Twins can be incredibly exciting! When you find out the big news that you’re having twins, you might experience a rush of different emotions: surprise, joy, anticipation, maybe even a little uncertainty and panic. That’s all normal. Twin pregnancies come with their own special joys, as well as unique challenges.
As with many facets of parenting, there’s no way to predict precisely what’s in store for your twin pregnancy. But if you’re pregnant with twins (or more), your midwife or OBGYN will be able to help prepare you for many aspects of the experience.
How Do I Know if I’m Pregnant With Twins?
Twins or triplets account for roughly 3% of all births in the United States. Being certain that you’re pregnant with twins requires medical assessment, and is often first diagnosed with ultrasound.
However, there are some early signs of a twin pregnancy that could motivate you to seek out an accurate screening. Some of those signs include:
- Extreme or severe morning sickness: In some cases, severe morning sickness could be an indication that you’re pregnant with twins.
- Intense fatigue: Pregnancy is always going to take a toll on your body. But if you’re finding yourself intensely or overly fatigued, that could be a sign that you might be having twins.
- Increased HCG levels: HCG is the hormone that pregnancy tests are designed to detect. Extra high levels might indicate that you’re in for twins.
- Above normal weight gain: If you find that your body is gaining weight faster than expected, you might want to ask your OBGYN about the possibility of a twin pregnancy.
- Frequent or early movement: When you’re pregnant, you can usually feel your fetus moving around in your womb. Movement that seems exceptionally frequent or intense could be an early sign of twin development.
While the above may be considered possible signs of twin pregnancy, none of these presentations are exclusive to being pregnant with twins. The only way to be sure that you’re having twins (or not having twins) is to undergo a medical screening using an ultrasound diagnostic. Usually, dual heartbeats can be detected by ultrasound imaging, and this can confirm a multiple birth.
Types of Twins
There are two basic classifications for twins: identical and fraternal. Here’s how they’re different:
- Identical twins are formed when a single cell (fertilized by a single egg) divides into two identical fertilized eggs. Genetically and physically, these two twins will be identical. Usually, identical twins will share a placenta and amniotic sac. As the name implies, identical twins will look nearly indistinguishable as they grow up.
- With rare exception, fraternal twins are formed when two eggs are fertilized by two different sperm. Each egg then successfully implants into a different area of the uterine lining. With fraternal twins, each embryo will develop with its own amniotic fluid sac and placenta. As they grow, fraternal twins usually appear different.
In many cases, ultrasound can help to differentiate between identical twins and fraternal twins at a relatively early stage–with varying degrees of confidence, but we never know for certain until they’ve arrived!
In general, twins will tend to develop at the same rate as single-child pregnancies, following the same gestational period. That said, more than half of all twins are delivered before the typical 37 week full term. In most cases, delivery occurs close enough to full term to ensure an uncomplicated birth.
Complications and Risks of Twin Pregnancies
Having twins can be absolutely thrilling. Talking to your OBGYN can help identify some inherent risks, challenges, and complications that can accompany multiple-child pregnancies. Some health complications can impact either the children or the mother, depending on the issue. Your OBGYN or midwife will be able to help guide you through common risks, so you can focus your energies on being a joyful parent to twins.
Some of the most common complications and risks that impact the mother include:
- Gestational diabetes: If you develop diabetes while you are pregnant, the health risks could double if you have twins. For example, high blood sugar could cause your baby to grow larger before birth, and larger babies tend to increase your odds of complications during labor and childbirth. Lowering your risk usually means keeping a close eye on your blood sugar levels.
- Iron deficiency: Deficiencies in iron can lead to anemia. This, in turn, could sometimes cause premature birth. Usually, though, iron deficiencies can be easily addressed by changes in your diet.
- Preeclampsia: Women with twin or multiple-child pregnancies are more than twice as likely to develop preeclampsia. This is a condition in which the mother develops high blood pressure, swelling, vision changes, and headaches, and requires additional care. As such, women with twin pregnancies are closely monitored for this condition.
Some of the complications that affect the children can include:
- Twin-twin transfusion syndrome: This can occur when identical twins share the same placenta. A blood vessel connection between the two can cause one or both fetuses to become deprived of resources. Microsurgery can usually address the issue and ensure a safe delivery.
- Premature birth or low birth weight: Twins are at increased odds for premature birth weight or being born with a low birth weight. Both conditions can mean significant risks for development challenges or lingering health effects. When this complication occurs, premature birth or low birth weight will require immediate medical intervention.
Identifying risks early can help keep complications to a minimum.
What if I’m Having Triplets… or More?
In the long term, more children is going to mean more joy. But in the short term, the more embryos developing in one place, the higher the risks for complications. The complications are often quite similar–but if you’re pregnant with triplets, your risks for those complications will increase.
Every pregnancy is different, so be sure to talk to your OBGYN about any concerns you might have.
How to Prepare for Twins
If you’re expecting twins, preparing for your delivery experience will be an essential part of your pregnancy. First and foremost, you should expect more visits with medical professionals than you might otherwise. It’s absolutely essential to keep a close eye on your health as your pregnancy develops in order to spot complications early and provide the best care possible.
Giving birth to twins may also mean a longer recovery period for the mother or babies afterwards. Being proactive about care or assistance you may require can help you spend your post-pregnancy days concentrating on building bonds with your new bundles of joy.
The most important step in preparing for twins is to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife. Make sure that you get all of your questions answered and concerns addressed. We’ve helped many parents-to-be focus on the excitement and bliss of having twins! You can learn more about our obstetrics services here. If you want to know more about having twins–and what you might need to know–contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment.