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Population based study of rates of multiple pregnancies in denmark, 1980-94

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 15 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:775
  1. Tine Westergaard, epidemiologista,
  2. Jan Wohlfahrt, statisticiana,
  3. Peter Aaby, professora,
  4. Mads Melbye, professor and heada
  1. a Department of Epidemiology Research Danish Epidemiology Science Centre Statens Serum Institut Artillerivej 5 DK-2300 Copenhagen S Denmark
  1. Correspondence and requests for reprints to: Professor Melbye
  • Accepted 31 December 1996


Objective: To study trends in multiple pregnancies not explained by changes in maternal age and parity patterns.

Design: Trends in population based figures for multiple pregnancies in Denmark studied from complete national records on parity history and vital status.

Population: 497 979 Danish women and 803 019 pregnancies, 1980-94.

Main outcome measures: National rates of multiple pregnancies, infant mortality, and stillbirths controlled for maternal age and parity. Special emphasis on primiparous women ≥30 years of age, who are most likely to undergo fertility treatment.

Results: The national incidence of multiple pregnancies increased 1.7-fold during 1980-94, the increase primarily in1989-94 and almost exclusively in primiparous women aged ≥30 years, for whom the adjusted population based twinning rate increased 2.7-fold and the triplet rate 9.1-fold. During 1989-94, the adjusted yearly increase in multiple pregnancies for these women was 19% (95% confidence interval 16% to 21%) and in dizygotic twin pregnancies 25% (21% to 28%). The proportion of multiple births among infant deaths in primiparous women ≥30 years increased from 11.5% to 26.9% during the study period. The total infant mortality, however, did not increase for these women because of a simultaneous significant decrease in infant mortality among singletons.

Conclusions: A relatively small group of women has drastically changed the overall national rates of multiple pregnancies. The introduction of new treatments to enhance fertility has probably caused these changes and has also affected the otherwise decreasing trend in infant mortality. Consequently, the resources, both economical and otherwise, associated with these treatments go well beyond those invested in specific fertility enhancing treatments.


    • Accepted 31 December 1996
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