Multiple gestation, or multiple birth, is the term for pregnancy with more than one fetus.
How does multiple gestation happen?
- If more than one egg is released during the menstrual cycle and sperm fertilizes each egg, more than one embryo can implant and grow in the uterus.
- This type of pregnancy results in fraternal twins (or more).
- When a fertilized egg splits, it creates multiple, identical embryos, and the pregnancy results in identical twins (or more).
What are the causes of multiple gestations?
Fertility drugs used to induce ovulation can often cause more than one egg to be released from the ovaries. In vitro fertilization (IVF) can also lead to multiple births if more than one embryo is transferred to the uterus.
Women over the age of 35 are more likely to release two or more eggs during a single menstrual cycle than younger women. As a result, women who are 36 and older are more likely to become pregnant with multiples.
Is the risk of complications higher with multiple births?
Yes, the risk of certain complications is higher if you are pregnant with multiples. Visits with your OB/GYN or health care provider will need to be more frequent. When you start your second trimester, you may need to have ultrasound exams every 2 to 4 weeks. If challenges are suspected, you may need to have special tests and more frequent ultrasound exams.
The most common complication of multiple gestations is preterm birth. More than half of all twins and nearly all triplets are born preterm. If your babies are born preterm, they may have an increased risk of short and long-term health issues.
How can multiple gestation affect my risk of preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a blood pressure disorder that usually starts beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy or after childbirth. This disorder can damage many organs in the body, including the kidneys, liver, eyes, and brain. Preeclampsia occurs more often in multiple births than in single births. It also tends to occur earlier and is more severe for multiple gestations.
How can multiple gestation affect my risk of gestational diabetes?
Women carrying multiples are also at a higher risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of preeclampsia, and your newborns may have breathing problems or low blood sugar levels as a result.
Are tests for genetic disorders as accurate in multiple pregnancies?
Screening tests for genetic disorders and diagnostic tests for congenital disabilities are harder to perform in multiples because each fetus must be tested. There is also a small risk of loss of one or all of the fetuses. The results of these tests may show that one fetus has the disorder, while others do not.
If you need a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, come in for a consult with Dr. Stanley-Christian so that she can help direct your care.