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Multiple Birth Statistics 2011 (Released 2013)

Latest data on multiple births in the UK, released by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday 7th February 2013 shows twins and triplets are becoming more common. In 2011, 11,330 women gave birth to twins, 172 to triplets and 3 to quads and above in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland are covered by other organisations and are reported separately here) . Interestingly, it is the women aged 45 and above who had the highest number of multiple births.

Newly released statistics on Multiple Births in England and Wales for 2011 obtained from the Office of National Statistics, for Northern Ireland and Scotland from the ISD are below:

Maternities 2011

England & Wales

Northern Ire

Scotland

Total Maternities

723,913

25,273

57,824

Twins

11,330

410

912

Triplets

172

4

No data

Quads and above+

3

0

No data

Multiple Birth Rate/1000 mats

16.1

16.4

15.8

Multiple Births in England and Wales

In 2011, 11,330 women gave birth to twins, 172 to triplets and 3 to quads and above. These multiple maternities include both live births and stillbirths.

The multiple maternity rate in 2011 increased to 16.1 maternities with multiple births per 1,000 women giving birth, compared with 15.7 in 2010. Since 2001 the multiple maternity rate (then 14.8) has increased by 8.8%. Overall the multiple maternity rate has increased since the late 1970s. The rise is partly attributed to an increase in IVF treatment and other assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as fertility-enhancing drugs. But data from the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) show that the number of women conceiving more than one baby while using IVF actually fell from 22.3% in 2010 to 20.6% in 2011.

However, there are many forms of assisted reproduction which may contribute to the rise in multiple births . As shown by the statistics, maternal age has a heavy influence as the chances of a multiple birth increases with age. Later motherhood across the world has led to rise in multiple births. The largest increase in the multiple maternity rate was recorded between 1990 and 1995 when the rate rose from 11.6 to 14.1, an increase of 22%.

In 1976, women aged 3539 had the highest multiple maternity rate (13.4 per 1,000 maternities). Since 1976 the multiple maternity rate has increased for all ages but most notably for women aged 30 and over (figure 3). The greatest increase was among women aged 45 and over where the multiple maternity rate rose from 9.8 in 1976 to 99.3 in 2011, peaking at 105.8 in 2009. Women aged 45 and over had by far the highest multiple maternity rate in 2011 (99.3 per 1,000 maternities), the data showed, that's near enough 1 in 10 was a multiple birth.

The multiple maternity rate increased for all age groups in 2011, compared with 2010 with the exception of women aged 3539 where the rate remained unchanged. Women aged 45 and over had by far the highest multiple maternity rate in 2011 (99.3 per 1,000 maternities).

Women aged under 20 had the lowest multiple maternity rate in 2011 (6.5 per 1,000 maternities) while the multiple maternity rate for women aged 2529 has shown the smallest percentage increase since 2001 (2.3% increase). There was a 1.6 % decrease in the multiple maternity rate over the decade for the women aged 30-34.

On average, multiple births tend to have lower birthweights than singletons (Office for National Statistics, 2011) which is one reason why the infant mortality rate is around five times higher for multiple births than for singleton births. Multiple pregnancies are also associated with a higher risk of stillbirth, neonatal death (death under 28 days) and child disability.

Although multiple births occur naturally, many occur as a result of fertility treatment. On average, 25% of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) pregnancies result in either twins or triplets compared with 1% for women who conceive naturally (HFEA). With approximately 11,000 IVF babies being born each year this contributes significantly to the multiple birth rate.

In 2009 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act launched the elective single embryo transfer (eSET) policy, which allowed centres to develop their own eSET strategy, with the aim to reduce the UK IVF multiple pregnancy rate to 10% over a period of years (HFEA, 2013).

Multiple birth statistics are monitored by the NHS and Department of Health to help ensure that adequate maternity and support services are available. Other organisations, such as the Multiple Birth Foundation, who provide advice, information and support to multiple birth families and health professionals, use multiple birth statistics to monitor trends.

Multiple Births in Northern Ireland

Last year, 410 women gave births to twins and four women had triplets. Thus 1.7% of maternities or around 1 maternity in every 60 resulted in a multiple birth - the highest level ever recorded in Northern Ireland.

The main reason for the record high is the increasing number of births to older mothers. These mothers have a greater chance of a multiple birth. Last year, less than 1% of mothers in their early twenties had a multiple birth, while 2% of mothers in their forties had a multiple birth. As is well known this difference is related to higher levels of assisted fertility treatment in older mothers.

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