What is the likelihood or having twins or more?
In the UK about one in every 65 pregnancies results in a multiple birth. This equates to approximately 12,000 twin births in the UK each year, with around 200 triplet births and a handful of higher order births. There has been an upward trend in the numbers over the last 20 years. The rise is attributed to the use of fertility treatments as well as the increased survival rates of premature babies and women starting their families later.
You are more likely to have multiples if there is a maternal history of multiple pregnancies, though the influence of the father’s family history is less clear. What’s certain is that if you already have fraternal (non-identical) twins, triplets or more, then you are five times more likely to carry multiples in your next pregnancy.
Finding out you are expecting multiples?
The news that you are expecting multiples can come as a big surprise. While some people are delighted, others may be horrified, or anxious at how they will cope. Don’t panic: not only have other parents been here before you and survived the experience, but they have gone on to thrive with their babies, and so can you.
It may help to ask for a picture of the babies at the first ultrasound. Looking at the picture and showing it to others may help the situation feel more real. Making practical plans can also help. Tamba has information on how to manage your finances, and you can talk to parents of multiples to find out what it’s like.
Identical or non-identical?
Whether your babies are identical or non-identical depends on how they were formed. This can usually be determined by an ultrasound scan before 15 weeks gestation.
Non-identical twins are created when a woman produces two eggs at the same time and both are fertilised, each by a different sperm. The fertilised egg is called a zygote, and these non-identical twins are known as dizygotic or fraternal twins, because they grew from two separate zygotes. The babies are no more alike than any other brothers or sisters, and may be both male, both female, or one of each.
Identical twins occur in about one-third of multiple pregnancies. Known as monozygotic twins, a single egg is fertilised then splits into two (or, very rarely, three or more) creating identical babies with the same genes, physical features and sex. They may or may not share a placenta. Characteristics such as size and personality depend on non-genetic factors, so may be different.
Triplets and higher order multiples are formed this way too, but may be in different combinations. For example, you may have a set of triplets where two are identical and one is not.
Your antenatal care: What to expect?
Routine tests vary from hospital to hospital, so it’s important to seek clarification from your doctor about what your antenatal care will involve. You are likely to have your first antenatal appointment at around 11-14 weeks, involving checking you height, weight, blood pressure, urine sample and blood sample. You will also be offered a routine ultrasound scan and this may be the first time you discover you are expecting multiples!
Multiple pregnancies tend to be medically managed to a greater extent than singleton pregnancies. You will have several more antenatal appointments during the course of your pregnancy, although the number and frequency will vary according to hospital procedure, how many babies you are having and how your pregnancy is progressing. Further information can be found in the clinical guidelines for multiple pregnancies, produced by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)
When can I expect my babies to be born?
The average length of a pregnancy depends on how many babies you are expecting. A single baby usually arrives at around 40 weeks, twins around 37 weeks , triplets 33 weeks and quads around 31 weeks.
With all multiple births there is an increased risk of prematurity. You should be prepared for the possibility that your babies may come early and spend some time in neo natal care.
Bringing your multiples home
It’s an exciting time bringing your multiples home – you have reached another huge milestone. Most parents will admit to feeling a mixture of excitement and possibly fear. You will quickly establish your own way of doing things as you get to know, understand and learn to take care of your babies.
What support is available for Multiples and parents of multiples
The advice about the financial support and benefits that you may be entitled to can, and does change. Everybody’s circumstances are different.
To get the most up to date information it’s best to look at www.dwp.gov.uk.
Even though you are expecting multiples you only get the same allowances as you would if you were having one baby. The only exception to this is the Sure Start maternity grant. You may be eligible if you are in receipt of certain benefits and are on a low income.
The Twins and Multiple Births Association
The Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba) is a registered charity set up by parents of twins, triplets and higher multiples and interested professionals. Our campaigns, research and support services directly help thousands of parents and professionals meet the unique challenges that multiple birth families face.
Listed below are some of the support services that Tamba offer expectant parents and parents of multiples.
Twinline is a national, confidential, listening and emotional support service for all parents of twins, triplets and more, and the professionals involved in their care. It is staffed by trained volunteers who are parents of multiples.
Parents can phone in with any issues that are troubling them this could include sleeping, feeding, crying, behaviour, discipline, school issues or special needs. Often all the caller needs is five minutes breathing space, a chat or a listening ear from someone who can identify with their situation.
Twinline is open everyday from 10am to 1pm and from 7pm to 10pm on
0800 138 0509 (freephone)
Breast feeding Peer Supporters Scheme
Tamba has a team of twelve NCT accredited peer supporters who have all breastfed twins and can offer mother-to-mother information and support to families who wish to breastfeed their twins and triplets. They have all completed the NCT’s accredited peer support training
Tamba also run a series of both antenatal and parenting courses throughout the UK. These courses are specifically tailored for expectant parents and parents of multiples.
Clubs for parents of multiples
Local clubs are groups of volunteers, parents of twins and triplets who get together to provide mutual support and friendship across the UK. Each club is independent and operates under its own rules but all those listed here sign up to Tamba’s suggested Best Practice. Commonly clubs run playgroups, evening events and second hand equipment sales.
Members only message board and social media networks
Sometimes it can be helpful to share your experiences with other parents that are going through the same things as you. Tamba has an active message board ( only available to Tamba members), Tamba also has an active facebook and Twitter site.
If you need any further information, please visit the Tamba website www.tamba.org.uk or call Tamba on 01483 304483