Multiple pregnancy, also known as multiple gestation, occurs when more than one fetus implants in your womb, leading to a pregnancy with twins, triplets, or more. Many women make it through multiple pregnancy and delivery without significant issues. Others may experience a number of complications due to the increased health risks that occur with multiple gestation.
Risks of Multiples
Here are some of the more common risks that can occur when pregnant with multiples:
- Preterm labor and preterm delivery
- Bed rest or a longer stay in the hospital or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
- Health problems for infants, including breathing and feeding difficulties, heart problems, and others
- Health problems for moms, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and others
- Increased chance of miscarriage
Health risks increase with each additional fetus in the womb. If you become pregnant with triplets or more, and you or your fetuses are at risk for serious problems, your doctor may discuss a planned reduction with you.
Multifetal pregnancy reduction is a procedure that reduces the number of fetuses in your womb to protect your health and the health of the other fetuses.
Stress and Multiples
Women pregnant with multiples are more likely to experience the challenges of a high-risk pregnancy, including bed rest and preterm labor. After birth, emotions can run high for moms of multiples, who famously struggle to juggle several newborns at once. The exhausting early months with several newborns can increase stress levels, cause sleep deprivation, and lead to feelings of isolation.
To combat these stressors, moms of multiples must focus on getting adequate rest and social support. If you are pregnant with more than one baby, reach out to other parents of multiples. This will be especially helpful in those first few months after birth
Multiples and IVF
If you are going through infertility treatment, you may view any positive pregnancy test with open arms. Whether pregnant with a singleton, twins, triplets, or more, you may feel overjoyed.
However, some undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment are nervous about the risks of becoming pregnant with multiples. If this sounds familiar, discuss your concerns with your doctor. He or she can transfer the fewest embryos during IVF to help you achieve your goal of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
If you do become pregnant with multiples, your doctor will monitor you closely to prevent and treat any problems that may arise.
How Your Doctor Can Help
Many people assume that multiples are extremely common for couples going through IVF. This is partly true. Recent data shows that almost half of all IVF pregnancies yield twins, although less than 2 percent of IVF births yield triplets or higher.
Single embryo transfer (SET) may help to keep IVF success rates up and multiple rates down. During SET your doctor transfers just one embryo during IVF.
When doctors practice responsible embryo transfer, the risks and complications associated with higher-order multiples (triplets and more) are reduced. As IVF science improves, multiple births will continue a steady decline, and mother and infant health risks will be reduced.