A multiple pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy with two or more fetuses. It can happen naturally, or it can be the result of fertility treatments.
Pregnant with twins, triplets, or more! Congratulations! This can be an exciting time, but it can also be a little daunting. There are a lot of things to think about when preparing for multiple births. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about having multiple pregnancies. We will cover everything from prenatal care to delivery options. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a multiple pregnancy?
A multiple pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy with two or more fetuses. Multiple pregnancies can happen naturally, or they can be the result of fertility treatments. Approximately 3 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are multiple births.
Twinning refers to carrying two babies in one pregnancy. Triplets are three babies born from one pregnancy, and quadruplets are four.
If you’re pregnant with multiple fetuses, your doctor will want to keep an eye on you for any potential issues that may develop when you carry more than one baby at once. Your provider will discuss each risk factor with you and check in on you frequently to make sure nothing alarming is happening.
What causes multiple pregnancies?
There are a few different things that can cause multiple pregnancies. The most common cause is fertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). These technologies often use ovulation-stimulating medicines to produce multiple eggs. These are then fertilized in the lab and returned to the uterus to grow. Other causes can include:
- A family history of twins
- The use of fertility medication to induce ovulation sometimes releases more than one egg from the ovaries, resulting in twins, triplets, or more.
- Women aged 35 and older are more likely to release two or more eggs during a single menstrual cycle than younger women
- Being African American
- Influence of parity
- Superfecundation and superfetation
How does multiple pregnancy happen?
Multiple pregnancy happens when more than one embryo implants in the uterus. This can happen if you’re using fertility treatments, or if you naturally release more than one egg during ovulation. Multiple pregnancy can also happen if you have twins or other multiples in your family. If you’re pregnant with more than one baby, you’ll need to take special care of yourself.
Having twins or multiples is more common if you’re pregnant with fraternal twins or triplets (two or three babies who each have their placenta and amniotic sac). This type of multiple pregnancy is caused by the release of more than one egg during ovulation, which can be hereditary.
If you’re pregnant with identical multiples (two or three babies who share the same placenta and amniotic sac), it’s caused by a single fertilized egg splitting into two or three embryos. Identical twins or triplets are less common than fraternal twins or triplets.
What are the types of multiple pregnancies?
There are several different types of multiple pregnancies:
- Fraternal twins: occur when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm.
- Identical twins: occur when one egg is fertilized by one sperm and then splits into two embryos.
- Triplets: can occur naturally, but are more likely to happen when fertility treatments are used.
Duration of multiple pregnancies
The typical singleton pregnancy lasts approximately 37 to 45 weeks. Twin babies usually go through a 40-month pregnancy but are often delivered sooner in the delivery. When fetuses grow, pregnancy duration decreases.
What are the symptoms of a multiple pregnancy?
Some women who are pregnant with twins or multiples may experience symptoms earlier and more intensely than women who are pregnant with a single baby. These symptoms of pregnancy can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive weight gain
- Breast tenderness and enlargement
- Food cravings or aversions
- Fetal movements felt in different parts of the abdomen at the same time
If you’re pregnant with twins or multiples and you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider. They can provide you with the care and support you need during your pregnancy.
How do you know if you’re having a multiple pregnancy?
Some women find out they’re pregnant with twins or multiples during their first ultrasound. But in other cases, it isn’t until later in the pregnancy that twins or more are discovered.
If you’re pregnant with multiples, you may have a higher level of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your blood, which can be detected by a blood test. You may also have an ultrasound that shows more than one fetus.
What are the risks of multiple pregnancies?
While a multiple pregnancy can be a beautiful and joyous experience, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with it. Multiple pregnancies come with a higher risk of complications than singleton pregnancies. These risks include:
- Preterm birth or preterm labor
- Low birth weight
- Developmental problems
- Gestational diabetes
- Cesarean delivery: Abnormal fetal positions increase the chances of cesarean birth.
- Placenta previa
- Birth defects: Multiple birth babies have a higher risk of being born with congenital abnormalities, including neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), and gastrointestinal, and heart problems.
- High blood pressure
- Fetal growth restrictions
- Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome
- Vanishing twin syndrome in which more than one fetus is diagnosed, but vanishes (or is miscarried), usually in the first trimester, is more likely in multiple pregnancies.
- Amniotic fluid abnormalities: Abnormal amounts of amniotic fluid are more common in multiple pregnancies, especially for twins that share a placenta.
How is multiple pregnancy diagnosed?
Multiple pregnancy is most commonly diagnosed during an ultrasound. Your doctor may order an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy or to check on the health of the fetus. If you are pregnant with more than one fetus, you will likely be referred to a high-risk pregnancy specialist (Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist).
Multiple pregnancy can also be diagnosed before birth through genetic testing. This may be recommended if you or your partner has a family history of multiple births. Your doctor may also recommend genetic testing if you have had multiple pregnancy in the past.
Pregnancy blood testing: Levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) may be high when there is more than one fetus. Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein that is released by the fetal liver and found in the mother’s blood also will be high.
How to prepare for multiple pregnancy?
Here are some tips for how to prepare for a multiple pregnancy:
- Get help. You’ll need all the help you can get, both emotionally and physically. Ask your partner, family, and friends for support.
- Make a pregnancy plan. You and your doctor will need to closely monitor your health and the health of your babies. This will help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Multiple pregnancy can be unpredictable. You may go into labor early or have other complications. Be sure to have a plan in place in case you need to go to the hospital.
- Get rest. Pregnancy is exhausting, and you’ll need all the rest you can get. Try to take naps when you can and get to bed early.
- Eat healthily. Eating a nutritious diet will help you stay healthy during pregnancy. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Stay active. Exercise is important for all pregnant women, but it’s especially important if you’re carrying more than one baby. Exercise will help you stay strong and healthy during pregnancy.
- Take your prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are important for multiple pregnancy because they help the babies develop properly in the womb and prevent birth defects. Be sure to take your vitamin every day. Folic acid is especially important, so be sure to take a supplement that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. You should also eat foods that are rich in folic acids, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, and fortified bread and cereals.
- More frequent prenatal visits. A multiple pregnancy increases the risk of complications. More frequent visits may help your doctor find complications early enough to implement effective treatment or management.
By following these tips, you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your babies.
How is a multiple pregnancy treated?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the treatment for a multiple pregnancy will vary depending on the individual circumstances.
Multiple pregnancy is often treated differently than a singleton pregnancy. Your care provider will likely want to see you more often, and you may be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or a perinatologist. You may be advised to deliver vaginally, but if you have twins or more, you may be advised to have a cesarean section.
This is because the risks associated with vaginal birth are increased when there is more than one baby. Cesarean section is generally considered to be the safest option for both mother and babies in a multiple pregnancy. Many multiple birth babies will need care in a neonatal intensive care unit. You will likely be given special instructions on how to care for yourself and your babies.
What are the challenges of raising multiples after they’re born?
One of the first challenges is simply logistics. With two or more babies, you have double (or more) the feedings, diaper changes, and doctor’s appointments. It can be difficult to keep track of everything and ensure that each baby is getting the care they need.
Another challenge is lack of sleep. It’s common for parents of multiples to feel exhausted, especially in the early months. It can be difficult to get enough rest when you have two or more babies who are waking up throughout the night.
There are also emotional challenges that come with raising multiples. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and like you’re not doing a good enough job. It’s important to ask for help when you need it and to connect with other parents of multiples for support.
Raising multiples is a challenge, but it can also be a rewarding experience. Seeing your babies grow and develop together can be a beautiful thing. With some planning and preparation, you can make it through the tough times and enjoy the many rewards of raising multiples.
Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful.