ovulation rather than the usual one. Factors that can increase the chances of a woman releasing two eggs include:

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    • genetics (if there have been previous instances of fraternal twins in your family)
    • age (women over 30 have a higher chance of releasing multiple eggs)
    • previously having delivered twins (if you’ve had twins before, there’s a very high chance of you having them again).

    There are also artificial ways to induce the woman to produce multiple eggs.

    • Drinking a lot of cow’s milk, which is known to increase the amount of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in the blood, which in turn increases the chance of producing multiple eggs.
    • A woman can also try increasing her folic acid intake, which has been known to increase the chance of conceiving multiples, though this has only been confirmed in small-scale studies.
    • The woman can also try fertility drugs, particularly clomiphene and gonadotropins.
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    Identical twins

    Now, when we talk about identical twins, that’s trickier. The production of identical multiples relies mostly on genetics, meaning the phenomenon of identical twins almost always runs in the family. I myself don’t have twinning in my family tree, except for twin aunts on my mother’s side (my mother’s first cousin), although research has revealed that their twinning may have come from the other side of the family. However, I do have a male friend from college with an identical twin, and he claims there is no twinning at all in his family tree, which means there is still hope in my wife conceiving twins spontaneously.

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    Since the likelihood of a fertilized egg splitting into identical twins seems to be genetic, it only makes sense that this trait is passed down through the female line, right? For example, a woman whose fertilized egg split in two probably got this trait from her mother, who also had eggs with a high probability of splitting in two. But that doesn’t explain the phenomenon of identical twins traveling down the male line.

    I first realized this when I was in Germany, after I got to talk to a male friend. He told me he had older brothers who were identical twins, and both these brothers also fathered identical twins themselves. This led me to come up with my theory about the “Egg-Splitter Sperm,” meaning the ability to split a fertilized egg lies in the sperm, not in the egg, which is the reason why it is passed down through the Y-chromosome.

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    Apparently, somebody already came up with the egg-splitter sperm theory before me, and it has been gaining traction in twin research, although it isn’t really that popular yet. According to the egg-splitter sperm theory, “there is an enzyme in the male sperm that causes the embryo to split into two separate embryos, resulting in identical twins.”

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    Despite thousands of years of human evolution, the phenomenon of twinning is still beyond human control. That’s because, despite all the advancements in the fields of biology and human fertility, multiple births is still one of the closest things to magic a human being can ever experience. Even ancient magic by shamans and sorcerers have no guaranteed spell or incantation to produce multiples, which I guess is all for the better. Only by witnessing the beauty and magic of life can we gain an appreciation and respect for it.

    Now when I say I want twins, I wouldn’t mind if the Universe gives me fraternal twins. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all. But what I really want, the Holy Grail of twin-dom, is identical twins. Twin boys or twin girls, it doesn’t matter. Identical twins rock.

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