The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Multiple birth

A multiple birth is when more than one human baby results from a single pregnancy. The most common form of multiple birth is twins (two babies), but cases of triplets (three), quadruplets (four), quintuplets (five), sextuplets (six), septuplets (seven), octuplets (eight), and nonuplets (nine) have all been recorded with all siblings being born alive. There have been pregnancies — but no known instances of live births — of decaplets (ten), undecaplets (eleven) or duodecaplets (twelve).

Multiple births can occur either naturally (the woman ovulates multiple eggs or the fertilized egg splits into two) or as the result of infertility treatments (several embryos are usually implanted to compensate for their lower viability). For reasons that are unknown, the older a woman is, the more likely she is to naturally have a multiple birth.

There are two types of multiple births, fraternal and identical. Identical siblings arise where one egg is fertilised and the resulting zygote splits into more than one embryo. Identical siblings therefore have the same genetic material. Fraternal siblings result from the fertilisation and implantation of more than one egg, so fraternal siblings are not genetically identical.

The number of multiple births has increased over the last decades. For example, in Canada, between 1979 and 1999, the number of multiple birth babies increased 35%. Most of the increase can probably attributed to using in vitro fertilisation techniques.

Recent increases over the last few years in the number of multiple births have also provoked concern; the greater the number of babies in a single pregnancy, the more likely they are to have a low birth weight, to be born prematurely and to consequently suffer medical problems. For example, in 1999, 53% of babies in multiple births were premature, compared to 7% of singletons. [1] There is also a higher rate of stillbirths for multiples than for singletons.

Certain cultures consider multiple births a portent of either good or evil. A North Korean tradition that states that triplets are 'lucky' has led to the seizure of all sets of triplets born in North Korea, apparently out of leader Kim Jong Il's fear that one may overthrow him in the future.

List of famous multiple births

External links

  • Articles on multiple births


  • "Korea's 'lucky' triplets seized," article in Herald Sun newspaper (Australia), March 30, 2003.

Last updated: 02-09-2005 00:36:56
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01