Woman Pregnant With Third Set of Twins in Two Years: 'Unheard Of'

A Louisiana woman is set to give birth to her third set of twins in the space of just two years.

Courtney Spears, from the city of Baker, is expecting her latest set of twins this summer, WAFB reported.

In September 2020, Spears gave birth to identical twins—two boys. But only a few months after they were born, she got pregnant again, giving birth to two non-identical girls in July 2021. Spears also has another child, who is now five years old.

Doctors at the hospital where Spears' twins are being monitored said they had never seen a situation where a woman had given birth to so many twins in such a short space of time.

"I have not come across a case like Courtney's," Dr. Pamela Simmons, from the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Clinic at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, told WAFB.

"It's probably so rare that you can't even really find good statistics," she said.

Practically 'Unheard of'

Dr. Simmons said that having three sets of twins in just two years is practically "unheard of," she said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention birth statistics show that twin births account for around 31 in every 1,000 live births.

While there are women around the world who have had multiple sets of twins, these cases are extremely rare.

The couple said that after having five kids they were content with the size of their family and Spears had made the decision to undergo tubal ligation—a surgical procedure that prevents pregnancy.

But Spears found out a few weeks after the procedure that she had actually conceived again just before the surgery and doctors told her she was expecting twins.

"I didn't believe it at first," Spears told WAFB. "With this set, I thought they were showing me a picture from one of them and it was a joke. It was not a joke. They were meant to be here."

The family won't know for sure yet but the new twins could also be identical, just like their older brothers.

Multiple pregnancies—where a woman is pregnant with more than one baby—occur in two main ways, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The first way is when one fertilized egg (ovum) splits before it implants itself in the lining of the uterus. In these cases, the divided embryos are essentially the same, resulting in identical siblings.

The other main way is when two or more separate eggs are fertilized by separate sperm at the same time. Children born through this process—known as fraternal multiples—are not identical and can be different sexes from each other.

Colin Moran, an associate professor of epigenetics, genetics and physical activity, at the University of Stirling in Scotland, told Newsweek that there is a roughly one in 250 chance of a pregnancy resulting in identical twins, although this frequency can vary between ethnic groups.

"Slightly counter-intuitively, the likelihood of having identical twins is not influenced by genetics," he said. "They occur randomly and do not run in families. Whereas the likelihood of having non-identical twins does have a genetic component."

"Some estimates suggest that if an expectant mother has non-identical twin siblings, then she has roughly 2.5 times the chance of having non-identical twin children. This likelihood is also affected by other things like age, hormone levels, etcetera, but there is a genetic component."

Multiple pregnancies often carry higher risks of complications, such as premature birth and preeclampsia—a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure.

Update 04/04/22, 7:29 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comments from Colin Moran, associate professor of epigenetics, genetics and physical activity.

A baby
A file photo of a young child. A Louisiana woman is set to give birth to her third set of twins in the space of just two years. iStock