Multiple pregnancies occur when the uterus nurtures more than one fetus. Giving birth to twins is the most common form of multiple pregnancies. In human, multiple pregnancies are very rare. They are more common in the animal kingdom. One, out of 80 women, gives birth to twins. The other forms of multiple pregnancies are too rare, with only one in every 6,400 women giving birth to triplets. Higher order multiple births like quadruples and quintuplets are ever rarer.
However, high order multiple pregnancies are not completely unknown. Many times, the babies are safely delivered and they have good chances of survival too. There have been a few cases of octuplets (eight offspring) too. Only one of them died at birth, while the rest are still leading a normal like.
Frequencies of multiple pregnancies:
Twins are born to one in 80 women. Triplets are born to one in every 6400 women, while the higher order pregnancies happen to one in every 700,000 women. However, in most cases of higher order multiple pregnancies, the babies fail to survive for too long
There are three subtypes of multiple pregnancies:
Monozygotic: When one zygote (egg), splits into two or more embryos. Monozygotic pregnancy gives birth to identical twins, of the same sex, as all the embryos are carrying the same genetic material from one single zygote. These twins are maternal twins
Dizygotic: When more than one ovum is released during the menstrual cycle, and each one of them are then fertilized by more than one sperm, it gives birth to dizygotic twines. These twins are genetically different from one another, and can also have different sex; they are also caller fraternal twins.
Polyzygotic: This case is a combination of monozygotic and dizygotic twins. It is a very rare process. Most multiple pregnancies are a result of polyzygotic phenomenon.
If you’re pregnant with more than one baby, you’re more likely to:
Develop a problem that causes your blood pressure to get too high (preeclampsia).
Develop a type of diabetes that can occur while you’re pregnant (gestational diabetes).
Deliver your babies too early. When babies are born too early, their organs haven’t had a chance to fully form. This can cause serious lung, brain, heart, and eye problems.
Have a miscarriage. This means that you may lose one or more of your babies.
There is also a greater chance that one or more of your babies may be born with a disease that is caused by a bad gene or group of genes. If you or anyone in your family has had a child with a disease that is linked to a gene change, let your doctor know. There are tests that you can have between 10 and 20 weeks of your pregnancy that can tell if your babies are at risk for certain genetic disorders or birth defects.
Keep in mind that these problems may or may not happen to you. Every day, women who are pregnant with more than one baby have healthy pregnancies and have healthy babies.
Causes of Multiple pregnancies:
Naturally: Twins, triplets and quadruples may bear naturally, by fertilization of multiple eggs or splitting of the eggs.
Fertility treatment: Fertility reproduction and Assisted Reproductive technology (ART) may result in the higher orders of multiple pregnancies. Fertility drugs enable the maturation of more than one egg in one menstrual cycle. As a result, each of these eggs gets fertilized to cause multiple pregnancies.
Old age: As women grow old, their hormonal systems start altering. Follicle-stimulating hormones are secreted more in women who are above 35. This may result in multiple pregnancies.
Genetic: Multiple pregnancies may be genetic in the woman’s side of the family.
Race: Multiple pregnancies are more common amongst the black Africans.
How do I Know if I’m Having Twins?
Many people learn about their multiples at an early ultrasound. Others find a rapid rate of growth in their uterus causing them to suspect twins. If this is your second child, however, you may not want to be so quick to assume you’re having twins. It is common for your stomach to grow faster during a second pregnancy compared to your first pregnancy.
Sometimes multiple heart beats can be heard, leading your practitioner to believe that there is more than one bundle of joy in your uterus. Other times, during your prenatal tests, the doctor may find abnormally high levels of hCG since multiple babies will increase the levels of these hormones. The more babies you are having, the faster the rate of rise in hCG. In single births, hCG should almost double every 48 hours. Only a very small number of twin pregnancies remain undetected until birth.
Risks of multiple pregnancies:
Incomplete separation: The twins may be physically joined, sharing the same amniotic sac, leading to entanglement and suppression of umbilical cord.
Their internal body parts may not be properly functioning.
They have low birth weight.
The mortality rate of the children is generally very high. Many times it may also lead to prenatal deaths.
Most of the multiple pregnancies lead to preterm births. 50% of the twins 90% of the triplets are born preterm, with several physical and immunity problems.
They may be born with several problems in their central nervous system. The most common one being cerebral palsy.
Women cannot opt for normal delivery in case of multiple pregnancies. It is very painful and unbearable, involving a lot of life risks. If a caesarean operation in not done at the right time, it may lead to death of the mother too.
How to prepare for multiple pregnancies:
Take very hygienic and healthy pregnancy diet. Ask the doctor what food would suit you best. Take more calcium and folic acid. You need it more, if you are giving birth to more than one baby. Also increase your protein intake. Eat about 300 calories for each fetus in a day.
Make regular visits to the doctor. In you are having multiple pregnancies, you might be asked to visit the doctor more often. Listen to all his instructions very carefully.
If you are having multiple babies, then you are likely to gain more weight. Ask your doctor, whether you are having the right weight or not, considering the number of fetus you are carrying, and your pregnancy week.
Multiple pregnancies can often lead to preterm labor. So be sure that by third trimester, you are surrounded with good available doctors, nurse, and some experienced female family members, who can deal with the occasional complications of pregnancy. If possible keep a good certified midwife.
Taking care of multiple babies:
It may be very difficult for you to take care of your kids all alone, especially when they are below one. This is because; each kid will have a different timings and different demands, which you may not be able to handle alone. So try to involve as many people as possible, including a governess, an old female family member, neighbors etc.
Feed the babies one by one, or two at a time.
Do breast feed them regularly. It would be the best source of nutrition for them especially if they are preemies or underweight.
Clean your nipples with warm water before feeding your kids.
Do not carry more than two babies with you.
Multiple babies may be very weak, and vulnerable. So keep them very safe and secured, away from all infections.
Do not touch them immediately after one comes home from outside. Make the person change the clothes, wash the hands properly with antiseptic, and then touch the babies. You too observe the same.
Wash your babies’ and your clothes with a soft antiseptic soap.
You can rather consider yourself different, if you have multiple pregnancies. However, it involves a lot of risk and so you would be luckier if your babies are bonny and healthy. So take every care and precautions to have an enjoyable motherhood with multiple kids.