Surge in twin births over past decade

Rise of 50% attributed to increase in use of assisted reproduction

Mrs Regine Sahetapy and her husband Carl with their twin daughters Gabrielle (left) and Noelle, who were conceived naturally and were born in September last year.
Mrs Regine Sahetapy and her husband Carl with their twin daughters Gabrielle (left) and Noelle, who were conceived naturally and were born in September last year. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

If you sometimes imagine you're seeing double, you probably are. The number of women giving birth to twins here has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past decade.

Last year, 573 mothers had twins, according to official data released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority last month. That was up from 385 in 2004.

Doctors attributed the surge to increased use of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) treatments such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Professor Christopher Chen, medical director of the Gleneagles Assisted Reproduction Programme Centre, said: "As women establish their careers first, they marry later and their chances of conceiving naturally fall as they age, so they turn to IVF and other treatments."

Past data here had shown that 24 per cent of those who conceived with ART help had twins, compared with 0.8 per cent of those who conceived naturally, he said.

IVF entails combining a woman's eggs with her husband's sperm in a laboratory, before transferring the embryos into the woman's womb.

Last year, 6,191 assisted reproduction cycles were done in Singapore - almost double the 3,335 cycles in 2008, the Health Ministry told The Sunday Times.

Dr Lim Min Yu of the National University Hospital Women's Centre said the chances of conceiving twins naturally rise as women age because older women have higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone, which may stimulate more than one egg to be released during ovulation.

Madam Sakina Omar, 34, was childless after seven years of marriage. She conceived twins on her first try with IVF and quit her events organiser job to be a stay-at-home mum. Her twins, a boy and a girl, were born last October.

"I was so happy to be pregnant," she said. "I always wanted to have twins and it's a dream come true."

To cope with looking after two babies, she has drawn on the support of a group of mothers with twins.

Mrs Regine Sahetapy, 34, and her friends recently started a Facebook group called Sg parents of twins and triplets to advise and offer support to other mothers.

The former management consultant conceived naturally and gave birth to twin girls last September.

She said: "We want to tell other mums they are not alone."

Last year - which was the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac - also saw 6.3 per cent more babies born than the year before.

There were 42,232 new babies - the second-highest number in the past decade after the bumper 42,663 babies in 2012, which was the Dragon year, considered the most auspicious by the Chinese.

Prof Chen said many parents consider the Horse year just as auspicious. "The parents tell us they want a Horse baby as horses symbolise vigour and success," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline Surge in twin births over past decade. Subscribe