Does your bump look bigger than most other mothers’? Well, it could be the most rudimentary sign of your twin pregnancy! This may be hearsay, but how exactly would you know if you are carrying twins?
An ultrasound is an ideal way to confirm the number of babies. But, you could also look out for signs and symptoms, which would give you a hint before the ultrasound.
MomJunction brings you a list of symptoms and signs of twin pregnancy, and ways to take care of your little munchkins in the womb! So read on!
Before we move on to knowing the signs and symptoms , let us find out how twin pregnancies occur.
What Factors Increase The Chances Of Twin Pregnancy?
Genetics happens to be one important factor for twin pregnancy. A few others are:
Fertility treatment methods. In Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) (1) such as IVF, ZIFT, GIFT, multiple embryos are transferred into the uterus that may lead to twins (2).
- After 30 years of age, a woman’s body produces more FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which leads to the release of more than one egg from the ovary. This increases the odds of twin pregnancy (3).
- If you are over the average height with a BMI of 30 or higher, the chances of getting pregnant with twins increase.
- If you are already a mom to twins then there are chances of success again.
- A study by Dr. Gary Steinman, Long Island Jewish Medical Cent, New York, has revealed that non-vegan moms have higher chances of getting pregnant than vegan moms (4). “The continuing increase in the twinning rate into the 1990s may also be a consequence of the introduction of growth-hormone treatment of cows to enhance their milk and beef production,” says Dr. Steinman.
Interestingly, Nigerian women have more chances of twin pregnancies as they eat a lot of pro-ovulation foods such as sweet potato and yam (5).
Even if you do not belong to any of the above categories, you might still have a chance to carry twins. So, how would you know if you are pregnant with twins?
Fetal movement is early and more frequent in twin pregnancies.
Early Signs Of Twin Pregnancy
These early pregnancy signs hint you about your twins.
- Higher hCG levels result in extreme morning sickness during the first two weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, you might experience extreme morning sickness, which is also termed as hyperemesis gravidarum (6). And, extreme nausea may set in even before missing periods.
- Twin pregnancy translates into fatigue, exhaustion, sleepiness, and lethargy, two to three weeks into pregnancy. As you have to nurture two babies, you need good sleep and sufficient food for your body to work properly.
- When you are carrying two babies, you develop an increased appetite as your body demands more food for the growing babies.
- Twin pregnant belly is obvious as the bump is bigger than normal. Your uterus might expand more than that of the single fetus mothers as it has to accommodate two babies.
- Mood swings become common due to the higher intensity of hormones generated by the body to meet the developmental requirements of your babies. This is easily noticeable from six weeks into pregnancy.
- Pregnancy is detected by the increased level of hCG in the blood or urine. If the level is higher than the normal range, then it is an indication of twin pregnancy. Taking a pregnancy test immediately after missing periods shows a faint line confirming pregnancy. But if you are carrying twins, you will get a dark line.
Besides these, there are more signs and symptoms, which differentiate a twin pregnancy for a normal pregnancy.
More Signs And Symptoms Of Twin Pregnancy
Depending on the early signs, you could decide whether or not you are pregnant with twins. But there are more signs which would help you reach a conclusion better.
- When carrying twins, you may gain weight faster than when carrying a single baby.
- Your doctor regularly checks the fundal height, which is taken from the top of the pubic bone to the top of the uterus. This indicates the development age of the fetus. The fundal height is the measure of the weeks you have progressed in pregnancy (7). If the measure is more than one centimeter a week, then it may be a sign of twin pregnancy.
- Fetal movement is early and more frequent in the case of a twin pregnancy.
- Towards the end of the first trimester, the doctors may carry out a test called Doppler heartbeat count to detect the fetal heartbeat. If you are carrying twins, you can hear two hearts beat. However, the Doppler result is less accurate than ultrasound as the multiple heartbeats can be mistaken for a background noise or the mother’s heartbeat (8).
- In twin pregnancy, shortness of breath is an early sign because of the thrust against the diaphragm put by two babies. You must consult your doctor if you feel uncomfortable.
- Cramps are an early sign of twin pregnancy as the uterus enlarges more than normal. As long as there is no bleeding during twin pregnancy cramps, you don’t have to worry, as it is an indication of implantation.
- Preterm labor is common during twin pregnancies and requires immediate medical attention.
- Frequent back pains are a result of excess weight gain, uterus enlargement, and excess hormonal activity. Standing straight and holding your chest high can help you relax. Make sure to wear flats and avoid locking your knees while sitting. Wearing a maternity belt can also help.
