Being pregnant can be such a magical experience. Knowing that there's a small being (or multiple) growing inside oneself really makes a mother feel special, and even though she hasn't seen her baby, she protects it and loves it more than anything else. But, there's the not-so-magical side of pregnancy as well. First of all, a woman's body goes through so many changes, both visible and invisible. From gaining weight and eating more than usual, to swollen feet, then the changes in hormone levels - it can be so stressful.
Carrying twins is even more stressful than carrying one baby. Just think about it - you have two babies inside you, two lives to worry about and to protect, higher chances of having complications during the delivery, and of course, a whole set of health issues your kids can develop because they're twins. Oh, and it's not just the twins that can have health issues - mothers of twins are also at higher risk of developing certain medical conditions that mothers of singletons usually don't get. These health risks are very much real and worth getting to know better. Here are 10 health issues twins are more prone to, and 10 women carrying twins are more prone to.
20 Twins More Prone To: Cerebral Palsy
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One of the health issues twins are more prone to is a disorder called cerebral palsy. This permanent disorder affects muscles, movement, and motor skills of a child. Cerebral palsy symptoms are not always the same, but they often include stiff or weak muscles, poor coordination, and even seizures and difficulties with thinking and reasoning.
But what causes this disorder? Well, there are many possible factors, however, the two most common ones are premature births and low birth weight (as readers will see later in the article, both of these health issues are common for twins).
19 Mothers More Prone To: Preeclampsia
High blood pressure is a serious concern for pregnant women, especially for those who have always had issues with their blood pressure. But, did you know that women who are carrying multiples are even more prone to high blood pressure than women who are carrying a singleton? One of the health issues related to high blood pressure and carrying twins is preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure and protein in one's urine during pregnancy (protein in urine is usually a sign of damage to another organ system, such as the liver and the kidneys). Swelling in the feet, legs, and hands are also common symptoms.
18 Twins More Prone To: Premature Delivery
Premature delivery, or preterm birth, is something that can happen to every mother, regardless of whether she's carrying a singleton or multiples. But, it is a fact that women carrying multiples actually have a higher risk of premature delivery.
According to The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies, more than 50% of twin births, and 90% of triplets and quadruplets were actual preterm births, compared to only 10% of preterm births of singletons.
17 Mothers More Prone To: Gestational Diabetes
If you're expecting a child, then you will for sure be tested for gestational diabetes sometime during your pregnancy. For those who don't know, gestational diabetes is, in most cases, a temporary form of diabetes where a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar during pregnancy. Usually, the risk of complications is pretty small, so nothing to worry about too much.
But, many people don't know that women who are carrying twins are much more likely to develop gestational diabetes. If it's not treated correctly, or if it's left untreated, it can increase the risk of preeclampsia and depression, cause seizures, and even miscarriage and stillbirth. So please, don't skip those appointments with the doctor.
16 Twins More Prone To: Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome
Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is a condition that can occur in pregnancies where identical twins share a single placenta. This condition develops when there's an imbalance of blood flow in the placental blood vessels that connect the twins. When the blood doesn't flow evenly between the twins, one of them, the recipient twin, will get more blood than the other, the donor twin. This leads to the recipient twin growing faster and bigger thanks to the extra fluid he gets. This means the donor twin grows slowly.
Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome affects around 10% of identical twins, and it can be very serious if left untreated. But don't worry, 90% of treatments are successful. Just make sure you have regular ultrasound scans.
15 Mothers More Prone To: Gestational Hypertension
Gestational hypertension, or pregnancy-induced hypertension, is a condition characterized by high blood pressure (higher than 140/90 mm HG) during pregnancy, usually after week 20. It typically goes away right after delivery. Symptoms may include increased blood pressure, swelling, sudden weight gain, nausea, abdominal pain...
You'd probably think that having a higher blood pressure during pregnancy isn't something to be concerned about, but you'd be wrong. Severe gestational hypertension can lead to placental abruption, and fetal problems such as poor fetal growth.
14 Twins More Prone To: Birth Defects
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects are defined as "structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body." These defects can affect how the body looks, how it works, or both.
