You’re pregnant! And you just found out it’s twins! Are you prepared for TWO babies? Have no fear!
Fraternal Versus Identical Twins…
Identical twins occur when a single egg is fertilized and then splits into two fetuses thus creating identical babies of the same sex with the same physical features and genes. Identical twins may or may not share a placenta. Personality, size and other such characteristics may vary as they do not depend on genetic factors. There is no scientific reason as to what causes identical twins nor are they hereditary. They usually occur 1 in every 350-400 births. Non-identical twins are common in certain ethnic groups, highest among Nigerians and lowest among Japanese. They also are more likely to occur with older women as they are more likely to release more than one egg when ovulating .
Fraternal or non-identical twins occur two independent eggs are fertilized by separate sperm. In this case, each twin has their own amniotic sac and placenta. Fraternal twins are more common and can either be two girls, two boys, or a boy and a girl.
Triplets, and other multiples births, can be fraternal, identical, or a combination of the two.
If order to determine if your twins are in fact identical you would need a DNA test, which can only be conducted after the birth of the twins. You can also get an idea from the placenta. This can be done after the birth through an examination of the placenta or before 14 weeks at your first ultrasound. However, this is not as accurate as an actual DNA test.
Signs You Might Be Carrying Twins
- Increased hCG Levels: hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is found in blood or urine about ten days after conception. Women with twins will have a higher hCG level.
- Measuring Large for gestational age: Twin Pregnancy will cause the mother’s uterus to expand beyond the normal range of that of a single pregnancy. But this is not always a guaranteed sign as a second pregnancy will normally show earlier than a first.
- Excessive Fatigue: This is one of the most common symptoms of twin pregnancies in early stages as your body is working overtime to care for two babies. You may experience excessive lethargy, fatigue and overall exhaustion.
- Early Fetal Movement: While it is rare for a mother to experience fetal movement in the first trimester, it may be more common within a twin pregnancy. Although, there are disputes on this matter amongst the professionals, many women carrying twins have reported early fetal movement.
- Excessive Morning Sickness: About 50% of women experience morning sickness during pregnancy, but there is no conclusive study determining whether this is higher in women who are carrying twins. It is a myth that you will experience double the nausea with twin pregnancies.
- Abnormal AFP Results: Alpha Fetoprotein screening, a blood test performed on women during their second trimester, is used to determin certain birth defects. A high AFP level can also indicate the possibility of twins. Your OBGYN will want to follow-up with an ultrasound.
- Weight Gain: Obviously, there will be additional weight gain if you are carrying twins. In addition to supporting the weight of two babies, your body is also supporting extra tissues, fluids and blood volume to sustain the lives of both twins.
- Intuition: A mother usually knows if she is carrying twins. If you have that “gut feeling” you might want to discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible to determine if your intuition is correct.
- Doppler Heartbeat: With the aid of a doppler system and it’s ability to amplify the sound of the fetal heartbeat, a doctor should be able to easily determine if there is more than one heartbeat. This too can be misleading, so once again, you might want to schedule an ultrasound.
Complications Of Twin Pregnancy
These are not to scare you, but to give you an idea of things that could possibly occur during pregnancy if you are carrying twins. Carrying one baby puts added stress on your body, so imagine what carrying two babies will do! It is important that you schedule frequent prenatal visits and strictly adhere to what your doctor advises you to do in all cases. In fact, you might want to schedule a follow-up appointment every other week during the second half of your pregnancy, and have ultrasounds more frequently as your due date draws near.
Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is characterized by swelling in the feet, legs and hands; high blood pressure; and protein in the urine. Symptoms also include severe headaches and vision problems such as blurred vision or flashes of light; vomiting; severe upper abdominal pain; and excessive weight gain due to fluid retention. There is no known cause for preeclampsia, but it is more frequent in twin pregnancies. Closely monitor your blood pressure and seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Preterm Labor: This is quite common in twin pregnancy as about 60% of twin births occur prematurely at 32-35 weeks. If you are experiencing contractions half an hour to an hour apart or your water breaks prematurely, you must get to a hospital immediately.
Gestational Diabetes: This is higher in twin pregnancy so it is imperative that you closely monitor your glucose levels. If your levels are too high, your doctor may prescribe insulin shots or pills. It is important to control gestational diabetes as it may lead to complications during and after pregnancy. There is also a chance you might develop Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
PUPPP: Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is a red, itchy rash that occurs during your third trimester. It is mostly likely caused by increased hormonal levels and can be treated with oral steroids, topical ointments or antihistamines as prescribed by your doctor.
Cesarean Section: While vaginal delivery is not entirely out of the question, C-sections are more common with twin pregnancy as there is a greater chance of a breech birth. Your doctor will discuss the risks and determine.