Sunday, October 11, 2009

Identical or Fraternal??

This is something that has bothered me since I have had twins.  I did a little too much reading when I found out I was having twins.   I want you to know that I LOVE fraternal twins as well as identical.  But being that mine were identical, I read a lot about identical twins and this particular issue has made me crazier and crazier the more I come across obviously identical twins that think they are fraternal.  It happened to me yesterday actually and that woman was in her 40's.  So just a forewarning...I am venting here and appreciate your listening ears. 
The problem is...when a woman is pregnant with twins and they are in separate placentas, her doctor will automatically tell her she is having fraternal twins.  There are so many sets of identical twins walking around out there that don't know their identical, other than the fact that they look just alike, because their mom was told early on that they were not.

There are three ways of having identical twins...
  • Same placenta, same sac, only 3% of identical twins are born this way, and it is a very, very critical pregnancy.  Because they are not separated by a membrane, they are likely to intertwine and possibly kink each others umbillical cord.  These pregnancy often end up in losing one or both of the twins or having to deliver very early.
  • The most common way to have twins is with the one placenta and each twin has a separate sac.  The sac that separates them is called "the membrane".  This is how my twins were born.
  • Then 30% of identical twins are born in two placentas.  Each has their own placenta, own sac.  30% is a very large number...that means 30 out of 100 sets of identical twins are born this way. 
And Fraternal are always separate placentas, separate sacs.
Here is the reason that I started to get a little sensitive about this issue...anytime I see a set of obviously identical twins whether it be in Costco, the mall, the grocery store, etc. and you ask if they are identical...the mom and dad will say no.  When you ask them why they say that, they have not ever had them tested, the doctor just told them from the beginning.  Remember you guys, 30 out of 100 twins is A LOT of twins that are born in separate placentas.
Know this...there are things that happen with identical twins that don't happen with fraternal, for example:
  • It is true with all identical twins that one of their heads will be oval and one will be round.  I don't know why this is, it totally trips me out but if you think about identical twins you know, you can pick out who has which head.
  • They usually stay between 1 to 2 lbs. of each other in weight, around 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch difference in height, with their shoe size being a half of a shoe size difference.  Crazy I know.
  • They usually go to the bathroom within 10 minutes of each other
  • They get their teeth around the same time (within a couple of days of each other) girls got the same tooth on the same exact day, same time.  Totally tripped me out.
  • They get sick at the same time
  • They get along better...for some reason identical twins tend to get along better.  Or they make up really quick when they do argue because they have to be best friends again really quickly. 
  • Usually when identical twins are born, their birth weights are further apart than fraternal twins.  For example...they may be 9+ oz. difference while fraternal are a lot of times 1 to 2 oz different.
Since talking to several moms who have older twins, who are still obviously identical, I asked them questions about their twins childhood and they said yes to everyone of the above things that are unique to identical twins.  I have had several moms get twin tests for their twins after talking to me to find out that their twins are, in fact, identical. 
Case in point, one of my best friends from high school called me one day crying.  I asked what was wrong and she said that her and her husband had just got back from the doctor and found out she was having twins.  She had already had one daughter who was going to be 17 months old when the twins were due.  Her daughter was exceptionally difficult and she just couldn't imagine having two more of her.  I calmed her and let her know that God doesn't put things on people that they can't handle and He also gives us close to 9 months to get used to the idea.  She told that she has absolutely NO twins in her or her husbands family.  That told me right away that these have to be identical.  Why...because anyone can have twins.  This is not something that is hereditary.  Dropping two eggs is something that can be passed down from generation to generation.  Having identical twins is a fluke of nature...medical society cannot figure out why our bodies split that egg.  So anyone can do it and once it has been done, it's highly likely to do it again.
The doctor immediately told my friend that her twins were fraternal, but I was a little suspicious from the moment she found out she was pregnant with them especially since there were absolutely NO sign of twins on either side.  I know that twins run on the moms side (the woman determines how many and the man determines the sex).  Anyway, throughout her pregancy she did start to get very excited about being a twin mom. 
At her baby shower her mother in law came up to me and told me that they saw the ultra-sound pictures and she just knew there was no way that they could be identical.  I said why?  She said because it was obvious from the ultra-sound that one had an oval head and one had a round head.  I cracked up and told her that was how identical twins were. 
At the birth of her twins, my friend asked the doctor to test the placentas to find out.  This was something that she really wanted to know so she continued to ask me ways to find out if they were identical or I told her to ask the doctor for their blood type.  If they had different blood types that would answer her question that they were not identical.  Well the blood types came back the same.  Then I researched twin tests and she ordered one and sent it back and sure enough those twin boys are 99% identical.  How many times does this happen? 
Why does it matter, you ask?  I doesn't matter.  They are both precious lives in this world.  The reason that I started to get passionate about it was because we pay SO MUCH MONEY to our wonderful doctors that I just think that they should be a little bit more knowledgable about twins.  Especially how often their being born now-a-days.  My friend went to her doctor and told him they were identical. 
Twins receive the , "are you identical?"question all or their lives...whether they look alike or not.  If they do look alike though and they say they are not identical...the conversation is not over.  Now they have to be examined closer to see the differences.  And for medical purposes...they share the same DNA.  They were one egg that split and if anything happened to one of them that they needed medical attention, knowing that they were identical would save a lot of time and worry in trying to find a perfect match for the twin if ever needed. 
Phew...I feel so much better having been able to vent about my pet peave with doctors throwing out that twins are fraternal the moment they see two sacs.  Is it possible they are, absolutely, but just don't rule out that there is a possibility that they are identical as well.


  1. I remember when I found out that Ella was a twin and you contacted me immediately to let me know that even if the doctor's say they're not identical that they possibly could be..... and then Ella ate her twin. God just knew that I could handle 2 of her LOL.

    Secretly I would LOVE to have twins.... maybe next pregnancy ;) Whenever that might happen.

  2. Okay... looking back on identical twins I've known... you are SO RIGHT ABOUT THE HEAD!!!! That is amazing!