Some people don't know, but twins (and multiples in general) are twice as likely as singletons to develop birth defects. Some of the most common ones when it comes to twins are neural tube defects, congenital heart defects, and defects of the digestive system.
What can you do to prevent this? Don't drink or smoke; if you're taking ANY medications, talk to your doctor about whether they're safe to take; and keep other medical conditions under control, if possible.
13 Mothers More Prone To: Anemia
Anemia is a medical condition which happens when a human body lacks enough healthy red blood cells (hemoglobin) to carry oxygen. When the tissues don't receive a sufficient amount of oxygen, many organs and their functions can be affected.
When it comes to anemia during pregnancy, there should be some concern about it because anemia is associated with low birth weight, premature birth, and maternal mortality. I know, it sounds terrible, but you should really know that anemia during pregnancy is treated easily by consuming iron or vitamin supplements on a daily basis.
12 Twins More Prone To: Genital And Urinary Defects
Did you know that twin boys are twice as likely as their sisters to have genital and urinary defects and five times higher risk to be born with an obstruction between the stomach and small intestine? At least that's what a study conducted by University of Florida’s Maternal Child Health Education Research and Data Center shows.
According to this study, the male twins are two times more likely to be born with birth defects affecting their urinary organs and genitals than the female twins. Researchers are of the opinion that boys are more prone to these defects because they develop slower in the womb than girls.
11 Mothers More Prone To: Miscarriage
Miscarriage is one of the worst things that can happen to a parent, and unfortunately, many of parents actually experience it. Studies show that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Early miscarriage (i.e. miscarriages in the first trimester) is common for all pregnancies, regardless of whether the woman is carrying singletons or multiples. However, it is a fact that carrying more than one baby increases the risk of having a miscarriage. Sometimes it happens (in 20% of all twin pregnancies) that one baby might miscarry in the early stages of the pregnancy. And if you're having triplets, there's a 40% chance that one or more will miscarry in the first half of pregnancy.
10 Twins More Prone To: Congenital Heart Defects
A study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University revealed that identical twins that share a placenta "have almost twice the increased risk of being born with congenital heart disease".
Researchers discovered that 13 in every 1,000 sets of twins were born with some type of congenital heart condition, compared to seven in every 1,000 singleton births.
Judith Rankin, a Professor of Maternal and Perinatal Epidemiology at Newcastle University, said: "The unique information from two surveys in the North of England has enabled us to show the higher risk of a congenital heart disease for twins and, in particular, for those that share a placenta. This information will be incredibly helpful to parents and health professionals."
9 Mothers More Prone To: Cesarean (C-section) Delivery
More twin pregnancies are delivered by performing the c-section than pregnancies with only one baby. And there's a good reason for that (hint: this article is full of those reasons). Because twin pregnancies are more likely to be pre-term deliveries and/or are more prone to complications, doctors and parents often go for the c-section.
More than 60% of twin births are c-section deliveries, which is almost the double of singleton deliveries.
C-sections are pretty common and safe for the delivery of twins, but they're not always needed, so have a good chat with your doc about whether a c-section is necessary or not.
8 Twins More Prone To: Low Birth Weight
If a baby's weight is less than 2.5 kg when it is born, that's when the baby has low birth weight. The main cause of low birth weight is premature birth (i.e. being born before the 37th week). Premature delivery basically means that a baby has less time in the womb to develop and grow. Another possible cause is intrauterine growth restriction, which happens when a baby doesn't develop well during pregnancy due to problems with the placenta or the mother's health.
Twins are at increased risk for low birth weight because, as I mentioned already, they are often born pre-term. Over 50% of multiple birth babies have low birth weight compared with only about 6% of singletons.
7 Mothers More Prone To: Postpartum Hemorrhage
Postpartum hemorrhage, or postpartum bleeding, is a loss of more than 500 ml of blood, most often within the first 24 hours of the delivery of the baby. Between 1 and 5 percent of women have postpartum bleeding and it is more likely to happen with a cesarean (C-section) delivery. And of course, one of the risk factors for postpartum bleeding is carrying twins or triples.
