By Agnes Kyotalengerire
The birth of twins is on the increase. Medical experts attribute the rise to a number of older new mothers, general increase in the number of mothers giving birth and use of fertility enhancing treatments, which increase the potential for conceiving twins and triplets.
According to Dr Charles Kiggundu, a senior gynaecologist/obstetrician at Mulago Hospital, one in every 60 pregnant women seen at the hospital is carrying a twin pregnancy.
Data from Nsambya Hospital reveals that three to four sets of twins are delivered every month, according to Dr Romano Byarugaba, a senior consultant gynaecologist at the hospital and president of the Association of Gynaecologists Uganda.
With the huge number of twins born in Uganda annually, their births still remain a mystery to some people and thus surrounded by numerous myths.
Catherine Byenkya, the minister of gender and social development in Bunyoro Kitara kingdom, says in the past when a mother gave birth to twins, people would fear and question why she has given birth to two instead of one baby.
Loice Senema (left) and Christine Ajonye are Uganda's first surviving set of twins
Byenkya says giving birth to twins was seen as a taboo.
A mother would be scared to the extent of abandoning one baby in hospital.
“If they were of different sex, the male baby would be preferred and taken home for purposes of inheritance,” she says.
Over time, rituals were conducted to cleanse the twins. For instance in the Kinyoro culture, two goats would be slaughtered, prepared and people invited to eat and cleanse the twins of any bad luck.
This celebration would go on throughout the night, accompanied by singing, dancing and utterance of vulgar words — referred to as okwalula abalongo in Buganda and omukoro gwo kumara abarongo in Bunyoro.
Dr Adan Kimala, who is well versed with twins ceremonies, says twin rituals are meant to unite families through people eating and celebrating the birth of the babies.
However, Hajji Buruhani Kyakuhaire, the minister of culture of Bunyoro Kitara kingdom says over the years and with people becoming religious, they started dispelling the myths. Below experts dispel the myths.
UGANDAN CELEB: Karitas Karisimbi (left) is a mother of twins (nalongo), as is socialite Judith Heard
Myth: The twins and the children that follow them should be given special names, short of which the twins will die.
Nsubuga says twins are given special names. It is a form of etiquette to know that they are not ordinary children.
Across the country, there are special names for twins. Names like Nyangoma (western region), Babirye (central region) and Apio (Luo, Ateso), are given to baby girls who come first and the boys are named Isingoma (Batoro, Banyoro), Waswa (central region), Opio (Luo, Ateso), and Kakuru (Banyankore, Bakiiga).
The second twins to emerge are named Nyakato (western region), Nakato (central Uganda) and Adong (Luo, Ateso), if they are girls, Kato (Bantu) and Odong (Luo, Ateso) for boys.
Today, many parents treat twins like any other babies. They do not follow the rituals apart from giving them twin names.
But Kyakuhaire says names are given for the purpose of identifi cation; to know which baby came first (elder) and who emerged second. But some parents have not given their babies twin names and nothing has happened to them.
Myth: Twins must be dressed in similar clothes, same colours, given the same items. Failure to do so, one of the twins gets annoyed and dies.
Joseph Musaalo, a counselor, discards the myth and says dressing the babies in similar clothes, shoes and giving them same items is for equality purposes.
Because the babies were born on the same day, parents do not want to disappoint them and doing so is one way of keeping them happy.
Myth: When umbilical cords drop off, they should be kept in special baskets.
This myth is fading away, and many modern mothers discard the cords soon after they drop off.
Myth: When one twin falls sick, the other falls sick too.
Dr Robert Mugalu a general practitioner says this has nothing to do with their being twins. Mugalu associates it, perhaps to the sickness being contagious.
He says since the babies stay together and share everything, the germs may be transmitted from one baby to another, thus resulting into both babies falling sick.
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