08:04 09 June 2009
How many babies are you carrying? Are you sure? One in every 80 or so pregnancies is a twin pregnancy. This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
Twins can either be identical (from one fertilised egg which then splits) or non-identical (from two separate eggs). Identical twins have to be the same sex, as they have the same genes. Non-identical twins can either be the same sex or one of each.
"...the birth of twins usually goes smoothly..."
Fertility treatments make twins more likely " maybe 25 percent of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) conceptions result in a twin birth. Some fertility treatments stimulate ovulation, which increases the chance of more than one egg being released then fertilised.
The ultrasound scan is the most usual way of discovering twins. Hardly anyone reaches labour these days without knowing they're carrying two babies and not just one. You are normally a lot bigger when you're expecting twins, and routine antenatal care will have meant the midwife is likely to have heard two heartbeats when she is listening to your tummy. So even if you haven't had a scan, the chances are you'll know.
Many mothers expecting twins say it's harder and more tiring. You have a greater load to carry " not just an extra baby, but an extra placenta, and extra amniotic fluid. The added weight can mean the likelihood of more backache and more fatigue. Your blood pressure is also likely to be higher. You may need to rest more than a mother expecting one baby, and you may want to think about stopping work sooner.
"Info: The increase in multiple births " twins, triplets and more " due to fertility treatments has caused concern among doctors worldwide. Some feel the practice of replacing two embryos after IVF should stop, to reduce the impact on the health services and to acknowledge the sometimes stressful impact of twins on family life."
Although there's a higher chance of twins being born pre-term, most are born only a little earlier than term " at about 37 or 38 weeks.
The birth of twins usually goes smoothly, with both born head down. But caesarean section is more common with twins, and the main reason is simply one of space. One or both of the babies ends up in a less-than-perfect position, because that's the only way he or she can make room for himself.
So one or both might be breech, coming bottom or feet first. Occasionally, one baby actually lies across the uterus. If it's the twin nearest the exit lying like this, a caesarean is essential.
Twins can be small, and weaker than single babies. Sometimes, a caesarean might be the easiest, least stressful way for twins to be born.
Because twin pregnancy and births have the potential for more challenges, you'll find you will see the obstetrician more often, and all aspects of your pregnancy and the labour and birth will be monitored very carefully. Twins are more likely to need some time in special care after the birth; you'll probably be advised to stay a little longer in hospital yourself, even if your twins are fine and perfectly healthy (as most are). This will give you the chance to become more comfortable with feeding your babies, and build your confidence about their routine, day to day care. See our feature on Twin births for more information.
Your body can make as much milk as your babies need " twice the stimulation of the supply, twice the amount made. It's the practical aspects that might be harder for you " how to hold them so you are all three comfortable, or whether to feed one at a time instead of both together. The babies may not have the same appetite, and they may be hungry at different times, too. You'll need plenty of help to assist with the other aspects of the babies' care, such as bathing, nappy changing and clothes washing.
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