Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Twins get to know each other in the womb - developing a sense of self?

I  found this article today:

Twins are social, even in the womb.
Humans are so social that newborn babies are able to imitate facial expressions of the people around them. In fact sociability begins even earlier, in the womb, according to Umberto Castiello and his team at the University of Padova. They used state-of-the-art ultrasound to monitor the movements of five pairs of fetal twins, between 14 and 18 weeks of gestation. The results, reported last October, show that even the youngest fetuses in the study recognized and responded to the other twin.

When reaching toward the co-twin—especially around the eyes and mouth—their motion was relatively slow and delicate. When the fetuses touched themselves, on the other hand, they were less cautious (although they approached their own eyes and mouth more gingerly than other parts of their body). They were roughest toward the uterine wall, kicking and shoving it with force. “In some very primitive form,” Castiello says, “it appears that the fetus by the second trimester already has a sense of ‘self’ that is different from ‘other.’ ”


A good point, but what about the fact that 90% of the population do not have a twin, and cannot therefore discover themselves through their relationship with their twin, in the way described above?

Why, oh why, do so many psychologists say that the relationship with the primary carers is the only one where you learn to find yourself?  That may be true for singletons, but not for womb twin survivors. The primary relationship is with the twin, however short-lived they were.

Yet there is a  strange anomaly in my research results : many womb twin survivors claim that they "dont know who they are" and that is their major psychological problem. They define themselves by their job, or even by their own illness or suffering. They are glad to discover that they are womb twin survivors, and that becomes yet another false identity. How is it they they did not discover the diference between Self and Other in relationship with their twin?

And here is the first clue: what if the other twin was incapable of response and behaved just like all the other objects in the womb? Then there would be no learning, no sociability, nothing reciprocal  - just a lonely little fetus, seeking out his or her other half, but in vain......

For that person - a womb twin survivor - the primary social relationship would indeed be with the parents, who would inevitably disappoint, for a parent cannot be a substitute twin.  That, dear reader, will be the subject of tomorrow's blog.  So come back soon and learn more!


  1. It's so touching to read this article. And I also thought 'what if you are a twin in the womb but your twin doesn't touch back' just like you wrote then. It's truly a tragedy in my eyes. But I'm glad that research is going on and there are possibilities for wombtwin survivor to eventually discover who they are.

  2. It is a relief to read there is some kind of research going on on this subject. I wish there was more sensitivity to this in the psychological world. I had such struggles all my life and when, in my 40's, my mother mentioned that I had been a twin and my twin had died before birth, so many things made sense to me then. It was an 'Aha' moment for me. I have been able to get better in some ways, but I guess I will always miss my twin and yearn for that bond we had once upon a time in the womb. This research shows that we truly do have a relationship in the womb with our twins. I truly have felt abandoned and alone as long as I can remember, but at least now I know why. I look forward to the day when scientific fundamentalists will be more open to new ideas and more information and studies will come forth on this very important subject for so many people. Ten percent of the population is quite a number! Thanks Althea for the work you have done and are doing to bring this important subject to light. Bless you! Jay S in Spain

  3. Thanks Jay and Ricarda! Your encouragement keeps me going. Your comments, and all the thousands of people who contact me with the same story of loneliness and abandonment, help me to keep spreading the word so more and more people can have that wonderful AHA moment!