Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Greeting Cards and Triplets?

Yesterday, I was in a newsagent buying some stationery. While there, I walked past the greeting cards section. Personally, I never buy greeting cards tailored for a special occasion (except at Christmas), but instead I simply buy cards without any words on them and write my own words. The principal reason for this is that I find the words provided by the card manufacturers to generally by cringe inducingly awful in their banality. (No, I'm not cheap. I am actually a greeting card snob).

In any event, yesterday I saw a card with the words "Congratulations on your triplets" amongst the cards intended to be given to new parents. I was quite surprised by this. Rates of multiple births vary from country to country, but typically something like one in 7000 to 10000 births are naturally triplets. I have known plenty of twins, but never in my life have I met anyone I have known to be a triplet. (I must have met a small number that I have not known about). Thus unless the newsagent stocks a selection of cards for new parents numbered in the thousands, I think they are unlikely to ever sell that one.

On the other hand, the numbers of multiple births have increased considerably due to (a) mothers getting older and more importantly (b) use of fertility treatment. It is harder to find statistics on the effects of this in terms of frequency. However, what interests me is whether the presence of this card indicates that the number of triplets has increased so much that the card companies genuinely think that it is worth their while to produce cards for triplets, or whether it simply indicates that someone at the card company does not understand statistics. (Given the number of different events greeting cards are produced for nowadays, I would have thought that a proper statistical alalysis of how many cards you need to stock and of what kinds would be relatively important by now).

The urge to go and visit shops that sell prams and ask how difficult it is to obtain special ones for triplets is something I will now resist the urge to do.

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