What is high risk about having multiples?
There are so many different types of high risk pregnancies, I wanted to spotlight a different one each month in a series for moms. As a mom of twins or multiples, I was considered high risk for my pregnancy from the moment I found out there were two babies in there. Also, being 4’11 this was a trying task on my uterus, body, and everyone else as well. Why you ask? Because there are so many risks to having multiples. So I am going to lay out the laundry list of why having multiples is high risk and why maybe you won’t wish for more then one at a time. And if you are having multiples don’t be scared, I have two healthy boys who are now four-years-old. There are risks to pregnancy for all women and we have to educate ourselves on it to be prepared.
“In the past 2 decades, the rate of multiple births in the United States jumped dramatically. The rate of twin births increased by 70 percent between 1980 and 2004, and the rate of higher-order multiples (triplets or more) increased four-fold between 1980 and 1998 (1).” according to the March of Dimes.
1. Preterm Labor and Preterm Delivery
This can be the most scary risk when having multiples is preterm labor, which is the early onset of labor. Moms of twins are twice as likely to experience this as moms of singletons. For signs and symptoms please check out this article from babycenter.com You must be aware of the signs because it is imperative to your baby’s health. Preterm delivery is exactly what it sounds like, delivering early. How early is considered preterm? Anything before 37 weeks is considered preterm. Many multiples are born preterm and technically many doctors expect moms of multiple to have their babies early. They are preemies and can have many different health issues when born early. Fertility drugs are one of the main factors in so many multiples being born today. Myself included, my twins were born at 36 and half weeks.
According to the March of Dimes, almost 60 percent of all twins and over 90 percent of triplets are born prematurely (before 37 weeks). Most doctors consider twins full term at 36 weeks and triplets at 33 weeks.
2. Low birth weight
Low birth weight is considered five and a half pounds or less. Many twins are under this weight when born and there are many different health issues that can occur with underweight babies. Things like vision and or hearing loss, diabetes, cerebral palsy and others.
3. Twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS):
This can occur with identical twins but only occurs in about 10% of identical twins. What happens is if the twins share a placenta and the blood flow between the two is not equal. One twin gets more of the blood flow then the other causing one twins to grow more, and one less or both to have problems. There is now a surgery which can fix this issue, where a laser is used to cut off the connected blood vessels. Also, frequent amniocentesis or draining excess fluid can help the problem. This is very scary in any case and can cause the death of both babies if not monitored properly.
Women having twins are twice as likely to develop this problem. This disorder can cause high blood pressure, swelling, and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can be serious and even deadly for mom and baby. Many times if it occurs and not monitored with extreme caution, the baby must be delivered early or preterm.
5. Gestational Diabetes:
Gestational diabetes is when your body cannot control blood sugar levels on it’s own. You are at more of a risk for this because your body is trying to work harder with the more babies you have. Gestational diabetes is no fun for anyone. You or your spouse must monitor your blood sugar levels two to four times a day and stay on a strict diet to make sure the babies don’t grow at a dangerously rapid rate. I had gestational diabetes and it can be trying to mom and baby. You have to eat higher protein, watch your sugar and carb intake and when pregnant it can be hard. Testing occurs anywhere from 20- 26 weeks depending on the OB/GYN.
6. Placenta Abruption:
This is when the placenta detached from the wall before delivery. It is more likely when you are carrying multiples. This can happen at any time during the second half of the pregnancy. It can lead to early delivery, stillbirth, and stunted growth in the uterus.
What can you do?
Many times your doctor will have you see a perinatologist, which is a doctor who specializes in maternal fetal medicine and high risk pregnancy. You will see a lot of them throughout your pregnancy. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic perinatologist who even delivered my son. They monitor you closely so you don’t have to worry as much as you already are.
Don’t forget to be proactive, if you think you may be high risk for something or genetically inclined to a condition then let you doctor know, they need all the help they can get.
Stay tuned for my next article in the High Risk series.