What Should I Know About Multiple Gestations?
Pregnancy with multiples is much less common than pregnancy with a single fetus, and it occurs when more than one egg is released during the menstrual cycle and fertilized by a sperm. This then allows more than one embryo to implant and grow in the uterus. This leads to the development of fraternal multiples, while identical multiples occur when a single fertilized egg splits. Multiple gestations can occur naturally, but the use of fertility drugs often results in a pregnancy with twins, triplets, or more. Women older than age 35 are also more likely to release more eggs during their menstrual cycle than younger women. Although many pregnancy symptoms can be consistent across all types of pregnancies, those with multiple gestations are more likely to have severe morning sickness or breast tenderness and gain weight more quickly.
How Does Prenatal Care Change for Someone Pregnant with Multiples?
Those pregnant with twins, triplets, or more will have more frequent prenatal visits, along with additional ultrasounds to monitor the pregnancy. Visiting your doctor more frequently will allow them to identify potential complications early and monitor your nutritional status and weight throughout your pregnancy. This level of care is often coordinated with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist like the members of our team at NJPA. Your doctor will discuss any additional testing options with you, as screening tests for genetic disorders are not as sensitive in multiple gestations.
What are the Risks of Multiple Gestations?
Multiple pregnancies come with an increased risk of certain complications, which is why close monitoring and care throughout the pregnancy is so important. Twins generally have the lowest risk when it comes to complications like low birth weight, gestational diabetes, and even the loss of a fetus. With each additional fetus, the chances for these risks increase. At NJPA, we specialize in addressing complications of high-risk pregnancies so expectant mothers and families can enjoy this exciting time in their lives. Below are some of the most common risks associated with multiple gestations.
The chances of preterm labor increase with each additional baby. Preterm labor is defined differently depending on whether you are having twins, triplets, or quadruplets. The average twin pregnancy lasts 36 weeks compared to a single pregnancy, which lasts 39 weeks. Triplet and quadruplet pregnancies last around 32 weeks for triplets and 30 weeks for quadruplets. Preterm babies are born before their bodies have completely matured, which can lead to complications and makes the babies more vulnerable to certain issues. Those pregnant with multiples should be aware of the warning signs of early labor because in some cases, preterm delivery can be delayed if it is detected early.
Low Birth Weight
Low birth weight is another risk of multiple gestations, as it comes with preterm delivery. Low birth weight is defined as under 5.5 pounds, while the risks increase if the baby is under 3.3 pounds. Low birth weight is associated with certain long-term complications, including mental disabilities and vision problems.
Babies born with a low birth weight may need care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) along with additional treatments for any complications that may be present.
Gestational diabetes happens more often in those with a pregnancy with multiples, as there is higher insulin resistance. This condition is very manageable, especially when caught early in the pregnancy. Your doctor will let you know if you should be on a certain type of diet, which can reduce the risks associated with gestational diabetes.
Women carrying more than one baby are more likely to develop high blood pressure during their pregnancy than women carrying only one baby. Gestational hypertension can develop into preeclampsia. Since this condition often develops early in the pregnancy, consistent prenatal care is essential, and care for gestational hypertension often includes bed rest and fetal monitoring.