Did You Know That Twins Can Have Different Fathers!
Twins occur when two babies are born to one mother after a single pregnancy. If they’re identical (monozygotic), they form when one zygote, created with just one egg and one sperm, splits into two new eggs, resulting in two embryos rather than one. Each embryo then develops into a separate fetus.
Fraternal (dizygotic) twins, meanwhile, occur when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm.
Fraternal twins share only 50% of the same genes, whereas identical twins share 100%, which explains why fraternal twins usually don’t look nearly as alike as identical ones do.
Unless a set of twins’ birth mothers served as surrogates or used donor eggs, there would be no question that she’s the mother of both twins.
But you may be left wondering: Can twins have different fathers? The answer is yes, but only in cases in which they’re fraternal, as identical twins form from a single egg/sperm combination and thus cannot have different fathers.
Twins With Different Fathers
As technology has improved the accuracy and accessibility of genetic testing, people have been able to receive genetic testing to determine when fraternal twins have two different fathers.
Fraternal twins are the result of hyperovulation, the release of multiple eggs in a single cycle. Superfecundation describes a situation in which each of the eggs are fertilized by sperm from different men, leading them to have different biological fathers (making the twins half-siblings).
The appropriate term to describe this situation is heteropaternal superfecundation.
There is little research on the prevalence of heteropaternal superfecundation in the general population, but some researchers found that in a parentage test database of 39,000 records, 2.4% of dizygotic twins whose parents were involved in paternity suits were a result of heteropaternal superfecundation.
Some researchers believe that the frequency of heteropaternal superfecundation, which is widely assumed to be very rare, is underestimated in the general population.
Examples of Heteropaternal Superfecundation
One way heteropaternal superfecundation could occur is if a woman has sexual intercourse with two different men within the same timeframe that both embryos are conceived.
For example, in New Jersey, a mother of twins underwent paternity testing when applying for public assistance.
After tests showed that her partner was only the father of one of her twins, she admitted that she had had sex with another man within the same week that her twins were conceived.
Similarly, a mother of twins in Texas acknowledged that she was having an affair with another man when her twins were conceived.
Paternity testing revealed that her fiancee was indeed the father of one of the twin boys, but that another man was the biological father of the other twin.
While we might assume all instances of twins with different fathers are the result of the mother having sexual intercourse with different partners, this isn’t the only scenario in which it could happen. This situation can also occur when twins are the result of fertility treatments.
For example, in a mixup at a lab, equipment had been used twice, causing another man’s sperm to be mixed with that of the intended father resulting in Dutch twin boys conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with different fathers.
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