Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Pediatrics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Birth weight in a large series of triplets

Diane J Lamb1*, Christel M Middeldorp123, Catharina EM van Beijsterveldt1, Jacqueline M Vink1, Monique C Haak4 and Dorret I Boomsma1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Psychology, VU University, The Netherlands

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, The Netherlands

3 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, GGZ inGeest/VU medical center, The Netherlands

4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, VU University Medical Center, The Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-24

Published: 1 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Triplets are often born premature and with a low birth weight. Because the incidence of triplet births is rare, there are relatively few studies describing triplet birth weight characteristics. Earlier studies are often characterized by small sample sizes and lack information on important background variables such as zygosity. The objective of this study is to examine factors associated with birth weight in a large, population-based sample of triplets registered with the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR).

Methods

In a sample of 1230 triplets from 410 families, the effects of assisted reproductive techniques, zygosity, birth order, gestational age, sex, maternal smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy on birth weight were assessed. The resemblance among triplets for birth weight was estimated as a function of zygosity. Birth weight discordance within families was studied by the pair-wise difference between triplets, expressed as a percentage of the birth weight of the heaviest child. We compare data from triplets registered with the NTR with data from population records, which include live births, stillbirths and children that have deceased within days after birth.

Results

There was no effect of assisted reproductive techniques on triplet birth weight. At gestational age 24 to 40 weeks triplets gained on average 130 grams per week; boys weighed 110 grams more than girls and triplets of smoking mothers weighted 104 grams less than children of non-smoking mothers. Monozygotic triplets had lower birth weights than di- and trizygotic triplets and birth weight discordance was smaller in monozygotic triplets than in di- and trizygotic triplets. The correlation in birth weight among monozygotic and dizygotic triplets was 0.42 and 0.32, respectively. In nearly two-thirds of the families, the heaviest and the lightest triplet had a birth weight discordance over 15%. The NTR sample is representative for the Dutch triplet population that is still alive 28 days after birth.

Conclusion

Birth weight is an important determinant of childhood development. Triplet status, gestational age, sex, zygosity and maternal smoking affect birth weight. The combined effects amount to a difference of 364 grams between monozygotic girl triplets of smoking mothers compared to dizygotic boy triplets of non-smoking mothers of the same gestational age. Birth weight in triplets is also influenced by genetic factors, as indicated by a larger correlation in monozygotic than in di- and trizygotic triplets.