Annual changes in twinning and triplet rates by zygosity were investigated in eight countries during the period 1972–1999 using vital statistics. The monozygotic (MZ) twinning rates in Denmark, Switzerland and the Slovak Republic remained more or less constant throughout this period, whereas those in England and Wales, the Federal Republic of Germany (Germany), the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Japan increased significantly year by year. With the exception of the Slovak Republic, the dizygotic (DZ) twinning rate increased significantly year by year in each country. It was 2·9 times higher in Denmark and 1·5 times higher in Germany in 1999 than in 1972, and within the same range in the other countries. With two exceptions, the MZ triplet rates remained more or less constant in each country. On the other hand, the DZ and trizygotic (TZ) triplet rates increased significantly year by year in each country. The TZ rate increased 30-fold in Germany, 16·6-fold in Japan, 11·7-fold in Switzerland, 9·7-fold in the Czech Republic, 8·7-fold in the Netherlands, 6·4-fold in Denmark, 5·6-fold in England and Wales and 3·5-fold in the Slovak Republic. The higher DZ twinning rate and higher DZ and TZ triplet rates since 1983 have been attributed to the higher proportion of mothers being treated with ovulation-inducing hormones and in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Denmark, England and Wales, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan. After the introduction of fertility drugs and IVF, variations in the DZ twinning and triplet rates and the TZ triplet rates were not only due to biological factors, but also depended on the popularity of fertility drugs and IVF in each country. In the Slovak Republic, where human fertility might not be affected by some adverse environmental factors, the DZ:MZ ratio remained constant during the period 1972–1999.