Safety In Numbers

Jan 21, 2011 1 Comment by

Extra babies do come with some extra risks, but not as many as you’d think. In fact, not all twins pregnancies are classified as “high risk” (though higher order multiples definitely fall into that category), and most expectant mothers of multiples can expect to have relatively unevenful pregnancies (at least in terms of complications). Plus, entering your twin pregnancy armed with little knowledge about the potential risks and complications can help you avoid many, and will prepare you should encounter any. So relax (twin pregnancies are really safe), but read up.

For the babies, potential risks include:

Early delivery. Multiples tend to arrive earlier than singletons. More than half of twins (59 percent of them), most triplets (93 percent), and practically all quadruplets are born premature. While women pregnant with only one fetus deliver, on average, at 39 weeks, twin delivery, on average, occurs at 35 to 36 weeks. Triplets usually come again, on average at 32 weeks, and quadruplets at 30 weeks. (Keep in mind that term for twins considered 37 weeks, not 40.) After all, cozy as it can be for your little ones in the uterus, it can also get pretty crowded as they grow. Be sure you know the signs of premature labor, and don’t hesitate to call your practitioner right away if you’re experiencing any of them.

Low birthweight. Since many multiple pregnancies end early, most babies born of multiple pregnancies arrive weighing less than 5 and a half pounds, which is considered low birthweight. Most 5-pounders end up doing just fine healthwise, thanks to advances in caring for these small new-borns, but babies born weighing less than 3 pounds are at increased risk for health complications as newborns, as well as for long term disablities. Making sure your prenatal health is in top-notch condition and your diet contains plenty of nutrient ( including the right amount of calories) can help get your babies to a bigger birthweight.

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). This in utero condition, which happens in about 15 percent of identical twin pregnancies in which the placenta is shared (fraternal twins are almost never affected because they never share a placenta), occurs when blood vessels in their shared placenta cross, resulting in one baby getting too much blood flow and the other too little. This condition is dangerous for the babies, though not to the mother. If it’s detected in your pregnancy, your practitioner may opt to use amniocentesis to drain off excess fluid, which improves blood flow in the  placenta and reduces the risk of preterm labor. Laser surgery to seal off the connection between the blood vessels is another option your practitioner may use.

A multiple pregnancy can also impact the health of the mother -to-be:

Preeclampsia. The more  babies you’re carrying, the more placenta you’ve got on board. This added placenta (along with the added hormones that come with two babies) can sometime lead to high blood pressure, which may in turn progress to preeclampsia. Preeclampsia affects one in four months of twins and usually is caught early, thanks to careful monitoring by your practitioner.

Gestational diabetes. Expectant multiple moms are slightly more likely to have gestational diabetes than a singleton mom. That’s probably because higher hormone levels can interfere with a mother’s ability to process insulin. Diet can usually control (or even prevent) this condition, but sometimes extra insulin is needed.

Placental problems. Women pregnant with multiples are at a somewhat higher risk for complications such as placenta previa (low-lying placenta) or placenta abruption (premature separation of the placenta). Fortunately, carefully monitoring (which you’ll be getting) can detect previa long before it poses any significant risk. Abruption can’t be detected before it happens, but because your pregnancy is being carefully watched, steps can be taken to avoid further complications should an abruption occur.

Expecting More Than One, From Conception To Delivery

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