Multiple pregnancy is a pregnancy with two or more foetuses. Names for these include the following: twins – 2 foetuses, triplets – 3 foetuses, quadruplets – 4 foetuses, quintuplets – 5 foetuses and so on.
There are many factors related to having a multiple pregnancy. A family history of multiple pregnancy increases the chances of having twins. Women over 30 have a greater chance of multiple conception. Having one or more previous pregnancies, especially a multiple pregnancy, increases the chances of having multiples.
Other factors that have greatly increased the multiple birth rate in recent years include reproductive technologies. Medications stimulating ovulation help produce many eggs, which, if fertilized, can result in multiple babies. In vitro fertilization and other techniques help couples conceive. These technologies often use ovulation stimulating medications to produce multiple eggs which are then fertilized and returned to the uterus to develop.
Multiple pregnancies usually occur when more than one egg is fertilized and implants in the uterus. This is called fraternal twinning and can produce boys, girls, or a combination of both. Fraternal multiples are simply siblings conceived at the same time. However, just as siblings often look alike, fraternal multiples may look very similar. Fraternal twins each have a separate placenta and amniotic sac.
Sometimes, one egg is fertilized and then divides into two or more embryos. This is called identical twinning and produces all boys, or all girls. Despite the fact that such multiples are genetically the same, the twins have different personalities and are distinct individuals. Identical multiples may have individual placentas and amniotic sacs, but most share a placenta with separate sacs. Rarely, identical twins share one placenta and a single amniotic sac.
The following are the most common symptoms of multiple pregnancy. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms of multiple pregnancy may include: uterus is larger than expected for the dates in pregnancy; increased morning sickness; increased appetite; excessive weight gain, especially in early pregnancy; foetal movements felt in different parts of abdomen at the same time.
Many women suspect they are pregnant with more than one baby, especially if they have been pregnant before. Diagnosis of multiple foetuses may be made early in pregnancy, especially if reproductive technologies have been used. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosis may be made by pregnancy blood testing, ultrasound, etc.
Specific management for multiple pregnancy will be determined by the physician based on the pregnant woman’s general health and medical history; the number of foetuses; the tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies; expectations for the course of the pregnancy and others.