Epidemiology of twinning in developed countries

Semin Perinatol. 2012 Jun;36(3):156-61. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2012.02.001.


Twin births contribute disproportionately to the overall burden of perinatal morbidity and mortality in developed countries. Twins constitute 2%-4% of all births, and the rate of twining has increased by 76% between 1980 and 2009. The rate of preterm birth (<37 weeks) among twins is about 60%. Of all twin preterm births in the United States, roughly half are indicated, a third are due to spontaneous onset of labor, and about 10% are due to preterm premature rupture of membranes. Mortality related to preterm birth is influenced by antecedent factors and is highest when preterm delivery is the consequence of preterm premature rupture of membranes, followed by those as a result of spontaneous preterm labor and lowest among indicated preterm births. There also appears to have been a recent decline in serious neonatal morbidity (one or more of 5-minute Apgar score <4, neonatal seizures or assisted ventilation for ≥ 30 minutes) among twin gestations. Compared with twins conceived naturally, those born of assisted reproduction methods are more likely to deliver at <37 weeks. Although perinatal mortality rates have declined among twin births, the effect of preterm delivery on trends in mortality and morbidity and other long-term consequences remain issues for major concern. With the rapid increase in the liberal use of assisted reproduction methods combined with women electing to postpone their pregnancies and increased likelihood of spontaneous twins with advancing maternal age, this review underscores the need to develop priorities to understand the peripartum and long-term consequences facing twin births.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Perinatal Mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy, Twin / statistics & numerical data*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted*
  • United States / epidemiology