The likelihood of having non-identical twins runs in families. Women whose mothers, sisters, or aunts have had twins have an increased chance of having non-identical twins. The risk also increases with mother’s age; a woman who gives birth at 37 is four times more likely to have non-identical twins than at age 18. Neither age nor family history seems to affect the incidence of identical twins, which account for about 4 per 1000 births worldwide. These figures only apply to spontaneous, or natural births. Assisted reproduction techniques, particularly ovarian stimulation, increase the risk of twins and multiple births.
A British woman gave birth to twins, and after seeing one of the babies, the doctor told her and her husband “I’m sorry.” But from the mother’s perspective, she wouldn’t change one thing about ther “unique” family.
Nicola and Todd Bailey, from Sheffield, England, were excited to learn they were expecting again. The couple are already parents to 4-year-old Lucas and looked forward to welcoming another addition to the family.
At the 12-week ultrasound, the Baileys were told they were having twins and subsequently found out the sex to be girls. All the scan readings showed the babies were developing normally.
The twins were born premature at Rotherham Hospital on Feb. 15. Harper was born first, followed by Quinn 38 minutes later. Both newborns were taken away for care before Nicola had a chance to see them.
When doctors returned, they broke the news to the Baileys that Harper had Down syndrome.
“All I really remember is the doctor saying ‘I’m sorry’,” Nicola told the Mail Online. “But as soon as I saw them both my heart just melted. They were both so beautiful.”
Twins with Down syndrome
Twins or multiple births occur at a rate of about 2% in the population of 15,000 babies with Down syndrome recorded on the UK National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register. A total of 244 twin pairs are recorded (some prenatally diagnosed), including 29 pairs (11.8%) where both have Down syndrome. Nine sets of triplets are recorded, each with one affected child. In twin pairs where both have Down syndrome they may not be identical (from one egg), as one pair are a boy and a girl. In a small number of cases, the affected pregnancy was assisted using hormones.
These figures indicate that, in a group of 1000 babies with Down syndrome, some 14 or 15 babies will be a twin or a triplet, with their other twins/triplets unaffected, and 2 or 4 babies will be identical twin pairs, both with Down syndrome.
If we consider all births, we estimate that identical twins with Down syndrome occur at the rate of 1 or 2 in a million pregnancies and non-identical twins at the rate of 14/15 in a million. If the likelihood of having a twin or twins with Down syndrome is also linked to a family history of twins, to age or to assisted pregnancies, we presume these factors will play a part in increasing the risk for some individuals.
“You do see people staring at her and it’s hard at times as the perception of Down’s syndrome can be so negative,” she shared. “Harper is Harper and Quinn is Quinn—they are not the same so I try not to compare them, however hard that may be.”
Parents love their children unconditionally, and the Baileys are no different.
“Our family is unique and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Nicola said.
Statistics indicate that “identical twins with Down syndrome occur at the rate of 1 or 2 in a million pregnancies and non-identical twins at the rate of 14/15 in a million,” according to Down Syndrome Education USA.
Nicola wants to raise more awareness about Down syndrome and to change the public’s negative perception of this genetic disorder.