If you’re pregnant with twins, chances are that you can expect to go into labor a little bit sooner than you would if you were carrying just one baby. If you’re expecting twins, here’s what you need to know about the delivery and leading up to it.
What to know about multiple births
Multiple births occur when a woman is pregnant with more than one baby at a time. This includes having twins, triplets, quadruplets, or even more babies in the same pregnancy. Some women have higher chances of having twins. Factors include:
- The mother’s age: Women in their 30s and 40s have higher chances of producing more than one egg during their cycle.
- Heredity: Women who are twins or who have siblings who are twins are more likely to have twins.
- Previous pregnancies: If a woman has already been pregnant several times, they have higher chances for multiple births.
- IVF and reproductive assistance
Types of twins. There are two kinds of twins: fraternal and identical. Fraternal twins are from two separate eggs fertilized by different sperm and may or may not look alike. They can also be of different sexes. Identical twins are from the same egg, fertilized by the same sperm. The egg splits in half in the womb, resulting in two babies who are genetically identical.
Twin pregnancies fall into three different categories:
- Two placentas and two sacs: the most common and least complicated
- One placenta with two amniotic sacs
- One placenta and one amniotic sac: the rarest and most complicated
Your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose which one you have within your first trimester. The category that your pregnancy falls under will help to plan out your prenatal care and birth plan for delivering twins.
Prenatal care when pregnant with twins
The first 20 weeks or so when you’re pregnant with twins is about the same as pregnancy with just one baby. During this time, your health care provider will schedule checkups and ultrasounds to monitor the health of both you and your babies. Your doctor will determine your due date and perform genetic testing if you wish.
If possible, you should find a healthcare provider who has experience in multiple births. This could be an OB-GYN or a midwife. These professionals can look out for any potential risks or complications throughout your pregnancy or leading up to delivery.
During this time, it’s important that you get enough rest and eat well, so you can nourish your body and your babies’ bodies. A common myth is that you need to double your daily calories when you’re pregnant with twins. Your healthcare provider will help you figure out your nutrition plan by calculating your body mass index (BMI) based on your pre-pregnancy weight.
Typically, you will need to increase your calories by about 40%. The most important thing is that you try to eat as healthy as possible. This includes upping your intake of protein, iron, and folic acid to help your babies grow. To help supplement, you can ask your doctor about prenatal vitamins.
Labor and delivery with twins
Pregnancy with one baby usually lasts about 40 weeks. Pregnancy with twins has a higher rate of pre-term labor, resulting in delivery between 35 and 37 weeks. This is because your uterus can’t tell if there are two small babies or one full-term baby inside. It just knows that it’s time to deliver.
While you have the choice over where you would like to give birth, your doctor or midwife will probably suggest a hospital. When you’re in labor with twins, there are higher risks for complications than with just one baby. Twins also need to be closely monitored following delivery.
Vaginal delivery. When in labor with twins, about 40% of births are delivered vaginally. This is more likely to happen when the first twin is already in the head-down position. After the first baby is born, your healthcare providers will check the position of the second baby. If it’s in a good position, it will be born shortly after the first. If your contractions stop after the first baby, your doctor may give you a hormone drip to get them going again.
Cesarean section. Women who are pregnant with twins are twice as likely to have a C-section than those delivering one baby. Your doctor may recommend this early on or you may choose to have one. While in labor with twins, your healthcare provider might notice that the first twin is breech (feet first). If so, a C-section will be needed.
You might also need a C-section if the twins are sharing a placenta or if one of them is laying sideways in the womb. If you have placenta previa, or a low-lying placenta, your doctor will also order a C-section.
After delivery. After the delivery, your healthcare provider will examine the placenta to know if your twins are identical or fraternal. If your babies are born too early, there’s a chance they may need to stay in the NICU for monitoring and care.
BetterHealth Channel: “Twins and multiple births.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Twin Pregnancy: Answers from an Expert.”
Nemours KidsHealth: “Preparing for Multiple Births.”
NHS: “Giving birth to twins or more.”
pregnancybirth&baby: “Giving birth to twins.”
The Women’s Center at Southwest Health: “Twins & Multiples."
UTSouthwestern Medical Center: “Getting ready to deliver twins, triplets, or more.”
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