Discovering you’re pregnant with twins can be exciting – but daunting, especially if there’s no history of twins in your family.
Twin and other multiple births have become more common as fertility treatments have increased – currently around 1 in 65 births in the UK are twins or triplets, compared to 1 in every 100 births in the 1980s. The chances of conceiving twins are significantly affected by IVF – around 1 in 80 twin births occur in after natural conception, compared with a whopping 1 in 5 as a result of IVF.
Around two-thirds of all twin births are non-identical (dizygotic) which means that two separate eggs are fertilized, resulting in two babies who are no more alike than any other siblings and can be the same or different sexes.
Non-identical twins have separate placentas which adds to the extra weight you’ll be carrying throughout your pregnancy but avoids the risk of twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Most twins who share a placenta grow normally but around 10-15% of identical (monochorionic) twins can be affected by an imbalance in the placental blood vessels that connects them, resulting in one twin receiving more nutrients and fluid than the other, potentially to the detriment of both babies. Regular ultrasound scans will monitor for TTTS and appropriate treatment or intervention will be offered if you need it.
The chances of having a premature delivery are more likely if you’re carrying twins, with an average gestation of 37 weeks. Although more than 40% of twin births are vaginal, that still leaves you with around a 60% chance of having a caesarean section if you’re delivering twins. A c-section is likely to be recommended if one or both of your babies are breech, if you have a low-lying or shared placenta or if you have previously had a difficult delivery. Occasionally you might deliver one twin vaginally and need a caesarean section to deliver the second twin.
If you’re expecting twins you can expect more antenatal care to monitor your pregnancy and you’re likely to have more health professionals on hand for the birth. You might also be encouraged to have more monitoring for your babies during the birth with separate sensors attached to monitor each twin individually.
Keeping as fit and active as possible during your twin pregnancy will help prepare you for labour and give you the extra strength you’re going to need after they’re born.
Whilst staying active during a multiple pregnancy might be more challenging, especially as your babies grow and your centre of balance changes, it’s still important to move as much as you can. Regular exercise is good for alleviating anxiety and stress too – even gentle activities, can help to lift your mood, make you feel less anxious and improve your sleep. Wearing supportive maternity fitnesswear will help to lift and support the weight of your twin baby bump and hold your lower back as well, making any activity during your pregnancy, even day to day walking, more comfortable.
Your twin pregnancy will put more pressure on your pelvic floor so it’s even more important to maintain your pelvic floor exercises. Make sure you ‘lift and squeeze’ regularly, ideally several times every day. Click here for details about how to exercise your pelvic floor efficiently and follow it up with postnatal pelvic floor exercises after your babies are born.
Make sure you maintain a healthy, nutritionally sound pregnancy diet too – you’ll need even more protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 when you’re carrying twins. Avoid processed food and eat plenty of fresh vegetables, wholegrain pulses, calcium rich foods such as cheese and leafy greens and include essential protein every day. And drink plenty of fluid, ideally at least eight large glasses of water a day, even if you are feeling more pressure on your bladder it’s important to stay hydrated.
Good luck with your twin pregnancy!
‘There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins’ Josh Billings