Here’s how likely you are to have multiples

That's how high the probability of multiples is. Every 28th child is a multiple child in Germany. (Source: Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Twins, triplets, even quadruplets – not a pleasant idea for many couples, after all, one already imagines everyday life with a toddler to be exhausting. But multiple pregnancies don’t happen that often anyway. Or yet? Hellin’s rule states how likely multiples are to occur.

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Father films everyday life with triplets. (Screenshot: Bit Projects)

For twin pregnancies, a frequency of 1:85 is assumed for German women. According to the Hellin hypothesis, the approximate frequency of multiple pregnancies is the power of the frequency of twin births, where the exponent is the number of children minus one.

The probabilities according to the Hellin rule

What sounds extremely complicated looks like this in practice:

Number of childrenFrequencyProbability
Twins ca. 1:85 1 = 1:85 ca. 1.2 percent
Triplets ca. 1:85 2 = 1:7000 ca. 0.01 percent
Quadruplets ca. 1:85 3 = 1:600.000 ca. 0.0002 percent
Quintuplets ca. 1:85 4 = 1:50.000.000 ca. 0.000002 percent

Less likely is an identical twin birth. This occurs in about one in 250 pregnancies. The probability of identical quadruplets is 1:13.000.000, and the probability of identical triplets is as high as 1:200.000.000. The latter are even rarer, because they are "prevented quadruplets" acts.

Number of multiple births increases

So much for theory – reality looks different. According to Statista, in Germany every 28. child a multiple child. At the beginning of the 1980s, this was only true for one in every 55 eggs. Child.

Scientists identified two main reasons for this development. One is the number of infertility treatments, which has increased significantly in recent years. Hormone treatment stimulates the ovaries. This increases the probability of maturation of multiple oocytes. On average, a quarter of the women treated have multiples. This is similarly likely in the case of artificial insemination by in vitro fertilization, in which two or three eggs previously fertilized in a test tube are inserted into the uterus – a maximum of three are permitted, two are usual.

The second reason is that the average age of women at their first pregnancy has risen sharply in recent decades. As a woman’s body releases more hormones that trigger ovulation with age, the ovaries are also more likely to release more eggs for fertilization. It is assumed that the amount of the so-called follicle-stimulating hormone, which stimulates egg maturation, increases in the final phase of reproductive life and changes its natural concentration curve. This means that several fertilized eggs can implant in the uterus.

Tendency to twin pregnancy is inherited

In addition, there are other factors that increase the chance of multiple birth in individual cases. In large women in good nutritional condition, the probability of twins is 25 to 30 percent higher.

Genetic predisposition also plays a role. This is shown by the fact that African mothers have twins four times as often as Asian mothers. In addition, heredity is a significant factor: twins often occur more than once in families – a tendency that is inherited on the mother’s side. However, this only concerns the probability of fraternal twins, not identical twins.

Reports of quintuplets

Those who think the maximum has been reached with quadruplets or quintuplets are mistaken. A look at the Guinness Book of Records shows that. According to this, there were three cases in which ten children were born in one fell swoop: in Spain in 1924, in China in 1936, in Brazil in 1946. However, the reports are not supported by medical records, which is why the book lists Nadya Suleman from the U.S. as the record holder. Suleman gave birth to six boys and two girls in 2009 and was subsequently named "Octomum" Known.

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Important notice: The information does not in any way replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. You cannot and must not use the content of t-online to independently diagnose or initiate treatment.

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