Twin Peaks: more twinning in humans than ever before

Since the 1980s, the global twinning rate has increased by a third, from 9.1 to 12.0 twin deliveries per 1000 deliveries, to about 1.6 million twin pairs each year.

It was already known that in the 1980s natural twinning rates were low in (East) Asia and South America, at an intermediate level in Europe and North America, and high in many African countries. It was also known that in recent decades, twinning rates have been increasing in the wealthier parts of our world as a result of the rise in medically assisted reproduction (MAR) and delayed childbearing.

Substantial increases in twinning rates were observed in many countries in Europe, North America and Asia. For 74 out of 112 countries the increase was more than 10%. Africa is still the continent with highest twinning rates, but Europe, North America and Oceania are catching up rapidly. Asia and Africa are currently home to 80% of all twin deliveries in the world.

The absolute and relative number of twins for the world as a whole is peaking at an unprecedented level. An important reason for this is the tremendous increase in medically assisted reproduction in recent decades. This is highly relevant, as twin deliveries are associated with higher infant and child mortality rates and increased complications for mother and child during pregnancy and during and after delivery.