Parents need to know that this can be very dangerous, and they should be concerned. Rapid and excessive blood loss can actually lead to shock and death, if not treated. Did you know that postpartum bleeding is the leading cause of death during pregnancy?
6 Twins More Prone To: Eating Disorders
A recent study showed that twins and multiples have 33% higher chance of being diagnosed with anorexia than the rest of the population. And if one twin has an eating disorder, there's a chance that the other one will have it as well.
“If one [identical] twin has an eating disorder, the other twin is more than two times likely to have an eating disorder as well,” said Nicole Siegfried, national director of eating disorder program development for Castlewood at The Highlands Treatment Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
This actually makes sense because, as we know, eating disorders have both biological and genetic predisposition, and therefore it shouldn't come to a surprise that twins who share genes have are more likely to both have it.
5 Mothers More Prone To: Postpartum Depression
Did you know that about 15% of women experience postpartum depression? And did you know that between 1% and 26% of new dads are also affected by this disorder? Yup, this mood disorder, which is associated with childbirth, affects men and women. Some of the signs and symptoms include anxiety, low energy, problems with sleeping, and crying.
But if you're expecting multiples, then your chances of having postpartum depression is even higher, which actually makes sense. Why? Well, because caring for two or more babies is harder. Also, Mothers of multiples are also more likely to get less sleep than mothers of singletons. Apart from that, multiple pregnancies are more likely to have complications and the birth might be more difficult.
4 Twins More Prone To: Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Infant respiratory distress syndrome is a condition that affects infants born prematurely. It is caused by developmental insufficiency of a slippery substance in the lungs called surfactant. The condition is uncommon in babies born after the 39th week (full-term).
Infant respiratory distress syndrome happens more often in male babies, Caucasian babies, infants of diabetic moms, and the second born of pre-term twins. Other risk factors include: pre-term cesarean delivery or induction of labor, problems with the delivery that reduce blood flow to the baby, rapid labor, and of course, multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.)
3 Mothers More Prone To: Breathlessness
Breathlessness, or dyspnea, is a very common side effect during pregnancy - it affects up to 75% of pregnant women. But, you shouldn't worry too much about it because, even though it doesn't feel comfortable, breathlessness in pregnancy is pretty harmless.
This type of breathlessness happens due to the natural changes that female body goes through during pregnancy. Another factor that affects this condition is progesterone, a hormone that increases during pregnancy and causes women to breathe faster. If breathlessness occurs at the end of your third trimester, then it's the size of the growing baby that makes you breathless (the uterus starts to push up into the diaphragm, which then puts pressure on the lungs). Understandably, multiples means bigger cargo.
2 Twins More Prone To: Early Menopause
A study of twins born in Britain and Australia shows that female twins have four times higher risk of premature infertility and going through early menopause. Researchers became interested in the link between twins and early menopause when a 14-year-old girl, a twin from St. Louis, went through menopause when she was 14 years old.
"We found there was a high incidence of premature ovarian failure amongst twins, about a three to fourfold increase in risk above the normal rate," said Roger Gosden, one of the researchers, who also happens to be a professor of reproductive medicine at Cornell University, New York.
1 Mothers More Prone To: Placental Abruption
Placental abruption is the early separation of the placenta from the uterus. It usually occurs around the 25th week of pregnancy. The signs and symptoms of this condition can be vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, and rapid contractions. Even though only 1% of pregnant women experience this and treatment is successful most of the time, women pregnant with twins should be more careful because they are three times more likely to experience this.
The causes of this condition are not completely known, but some risk factors are cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, abnormalities in the uterus, being older than 35, or experiencing trauma to the abdomen area.
Sources: cerebralpalsyguidance.com, americanpregnancy.org, marchofdimes.org, nhs.uk, babycenter.co.uk, americanpregnancy.org, stanfordchildrens.org, cdc.gov, americanpregnancy.org, theguardian.com, babycenter.ca, americanpregnancy.org, medlineplus.gov, nhs.co.uk, news.ufl.edu, foxnews.com, babycenter.com, stanfordchildrens.org, stanfordchildrens.org, medicalexpress.com