A mum-to-be is always taken by surprise when she is told that she is carrying twins. While you get a set of children during the same pregnancy, it also leaves you vulnerable to many possible complications and may need medical supervision. A twin pregnancy places greater stress on a woman's body. It is essential to be informed about the special nutritional needs and possible medical conditions.
Twin pregnancies can be monozygotic or dizygotic. Monozygotic twin pregnancies are a result of one egg splitting into two after fertilization. Such twins are identical twins and share identical genes. Usually they are of the same sex and look alike. Dizygotic twins are fraternal twins where two eggs are fertilized by two different sperms at the same time. Such twins share about 25% of their genes and can be of either sex. In such a case of twin pregnancy, each baby has it's own placenta.
A twin pregnancy is more likely to happen in cases where there is a history of twins in the family, especially on the mother's side. The chances of multiple pregnancies increase when the mother is older, late 30s and beyond. Infertility procedures such as vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) increase the chance of a multiple pregnancy.
A woman carrying twins is at increased risk of anemia. The folic acid needs of the body are also higher. A woman having a twin pregnancy need not overeat but must take special precautions with her nutritional intake. Eat about 600 calories extra, especially consisting of protein, calcium and carbohydrates.
Ensure that you consume nearly 50 - 100% more iron and include a varied diet that takes care of your folic acid and Vitamin B12 requirements. Drink more water and stick to healthy high fiber foods such as whole grains, bran cereals and fruits and vegetables. Snack on nuts, cheese, dried fruit, yogurt, granola bars and peanut butter. A woman is advised plenty of rest during a twin pregnancy. Since your body will be working twice as hard, it will need twice as much rest.
Ensure that you take regular breaks from your daily activities. But keep up your natural activity levels unless otherwise advised by your physician. Gentle exercises such as walking and swimming can be beneficial for the body. You can enroll at a pre-natal exercise class that is suited to your twin pregnancy health needs.
The best confirmation for a twin pregnancy is an ultrasound diagnosis. It can indicate without doubt the presence of more than one fetus. The Doppler system can be used in the first trimester to hear fetal heart sounds. An experienced physician will be able to detect more than one heartbeat. Monitoring the HcG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels can indicate the presence of twins.
Possible Complications in Twin Pregnancy
One of the common problems is of inadequate fetal growth. In some twin pregnancies, one of both twins do not grow at the proper rate and may lead to premature birth or low birth weight. The expectant mother carrying twins is more likely to suffer from pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (Preeclampsia).
Heartburn, indigestion and the need to urinate frequently are more likely as the enlarging uterus presses on other organs. A woman may suffer back pain during a twin pregnancy on account of the extra load. Piles and varicose veins are also more likely. There is a threat of miscarriage in a twin pregnancy especially in the early months. Sometimes one of the twins dies leaving behind a healthy survivor. There is an increased risk of congenital abnormalities with twin pregnancies.
A thorough ultrasound examination during the second trimester will indicate any abnormality. Another complication that may arise with twin pregnancy is that of placental abruption. This happens when the uterine wall detaches from the placenta prior to delivery resulting in pre-term labor and delivery.
A rare complication that can occur in a twin pregnancy is TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). This situation happens in identical twins when there is overload of blood in one baby while the other one does not get sufficient supply. One baby will have excess amniotic fluid while the smaller one will have too little.
Typically the gestation time for a twin pregnancy is about 37 weeks as compared to a single pregnancy that lasts 40 weeks. Though many twin pregnancies result in a cesarean section, do not rule out the possibility of a natural birth. It all depends on the presentation of the babies.
Twins are likely to be positioned in different ways such as both head down, one head down or one breech. Labor is sometimes longer than usual with twins, but the actual delivery is not much longer. Twins are usually born only minutes apart.