- Frequent urination is common during pregnancy. But in case of twin pregnancy the increases because of the pressure exerted by the growing uterus, which is bigger in size, on the bladder. However, do not cut down on the fluid intake because it is necessary to keep your body hydrated.
- Your heart beats faster and the heart rate increases. This is because your bloodstream needs more oxygen for carrying out the extra work of nurturing your twins.
- Your body retains more water in twin pregnancies. To avoid edema, make sure that you drink a lot of water to expel the excess liquid wastes from the body. Watermelons, apples, citrus fruits, peas, and celery act as natural diuretics. Additionally, quit smoking and ensure moderate use of salt in your diet.
- An Alpha-fetoprotein test (APF) is carried out during the second trimester to measure the amount of protein secreted by the fetus’ liver. An abnormal level of APF may indicate twin pregnancy as the amount doubles up (9).
Apart from these, there are a few more signs and symptoms of twin pregnancy that are very similar to regular pregnancy.
- You would be averse to the smell of food that can make you feel nauseated.
- Twin pregnancy requires more blood flow for healthy development of babies. The increased blood flow puts pressure on the veins leading to varicose veins generally on the legs. Furthermore, a significant thrust by the baby in the uterus causes compression of pelvic parts leading to the enlargement of veins near the vagina.
- Digestion issues such as bloating, constipation, and heart burns are an early sign. Avoid spicy and oily foods, keep yourself hydrated, and take small but frequent meals to feel better.
- Insomnia or lack of sleep is something that you may experience due to back pain, cramps, indigestion, nausea, and fatigue. The best way to sleep while pregnant with twins is on your sides with a pillow between your legs and under your tummy.
- During the fourth and fifth week of twin pregnancy, you may have sore, tender, and painful breasts. This is due to the hormonal changes, and by the sixth week, the aureoles and the nipples become darker and painfully sensitive. Wearing maternity bras can help reduce the pain.
- Twin pregnancy is likely to increases the chances of post-partum depression (10) as it takes the mother more time to adjust to the post-birth schedule. Unlike in a regular pregnancy, the mothers in twin pregnancies get doubly exhausted, and have to feed more. Meditation and relaxation techniques along with the right diet can help you out of depression. You could also talk to the moms of twins and learn from their experiences.
A bigger tummy is a prominent sign of twin pregnancy. But does that mean that you should gain more weight than in a normal pregnancy?
How much weight should I gain when I am pregnant with twins?
Here is the table indicating the required weight gain during pregnancy as per the BMI of the expecting mother (12).
|Pre-pregnancy weight||Body mass index (BMI)||Recommended weight gain (in pounds)|
|Underweight||Less than 18.5||28–40|
|Obese||30 and greater||11–20|
How Can Twin Pregnancy Affect The Babies’ Health
Twin pregnancies can affect babies to an extent. A few health issues include:
- Premature birth: The babies born could be before 37 weeks (13) and need close monitoring. This can lead to various health problems in the child. They could develop intestinal problems, and breathing issues. Moreover, long-term problems may include developmental delay, which leads to inability of the child to achieve his/her developmental milestones and underperformance in school.
- Growth problems in the fetus: Twin pregnancy may be associated with growth problems such as one baby being smaller than the other. If this is the case, the twins are called discordant twins. The growth rate of the fetus could also slow down towards 30 to 32 weeks as there is more demand for nutrients from the babies and it becomes impossible for the placenta to handle the growth. This is called IUGR or Intrauterine Growth Restriction, which results in low birth weights.
- Complications of low birth weight: Babies born with lower birth weight (less than five pounds, eight ounces) are more likely to have health issues such as retinopathy of prematurity and high blood pressure. Babies weighing less than 2500gm (14) are at a risk of developing long-term health problems such as vision and hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation.
- Birth defects: Twin pregnancy can cause birth defects in babies impacting their overall body. It may lead to alterations in the bodily functions or may change the shape of the body parts. Multiple babies are more likely to face birth defects compared to single babies.
- Twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is a condition in which one placenta is shared between two babies through the formation of an abnormal blood vessel. During this, one baby gets sufficient blood flow depriving the other and putting that baby’s life at risk. However, a laser surgery can treat this condition by sealing the abnormal blood vessels that connect the two babies. Amniocentesis is another prenatal test to treat TTTS, where the extra amniotic fluid is drained off from the uterus.
