Now that the shock and surprise of seeing two babies on your scan is settling, you might be wondering what to expect when you are pregnant with twins. Maybe you knew twins were a possibility, or maybe you are completely caught off guard. Either way, you are in for an interesting ride filled with double the work, but also double the joy and excitement. Pregnancy is filled with miraculous changes and an amazing result – a tiny new human. A twin pregnancy is double the miracle and double the results. Here are interesting facts about twin pregnancy:
- Worse Morning Sickness
Being pregnant with twins can mean higher hormone levels. The hormone hCG is often much higher in twin pregnancy, and is also the hormone that triggers nausea. This is not great news, but the good news is that for most women – even those expecting twins – morning sickness often ends by 12 or 14 weeks. Even with high hCG levels, some women are fortunate and do not experience morning sickness
- Twin Gene
If you are expecting identical twins, there isn’t a known cause. However, if you are expecting fraternal twins you might have inherited a ‘twin’ gene. If your family has a few sets of twins it is possible you inherited a gene that causes hyper-ovulation. Hyper-ovulation can cause women to release more than one egg during ovulation. If both eggs are fertilized, you conceive fraternal twins. You might have heard the belief that twins run in families, but skip a generation. According to research, there isn’t any proof of this. However, males can inherit and pass along the gene to their daughters, and this might be the reason we see twins skipping a generation. Obviously men are not ovulating, so this gene won’t impact their fertility. But it can impact their daughter’s.
- Two Types
Fraternal and Identical Identical twins are the result of one embryo splitting into two babies. Around one third of twins are identical. These twins account for just 1 in 250 pregnancies. Identical twins share the same DNA. Fraternal twins are the result of two separate eggs being fertilized. Some women release more than one egg during ovulation and this can result in two fertilized embryos. Fraternal twins each have their own unique set of DNA and are similar to any other set of siblings aside from sharing the womb.
- Womb Bonding
If you know any twins, you might be in awe of the special bond they have. Even at birth, twins seem to show social behavior between each other. It seems they are wired to be close and interact. Italian researchers studied several sets of twins before birth and found this interaction and bond begins even before birth. Ultrasounds showed that at just 14 weeks gestation twins seemed to reach out to each other, and they even seemed to be gentle when reaching near their twin’s eyes. Every set of twins is of course unique, but it seems this special bond begins before they’re even born so they may develop always knowing the feeling of a close bond.
- More Calories and Nutrition
You might have heard the saying, “eating for two.” While you do need extra calories while pregnant, you aren’t eating double. You need around 300 extra calories per day for a singleton pregnancy. For a twin pregnancy you’ll need around 500-600 extra calories per day. Twin mothers are at an increased risk for anemia, as well as needing extra folic acid (processed form of folate). Just make sure you don’t have the MTHFR gene mutation first, which is easy enough to find out from a blood test. The mutation can impact how your body absorbs folic acid, causing health problems for the pregnancy. Many women have the MTHFR gene mutation, so a simple switch to folinic acid and methylfolate will put you on the right track. You may want to take that instead of folic acid anyway.
Making healthy whole food choices and eating iron rich foods can help you feel better and aid your growing babies.
- Individual Growth
Even identical twins often have varying birth weights. There are a number of things that can influence birth weight, especially among twins. Your maternity care provider will likely monitor your pregnancy more closely than if you had a singleton pregnancy. Though third trimester growth scans are only estimates, they can help your doctor monitor the growth of both babies to ensure both are growing well.
- Birth Options
Twin births can be more high-risk than singleton births, but that does not mean you don’t have options for birth. While you might have heard a C-section is often necessary for twins, many twin mothers have safely given birth vaginally. Depending on the type of twin pregnancy that you are having, a vaginal birth might be a safe option. If you are expecting fraternal twins they will each have their own amniotic sac and placenta. Depending on the babies’ positioning, gestation and other factors, a vaginal birth could be a safe option. If you are expecting identical twins there are other factors that could influence birth. If they are sharing the same amniotic sac and same placenta, this can make for a higher risk delivery. When choosing a maternity care provider, find one that shares your birth philosophies and has experience with twin births. Some lower risk twin mothers find midwifery care to meet their needs. Other mothers need or feel more comfortable with a doctor. If a C-section is necessary you might even have options such as a family-centered C-section and immediate skin-to-skin in the operating room.
- Early Arrival
Your estimated due date is just that – an estimate. This is especially true for twin pregnancies. While some twin mothers go to 40 weeks and beyond, twins are at an increased risk for preterm and early term births. Close to 60% of twins are born prior to 37 weeks. Being prepared to welcome your little ones early can help make a stressful situation a little less stressful. Have the name of a lactation consultant ready to help if your babies arrive early as premature babies can have feeding difficulties. If you have older children, begin thinking about your childcare needs should an extended hospital stay become necessary. While twins can arrive early, they can also come after their estimated due date and some will come early but within the full-term window.