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Multiple Gestation Pregnancy

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Multiple gestation is pregnancy with more than one baby at a time. Examples include pregnancy with twins, triplets, and quadruplets. Multiple gestation occurs in approximately three percent of pregnancies. It is a type of high-risk pregnancy. 

Delivering twins, triplets, or more requires extra care. At Dignity Health, our childbirth team wants to ensure you and your family receive the personal care you need.

What Causes Twins, Triplets, and Multiple Births?

Multiple gestation can happen randomly. If a woman ovulates two eggs during a cycle, each egg has the potential to be fertilized by sperm. If two different sperm fertilize two different eggs, the woman will become pregnant with non-identical (fraternal) twins. Sometimes a fertilized egg randomly divides into multiple, genetically identical embryos. If the egg divides into two, identical twins will develop.

A family history of twins, triplets, or more increases a couple’s chances of multiple gestation pregnancy.

Fertility treatments can also increase your chance of multiple gestation. These treatments make it more likely for you to ovulate two or more eggs during a menstrual cycle. Even without fertility treatments, women 35 years and older are more likely to release more than one egg per cycle.

Common Multiple Gestation Pregnancy Symptoms

Most pregnant women learn if they are carrying more than one baby during a routine prenatal ultrasound early in their first trimester.

Symptoms of multiple gestation are often exaggerated signs of pregnancy. For example, a woman who is pregnant with more than one baby may experience extreme nausea and fatigue. Other signs include:

  • faster-than-usual weight gain
  • higher-than-normal levels of pregnancy hormones
  • larger-than-usual belly compared to most women at a similar stage of pregnancy
  • more than one fetal heartbeat

Extra Care During Multiple Gestation Pregnancy

Multiple gestation increases the risk of serious pregnancy complications, including:

  • anemia
  • fetal conditions, including problems with fetal growth
  • gestational diabetes
  • miscarriage and preterm birth
  • preeclampsia

Most women have multiple births via C-section (cesarean section). Afterwards, the babies may need to spend some time in one of our advanced neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), especially if they are preterm. 

Depending on your health and the health of your babies, you may need more frequent visits with your obstetrician. Your doctor may also recommend nutritional counseling during multiple gestation. For your safety and the safety of the babies, you may be admitted to the hospital toward the end of your pregnancy. 

You can trust our team at Dignity Health to take care of every new member of your family, always with personalized treatment.

Learn More

For more information, please view our High-Risk Pregnancy page, or call us to Find a Doctor.