Ready for Multiples? Consider the Risks

Twins, triplets or more — who isn’t drawn to these multiple bundles of cuteness? If you think you’re seeing more multiples, you’re right — their numbers are on the rise. Why?

With more women waiting until age 35 or later to conceive, and an increase in women undergoing fertility treatments, twin and triplet babies born in the U.S. doubled between 1980 and 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Becoming pregnant with twins, triplets or even more is called multiple gestation. If you’re thinking about fertility treatments and the care you’ll get during pregnancy, you’ll want to be aware of the risks involved with multiple-gestation births, says Richard O’Shaughnessy, MD, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine at Perinatal Partners.

“These are high-risk pregnancies, which can create a number of complications for the woman as well as her babies,” says Dr. O’Shaughnessy. “For many women, these risks, however, can be overshadowed by their real strong desire to conceive and the fear that motherhood may never become a reality for them.”

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make wise decisions.

Risks to Babies

  • Premature birth: Half of all twins and 90 percent of all triplets are born prematurely. Tiny preemies can face health problems, such as trouble breathing due to undeveloped lungs, or bleeding of blood vessels in the brain.
  • Insufficient nutrition: Babies who share a placenta might not receive all they need in the way of nutrition carried by the blood of their mother. They also may not grow as fast as they should.
  • Brain development & nerve problems: If they arrive early, multiples are more likely to have issues with their brain development and nerves. One common problem is cerebral palsy. Other problems may not surface until many years later.

Risks to MothersReady For Multiples - Consider the Risks - In Content

  • During pregnancy: Moms carrying multiples can encounter severe nausea, high blood pressure, diabetes or anemia. They may also produce too much or too little of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the babies during pregnancy. Too much can trigger premature labor; too little can affect the babies’ development.
  • During delivery: You’re more likely to undergo a Cesarean section (C-section) and have your babies delivered surgically through an incision in your abdomen.

Start by talking with your doctor. “Infertility and multiple gestation births are not always something women can control, but there are steps a woman can take to minimize complications,” says David McKenna, MD, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine at Perinatal Partners. "Specialty multiple gestation clinics are one intervention that has been successful in improving outcomes.”

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make wise decisions about possible treatments and pregnancy care.

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