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Pregnant With Multiples: What's Different

Pregnant With Multiples: What's Different

Surprise! It looks as if you're fulfilling your ambitions of a big family in one go! Your multiple pregnancy is bound to be special, if not a little different than a single-baby pregnancy. Here, some insights and information to guide you through the upcoming weeks and months.

Early sightings. Thanks to obstetric ultrasound, multiples can be seen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and heartbeats can be detected as early as 10 weeks. Although it can be difficult to distinguish one baby's heartbeat from the other, your healthcare provider will count the actual number of beats per minute for each multiple.

How is a multiple pregnancy different? Well, for starters, you automatically become a high-risk patient. You may feel fine, but having twins or a HOM (higher-order multiple pregnancy, meaning more than two) comes with special risks. You're likely to be referred to a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist trained to deal with high-risk pregnancies. Compared to women with singleton pregnancies, you'll probably have more prenatal visits, more blood tests, and more frequent ultrasounds.

Identical twins. This type of twinning happens when one egg splits into two embryos, resulting in "identical" babies. Sometimes both babies are in the same amniotic sac, which increases the risk for problems such as becoming tangled in the umbilical cords. Another risk is twin-to-twin transfusion where one twin gets most of the nutrition and the other gets too little. This is one of the reasons healthcare providers measure each fetus at various times during a multiple pregnancy.

Fraternal twins. In this type of twinning, two (or more) eggs are fertilized simultaneously and several embryos result. In HOM, there may be both identical and fraternal twins, or triplets in one pregnancy. The chief risk of fraternal twinning is premature birth.

Premature delivery. This is considered the most important risk of any multiple pregnancy. With twins or HOM pregnancies, each baby tends to be smaller since they all need to share the space in your uterus. Being born a week before 40 weeks (which is called "term") isn't such a bad thing, but being born before 36 weeks can mean that the baby will have problems breathing and sucking, as well as other problems resulting from being immature.

Preparation is key. The best thing you can do for your babies is to take care of yourself and go to all your prenatal visits. Rest up now, while you can. Soon you'll be meeting your little brood!

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