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What to Expect When Having Twins

Story written by: Guest Contributor

Twin Gestation

Congratulations! You’re pregnant! How far along are you? When is your baby due?

All of these questions and more will be answered at the time of your first prenatal visit to your doctor.

You have your lab work drawn, your height and weight checked, your belly measured, your history taken and a physical examination done.

Your doctor watches the growth of your belly and your weight gain making sure all is well. When your doctor notices that your belly is growing faster than expected, he/she orders an ultrasound.

The ultrasound reveals you are having twins!

What can you expect with a twin pregnancy?

Multiple gestation is a general term that means a woman is carrying more than one fetus/baby. Twin births occur in approximately 3 in 100 births in the United States, and triplet births or higher order multiples (e.g. quadruplets) are even less common. In recent years, the birthrate for twins has risen tremendously due to advances in fertility treatments.

Multiple gestation pregnancies are considered high risk pregnancies due to the fact that there is an increased chance of potential complications. Because of this, your doctor may send you to a specialist, a maternal fetal medicine physician for consultation,

One of the first questions your healthcare provider will want to know about your multiple gestation pregnancy is: whether or not your twins are identical or fraternal.

Identical twins originate from the same embryo that divided in utero to have two embryos. These twins will have the same genetic make up, will have the same gender, and will look identical.

Fraternal twins come from two separate eggs (i.e. oocytes) that have been fertilized by two separate sperm cells. These twins may be the same gender or they may be male and female. They will not look the same because they wi ll each have a different genetic make up.

This is important for your healthcare provider to know because identical or fraternal twin gestations carry different risk factors for potential complications.

Once your healthcare provider knows what type of twins you are carrying, he/she will try to determine whether your babies share a placenta or no, t and whether your babies share the same sac or are in two separate sacs. Once this information is obtained. your healthcare provider can better anticipate the likelihood of complications that might occur.

Twin pregnancies carry the risk of growth issues, twin-twin transfusion, preterm labor, cesarean section and preterm delivery. The growth issues include such issues as one twin doesn’t grow while the other twin grows very large. Twin to twin transfusion can occur in identical twins due to the shared placenta allowing blood to flow unevenly between the babies.

In general, most twin pregnancies do not last a full 40weeks which is considered full term. Delivery often occurs earlier at around 36-37 weeks gestation. Preterm delivery is a delivery that occurs prior to 37 completed weeks of gestation.

It is important that you discuss with your healthcare provider which hospitals in your area have the capability to manage and care for potential preterm twin babies. Your healthcare provider will know what hospitals have the services of a neonatal intensive care unit and 24 hour in hospital anesthesiology coverage which may be needed if you require an emergency cesarean or if the babies are delivered preterm.

These topics are important for you to discuss with your healthcare provider so you can make the most informed choice for the health and well being of yourself and your babies.

About the Author: Michael Bereston is an attorney in Annapolis, MD who specializes exclusively in cerebral palsy birth injury cases.