Multiple gestation is pregnancy with more than one baby at a time. Examples include pregnancy with twins, triplets, and quadruplets. Multiple gestation occurs in around three percent of pregnancies. It’s considered a type of high-risk pregnancy.
Having twins, triplets, or more requires extra care. At Dignity Health, your childbirth team wants to ensure you and your family the personal care you need.
What Causes Twins, Triplets, & 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 nonidentical (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.
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 older than 35 are more likely to release more than one egg per cycle.
Common Multiple Gestation Symptoms
Most pregnant women learn that they are carrying more than one baby during a routine prenatal testing 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:
- More than one fetal heartbeat
- Larger-than-usual belly compared to most women at a similar state of pregnancy
- Higher-than-normal levels of pregnancy hormones
- Faster-than-usual weight gain
Extra Care During Multiple Gestation
Multiple gestation increases the risk of serious pregnancy complications, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Miscarriage and preterm birth
- Fetal conditions, including problems with fetal growth
Most women have multiple births via C-section (cesarean section). Afterwards, the babies may need to spend 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 and 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.
Trust your team at Dignity Health to take care of every new member of your family with personalized treatment.