Just found out you’re having twins? Whether you’re feeling excited or a bit overwhelmed, knowing more about what’s ahead can help you plan your pregnancy and get ready for life with your new family.
About 4500 sets of twins are born every year in Australia – which sounds a lot but is only about 1.5% of births. Triplets and other higher multiple births are even less common accounting for only around 0.03% of births each year.
Although multiple births are not common their numbers are increasing. This is thought to be because more women are having babies later in life and more women are using fertility treatments – both of which can increase your chances of having twins. Twins are also more likely if there is a history of twins in the mother’s family.
Identical or non-identical twins?
Whether the twins are identical (or not) depends on how the babies were formed:
Identical (monozygotic) twins occur when a single fertilised egg (called a zygote) splits in two and each half grows into a separate baby. Both babies have the same genes, are the same sex, look alike and may share the same placenta.
Non-identical (fraternal or dizygotic) twins occur when two different eggs are fertilised by two different sperm. These twins are not genetically identical, can be different sexes, only look as similar as other siblings do and have their own placenta. About two thirds of twins will be non-identical.
Triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets … are formed in the same way and can be any combination of identical and non-identical multiples.
How do you know it’s twins?
Being pregnant with more than one baby means you may start to gain weight more quickly than expected and experience more severe morning sickness or other pregnancy symptoms. Your midwife or doctor may notice more than one heartbeat or that your uterus is larger than expected. An ultrasound scan at around 12 weeks usually confirms it’s twins.
Most pregnancies are straight forward, but having twins increases the risk of some complications – so this means you’ll be seeing more of your doctor and midwife as they closely monitor your pregnancy. These extra antenatal appointments are important as any potential problems can be picked up early and are a good time to discuss any concerns you may have.
Looking after yourself is also an important part of having a healthy ‘multi’ pregnancy, so:
- Make sure you get enough rest
- Eat a well balanced, heathy diet and drink plenty of fluids – it’s especially important to make sure you get the extra nutrients to meet both yours and your developing babies’ needs
- Don’t bottle-up your feelings – talk through any concerns with your doctor or midwife.
Although most women with a multiple pregnancy will go into labour early, most are still able to give birth normally. However, sometimes you may need to be induced or have a caesarean section if complications arise, and around half multiple birth babies are preterm, so it’s best to be in a hospital where extra help and expertise is at hand.
You’re likely to stay in hospital a little longer after your babies are born. If babies are born premature, they are more likely to need special care and you’ll need extra time to learn how to manage caring for and feeding two (or more) babies.
Always talk to your midwife or doctor about any problems you may be concerned about.