When you received news that you were expecting more than one baby, you probably felt a mixture of excitement and worry. Many people know that carrying multiples comes with an increased level of risk, compared to carrying a single baby.
But what exactly are those risks? And can they be prevented? Here are just a few of the common complications associated with giving birth to twins:
- What it is. Your doctor may have told you that the chances of going full-term are lower when you have twins. The higher the number of babies you are carrying, the shorter your term is likely to be. Your uterus simply cannot accommodate more growth at some point, and will try to go into labor.
- Problems it can cause. The longer your babies have in the womb, the healthier they will be. If you do not deliver until after 32 weeks, your babies will have a good chance at survival with minimal complications. Complications can include a low birth weight, underdeveloped lungs and lack of brain maturity. Low birth weight has been connected to cerebral palsy, mental retardation and problems with vision and hearing.
- Treatment. Although you may not be able to completely prevent preterm labor, your doctor should closely monitor your pregnancy to reduce your risks. If you do go into preterm labor, your doctor may be able to stall it. You may receive magnesium sulfate through an IV. If the birth is imminent, you may receive a corticosteroid shot 24 hours before birth to help with lung and brain development.
- What it is. Preeclampsia is another term for high blood pressure during pregnancy. The mother of twins is twice as likely to have preeclampsia as the mother of a single.
- Problems it can cause. When caught and treated early, preeclampsia may have minimal long-term effects on mother and babies. Some babies do suffer from low birth weight due to a lack of blood flow. Severe preeclampsia, however, can result in conditions that are life-threatening for the mother.
- Treatment. Preeclampsia can usually be controlled by good prenatal care and monitoring by your doctor. Treatment usually includes plenty of rest, some dietary restrictions, and drinking enough water. Sometimes medication is prescribed. The goal is to get you to a healthy term to deliver the babies.
- What it is. Cesarean section birth is a surgical birth where the doctor gives the mother a local anesthetic and opens the womb surgically to remove the babies. In some situations, the mother is awake for the surgery and can see her babies immediately, although recovery time is much longer than it is for vaginal birth. Many mothers deliver twins vaginally, although higher multiples are often delivered by cesarean.
- Problems it can cause. Often, a doctor chooses a cesarean, however, because one or more of the babies is already in distress. For the mother, the risks are usually the same as with any surgical procedure.
- Treatment. Your doctor should not suggest cesarean unnecessarily. A solid medical reason should prompt the decision. Twins do present more difficulties with monitoring and positioning than single births, along with the other complications listed above. Sometimes cesarean is the best option, especially in an emergency.
These are only a few complications that can result from giving birth to twins, but they are among the more common ones. A good doctor and solid prenatal care can minimize the risks when giving birth to twins.