When I read Monday's headline about twins born in 2010 and 2011, I figured one child was born around 11:55 p.m. on Dec. 31 while the other was born a bit after midnight. Awwww, cute ... Nope! Turns out these kids were born SIX HOURS apart! According to Josephine Marcotty's story:

Beckett was born at 6:40 p.m. on New Year's Eve 2011. His sister, Freya, was born six hours later, at 12:26 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2012, and the nurses at Hennepin County Medical Center threw confetti to celebrate the new year and the extraordinary birth event.

A delay in births can happen when twins are "DiDi," which means they grow and develop inside separate chorionic and amniotic sacs. DiDi births account for all fraternal twins (who develop from separate fertilized eggs) and about a third of identical twins (who develop when one fertilized egg spontaneously divides). So a lag between twin births is fairly common. Even so, the average time between births of twins is only 17 minutes -- not a quarter of a day!

The mother, Stephanie Peterson, told Marcotty that the medical staff agreed to wait after the birth of her first child in order to give the second child time to move into the best position to be delivered vaginally. The mother wanted to avoid any chance of a C-section birth. She was the only patient on the unit that night, so the HCMC staff had time.

A doctor started the second delivery shortly before midnight by breaking the amniotic sac of the remaining baby. The birth came an hour later. HCMC nurses searched in medical literature for the longest delay between births for a mother in a single labor. The record that they could find was just over 9 hours.

HCMC officials were unavailable today to discuss the births, which took place at 34 weeks gestation. An obstetrician for the Allina-Parkview Clinic, Dr. Kaye Mickelson, said that 34 weeks is early for twins and that the HCMC doctors might have delayed the second birth to give the second baby more time to grow in utero. Perhaps they were hoping that labor would cease and the mother wouldn't give birth to the second baby until days later. Mickelson had no direct involvement with the delivery.

"We use electronic fetal monitoring (in these types of cases) so we know that Baby B is doing fine," she said. "It's an old obstetrician way of looking at twins that you have to get that second one out within 30 minutes."

Dilemmas like this are coming up more often, Mickelson said, because fertility treatments are resulting in more twin pregnancies. There were 2,243 babies born as twins in 2011 and 92 babies born as triplets, according to provisional data from the Minnesota Department of Health. That's an 18 percent increase in the state since 1997.
It's interesting, though, that the number of babies born as twins actually declined 10 percent since 2009. (See table below.) Fewer births due to the recession? Better fertility procedures? Another trend story for another day.

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