Being pregnant with twins is mega exciting, but can seem like you’re pregnancy and life as a new mum takes on extra challenges
Whether you’re over the moon that you have twins on the way (imagine those cute matching outfits…) or you’re worried about how you’ll cope with two babies (double the cost, double the stress and double the trouble), twins are a big adjustment.
There are complications that can surface with a multiple pregnancy, but the rewards are endless… double the love, double the fun and two babies from just one labour. They create an instant 2.4 family.
Getting to grips with twins
You can blame your mum for your double arrival, as they run on the maternal side of the family. Twins are surprisingly common – around 12,000 sets of twins are born a year in the UK, the majority identical.
Age is a strong factor in conceiving twins. Older women often have twins as they tend to release more eggs in one cycle than younger women.
‘Non-identical twins are from two eggs fertilised at the same time, each by a different sperm,’ says Sandra Bosman, midwifery consultant for the Twins and Multiple Birth Association (TAMBA). These babies are no more alike than brothers and sisters are, and may or may not be the same sex.
‘Identical twins occur in about one-third of multiple pregnancies,’ explains Sandra. ‘Known as monozygotic twins, a single egg is fertilised then splits into two creating identical babies with the same genes, physical features and sex. They share the placenta or it might be fused.’
If you can’t tell by looks alone, a DNA test on your placenta will confirm whether your babies are identical or not. What’s certain is that if you have non-identical twins, then you’re five times more likely to carry multiples in your next pregnancy.
What to expect during a twin pregnancy
You’ll have more scans than mums carrying one baby, particularly in the last two months.
‘These scans will monitor the growth and positioning of your babies and at around 34 weeks your midwife will decide how the babies should be delivered,’ Sandra explains.
Just like any pregnancy, complications can arise. Anaemia, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes are slightly more common if you’re having twins. So, it’s worth keeping an eye out for symptoms.
‘Approximately half of multiple babies arrive prematurely,’ says Sandra. ‘Typically, twins are expected to arrive at around 37 weeks but labour may occur earlier than this.’
Premature contractions are a common occurrence if you’re pregnant with twins and in most cases they are not a sign of preterm labour. However, it can be very difficult to determine if labour is imminent or not and if you experience these symptoms you should let your midwife know immediately.
What to expect during labour
As long as you follow your GP’s advice and look after yourself, there is no reason why your labour should be more difficult than a single birth. But, there is an increased chance of a caesarean.
‘The chance of this happening is 50 to 60 per cent,’ Sandra says. ‘Your first baby may be born vaginally but if the second one gets distressed you might need a c-section.’
Home births are usually not advised, as multiple births are nearly always monitored and it’s best to have lots of medical hands available to make sure your twins arrive safely.
What to expect when the twins arrive
All new parents feel a tiredness like no other. If you’ve got two little people to look after, even more so. That’s why you need to look after yourself.
‘Put a routine in place and prioritise things that need doing,’ says Sandra.
If you would like to breastfeed, you can – your breasts will know to keep producing milk until your little ones are full. Alternate your babies each time they feed, to avoid your boobs becoming lopsided. Or use the rugby hold with one baby on each side.
Let your twins sleep in the same cot. ‘Research has shown that sleeping similar-sized young twins in the same cot does not mean they wake more often,’ says Sandra. ‘In fact, their sleeping patterns become more similar.’
Support available for you
TAMBA is a fantastic resource you can use to connect with other parents of twins. For face-to-face support, join your local twins club – TAMBA’s website has a list of ones registered in the UK.
While every motherhood experience is unique, having twins will make yours even more special. Your babies will have a companion for life at every stage of their lives in each other and they’ll keep one another amused – playmates on tap!
But be easy on yourself, too. The house doesn’t have to be immaculate. Your friend’s invite to pop over can be turned down if you’re just too knackered. Rest up and sleep when your babies sleep.