Multiple Pregnancies (twins, triplets)

A multiple pregnancy is any pregnancy in which there is more than one baby (twins or more). Multiple pregnancies are much more common today, accounting for about 3 percent of all births in the United States. Since 1980, the rate of twin births has increased by more than 75 percent, and triplets and other higher-order births have increased at even greater rates.

Causes of Multiples

The increase in multiples is mostly due to the availability of fertility treatments, which induce ovulation, often releasing several eggs at a time. Having a family history of multiples also increases a woman’s chance of conceiving more than one child.

Risks Associated with Multiples

A woman expecting twins or more has an increased risk of complications such as:

Identical twins are at risk of twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a disorder in which the placenta is shared unequally between the two babies, resulting in an uneven distribution of blood.

Caring for a Multiple Pregnancy

Because there is a greater chance of developing health problems, a woman carrying multiples will need more prenatal doctor's visits and ultrasounds. Frequent checkups will allow close monitoring of mother and babies and the detection and treatment of any complications that may arise.

If there are no complications, a woman pregnant with twins can still give birth vaginally if the first baby is head-down. If a problem arises after the birth of the first, a cesarean section may be required for the second.

For women carrying three or more babies, a cesarean delivery is generally recommended.