You've probably heard the term "high risk" associated with multiple pregnancy. It sounds threatening and scary, but don't let that dissuade you from educating yourself about the possible risks associated with having twins, triplets or more. Understanding the potential risks and complications, as well as the symptoms and treatment options, will make you better prepared to cope with the situation in the event you encounter problems in your pregnancy.
Some of the potential risks pose problems for the babies, while others impact the mother's health. Let's look at some of the risks for multiple babies:
Preterm Labor and Premature Birth
Perhaps the biggest risk associated with multiple birth is preterm labor, and consequently, premature birth. Mothers of multiples are twice as likely to experience preterm labor than their singleton peers. Preterm labor, the early onset of labor, can often be managed or even alleviated if the situation is addressed in a timely manner by medical professionals. Recognizing the signs of preterm labor is imperative.
Because of the increased potential for preterm labor and other complications, many twins and triplets, and nearly all quadruplets and higher order multiples are born prematurely. Prematurity impacts babies in a wide variety of ways, but fortunately, medical technology has advanced to a point where even the tiniest of babies can overcome the disadvantages of an early start in life.
Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)
Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a condition unique to monozygotic multiples that share a placenta. Blood vessels within the placenta become crossed, resulting in an unequal flow of blood betwen the babies. One baby essentially becomes a donor to the other, recipent baby. It's dangerous for both babies, but does not impact the mother's health. Recent technological advances give doctors the ability to correct the situation with a special surgical procedure using lasers. For more information on treating TTTS, visit the TTTS Foundation website.
Monoamnionic Monochorionic (Mo-Mo) Twins
Only a small percentage of twins are affected by this condition. It occurs when monozygotic twins are enclosed within a single amniotic sac. As the pregnancy progresss, their umbilical cords become entangled and compressed, cutting off the flow of nutrients and oxygen to their developing bodies.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the situation except to deliver the babies. Generally, mothers of Mo-Mo twins require careful monitoring and possibly hospitalization.
Other conditions associated with multiple pregnancy impact the mother's health. Read Page Two to find out more about those risks.