- Neonatal death in twin pregnancy is associated with premature births with babies dying within the first 28 days of their birth (15).
The pregnancy itself could get complicated, and you must be prepared to deal with it head on!
Twin Pregnancy And Its Complications
Just like in a normal pregnancy, complications cannot be ruled out in a twin pregnancy. Below, we have mentioned a few potential complications of twin pregnancy.
- You may have an early labor pain, resulting from uterine contractions that cause the cervix to open early.
- Preeclampsia in twin pregnancy is two to three times higher than in single pregnancies (16). Usually, women are bound to have higher blood pressure during twin pregnancy due to extra pressure on the blood walls for more blood. Preeclampsia occurs during the 20th week of pregnancy and proper prenatal care can reduce the severity.
- Iron helps bind oxygen to the blood. The shortage of iron and a high demand for blood and oxygen in the body result in anemia. The doctor usually prescribes iron supplements in such cases.
- A condition called polyhydramnios arises due to excess amniotic fluid present in the uterus, leading to belly pain and breathing trouble (17).
- Gestational diabetes is a result of an increased size of two placenta, higher hormonal levels of both the placenta, and increased resistance to insulin by the placenta. If left untreated, it can lead to severe problems in the mother and babies. Change in diet plans and close monitoring of insulin levels can prevent this.
- Intrauterine fetal loss is a rare situation, where one of the two fetuses dies inside the uterus. The doctor takes a call on whether or not to surgically birth the demised fetus.
- In the case of obstetric cholestasis, irregular bile flow causes excess bile salts build up in the bloodstream. Proper medication and regular monitoring will help treat this condition effectively. Cutting down on fatty foods and alcohol prevents this situation.
There could be other complications that are similar to those in a single pregnancy. The doctor should be able to help you with these.
How Will The Doctor Help?
Frequent check-ups are the first thing a doctor advises to avoid any complications in a twin pregnancy. During all your prenatal visits, the doctor will suggest appointments and additional scans. In addition, your blood pressure and urine will be checked to avoid any possibility of preeclampsia. Moreover, a blood test during the 24th and 28th week will help ascertain your hemoglobin levels.
How To Deal With Twin Pregnancy Stress?
When you are pregnant with twins, you will undergo physical and mental stress. Here are some simple tips to cope with the situation. Ask for help from your family and friends as you need a lot of support during this period.
- Talk with other moms who have twins. Try to understand their experiences and how they dealt with any problems that came along. This may help you take the right steps.
- During twin pregnancy, you will feel extremely exhausted. Therefore, get sufficient sleep.
- In the case of depression, talk to your doctor. He can suggest ways to overcome it. You could also seek your family’s help.
- If you are a working woman, make sure to take maternity leave as soon as possible. Towards the delivery, you may experience discomforts, and rest is of utmost priority at this stage.
- Eat well and do gentle exercises such as walking as it will help you overcome stress.
- During twin pregnancy, you can expect an early delivery. Therefore, plan for it in advance and get everything in place and organized at home.
Carrying two lives inside you is nothing less than a magical experience. Holding your babies after all the battles makes the pain wane. But during your journey of pregnancy, make sure you take care of yourself, and get the health check-ups done regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Is bleeding during the first weeks of twin pregnancy normal?
You may observe brown spotting or light to heavy bleeding during your twin pregnancy. While this is common and could be due to the low lying placenta, do check with your doctor. The bleeding, however, disappears after some period.
2. Can I get a false negative pregnancy test with twins?
Doing the pregnancy test too early, even before implantation, may give you a negative result. This is mostly because the home pregnancy test is unable to detect the low hCG level in the urine. You can wait for a few days and do the test again.
3. I got a positive pregnancy test five days before a missed period. Am I expecting twins?
While carrying twins, it is possible to have higher hCG level than the normal range. So, there are chances to get a positive result when you take the pregnancy test a few days before your missed period. However, check if the line is faint or dark and also, get an ultrasound if the line is dark. This would give you a definitive result.
4. I am pregnant with twins. What foods should I eat during this period?
Your diet must be rich in protein, calcium, folic acid, and iron. Make sure to take multi vitamins prescribed by your doctor, every day. Eat healthily and avoid junk foods. Take supplements such as folic acid, iron, vitamins, etc., as prescribed by the doctor.
5. What kind of activities must I get involved in during twin pregnancy?
You should avoid activities such as jogging or aerobics, as they are physically straining. However, activities such as swimming, yoga, and walking can be good for you.