If a baby is one of life’s ultimate gifts, imagine having two at a time. Dr. Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, a UC Irvine Medical Center pediatrician and pediatrics residency director, knows firsthand the pleasure and anxiety of being a mother of 2-year-old identical twin daughters, Hope and Faith. To share her personal and professional knowledge on the subject, she has authored Twins 101: 50 Must-Have Tips for Pregnancy through Early Childhood from Doctor M.O.M., the first parenting book written by a pediatrician/mom of twins. She also maintains a health and parenting Web site, TwinsDoctor.com, where she regularly interacts with other M.O.M.s (mothers of multiples).
Q. Why did you decide to write this book?
A. The number of twin births in the United States is at an all-time high; over the past two decades, rates have increased by 70 percent. Yet there are relatively few books devoted to the subject of multiples. I wrote Twins 101 out of the sheer necessity for a book addressing both medical and practical aspects of caring for twins from an author with expertise on both fronts.
Q. Why has there been such a large increase of twin births?
A. One major reason is that women are having children later than they used to. Older women who become pregnant are more likely to conceive twins because they are naturally prone to releasing more than one egg each month. They’re also more likely to use fertility-enhancing therapies, the single most influential factor in increasing the twinning rate over the past two decades.
Q. What are the medical and lifestyle challenges with having twin children?
A. Twin pregnancies can be associated with a greater risk for complications. After birth, caring for two babies at the same time can be physically demanding. If I could give parents of multiples only two pieces of advice, they would be to seek a team of doctors who specialize in caring for twins and to accept all offers of help by friends and family.
Q. What can you tell us about twins that most people don’t know?
A. Here are my two favorite fun facts about twins: Nigeria boasts the world’s highest spontaneous twinning rate at about one in 22 births. Some believe that the Nigerian yam-rich diet holds the secret – its natural ingredients stimulate a woman’s ovaries to release more than one egg at a time. Second, identical twins have uniquely different physical fingerprints even though their genetic fingerprints (DNA) are similar.
Q. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts are well-known for having twins. Is it becoming stylish these days to do so?
A. I believe what we see happening in Hollywood is a reflection of what is occurring nationally with twin births. Throughout history, twins have always attracted a certain degree of attention. Personally, I’m happy that celebrity babies are calling attention to the growing population of twins. The more interest the public takes in the topic, the more educated they become about it.
Q. Which of the 50 tips in your book have you found personally to be most helpful?
A. I found tip number 43, which encourages new mothers of multiples to take all the help they can get, to be most helpful to me. After Faith’s and Hope’s births, I initially rejected all offers for help. After months of bed rest and having to depend on others, I felt liberated and independent so I tried to do everything on my own. That lasted a few weeks before reality hit and I came to my senses.
Caring for twin babies is an incredibly joyous and rewarding experience, but it can also be physically demanding. Even a short break to take a nap can have profound, positive effects on a parent’s physical and emotional sense of well-being. If parents don’t want others to directly care for their babies, they can still ask willing volunteers for assistance with preparing meals or with household duties.
One the best things about asking for help is the lifelong affection and bond that develops between you, your babies and others as a result. As a mother of twins, I am extremely grateful for all the friends and family who have played such a major role in our lives.