The effects of assisted reproduction on the trends and zygosity of multiple births in England and Wales 1974-99

Twin Res. 2001 Dec;4(6):417-21. doi: 10.1375/1369052012696.


Assisted reproductive techniques have led to an increase in the proportion of maternities that are multiple. Though predominantly dizygotic, they are at greater risk of monozygotic division than those spontaneously conceived. England and Wales data 1974-99 on stillbirths and livebirths were analysed for 4 periods: 1974-80 (pre-assisted reproduction; 1982-8; 1989-91 (pre-redefinition of stillbirth); 1993-9 (post-redefinition of stillbirth). For twin data, Weinberg's rule was applied to estimate the proportions that were mono- (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ). Compared with the period before assisted reproduction, the most recent period shows an increase in twin maternities of 3.81 per 1,000 comprised of 3.22 (95% CI 3.10 to 3.33; p < 0.0001) DZ and 0.60 (95% CI 0.51 to 0.68; p < 0.0001) MZ twins. It is estimated that 15.7% of assisted reproduction twins are MZ. Higher order multiple births showed an increase of 3.06 (95% CI 2.85 to 3.29; p < 0.0001) per 10,000 maternities. Stillbirth rates in MZ twins are of the same order of magnitude as those in higher order multiple births but higher than those in DZ twins. The improvement in stillbirth rates over the 26 year study period is of the same order magnitude in singletons, DZ and MZ twins and higher order multiples. Assisted reproduction has led to a significant increase in the proportion of MZ twins. These are at high risk of fetal death and this needs to be considered when local stillbirth and perinatal mortality rates are used in auditing obstetric services.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multiple Birth Offspring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted*
  • Risk Factors
  • Twins, Dizygotic / statistics & numerical data
  • Twins, Monozygotic / statistics & numerical data
  • Wales
  • Zygote*