Multiple Births



patient education || readability || multiple births || Legg-Calvé || diabetes || women's health


What is a multiple birth?
A multiple birth occurs when you give birth to more than one baby. Thus, twins, triplets, quads, and quints are all multiple birth babies.

What happens to make multiple births possible?
There are only two ways multiple births occur. Either more than one egg was fertilized by more than one sperm or one egg was fertilized but divides into two (or more) fetuses during the 1st week of fertilization.

Why do some twins or triplets (or more) look a like and others don't?
Fraternal or dizygotic multiples are created from more than one egg and more than one sperm. This means their genes are only as alike as any other siblings. Identical or monozygotic multiples share the exact same genetic make-up since they come from only one egg and sperm. This means they will look exactly alike.

What are my chances of having more than one baby at a time?
The occurrence of identical twins is pretty much the same throughout the world and hasn't changed much over time. Your chances of having identical twins is between 1 in 250 to 1 in 300. The chance of having fraternal twins is greater, at about 1 in 50. From there, the odds go up fast. Your chance of having triplets is about 1 in 7000. Chances of quadruplets are about 1 in 700,000 and chances for quintuplets are 1 in 65 million or more.

Is it true that the number of multiple births is increasing?
Yes. Over the last ten years, the number of twins has increased by 33%. The occurrence of triplets has increased by 178%! Much of this is caused by the increased use of fertility drugs and in-vitro fertilization

Parenting Your Multiples
  • Try to rest when your babies rest.
  • Treat each as an individual.
  • Keep a chart so you know who was fed and changed when.
  • Use different colored clothing to help tell them apart.
  • Take a picture of each baby individually.
  • Try to spend time with each baby alone to get to know his or her personality.
  • If you need to hire a sitter or au pair, try to find one with experience with multiples. Or, start her while you're still at home so she can learn the routine.
  • Talk to your babies. It helps with language development.

How will I know if I'm carry more than one baby?
If your doctor thinks your uterus is larger than average during a time in your pregnancy, she will probably order an ultrasound to see if you're carrying multiples. More than 3/4 of all multiples are diagnosed by the 2nd trimester.

Do I need to do anything special if I'm carrying more than one baby?
You may. Because there is a greater risk of premature birth if you carry multiples, your doctor may want to see you more often. You may also need to eat a bit more than if you were just carrying one baby. Ask your doctor if you have questions about what you need to do.

How should I prepare for my multiples?
Rest. Pregnancy is a tiring process. Get as much rest as you can to help you feel better. Ask for volunteers to help after the birth, too. Friends, neighbors, and nearby relatives will be excited about being part of such a joyous occasion. And, before your babies are born, decide where and how they will sleep, whether you'll breast-feed or bottle-feed, and what kind of stroller makes the most sense.

Will my babies be premature?
A little less than half of all multiple babies are born prematurely. The average length of pregnancy for single babies is about 282 days, so yours might come before then. Make sure you have a medical team of people you trust so that the care you and babies receive will reduce problems that might occur.

Once my babies are born, what do I do?
Rejoice! And rest. And watch the wonders as they grow.


Fertility drugs
Drugs used to help improve a woman's chances of getting pregnant. 

In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
If a woman cannot get pregnant, a lab procedure called IVF can take her eggs and a man's sperm and unite them in a special dish. The result is an embryo that can then be transferred to the woman's uterus.

An ultrasound is like an X-ray because it gives a picture, but there's no radiation. A bit of jelly-like stuff is put on your abdomen and then a microphone is rubbed over it. The sound waves it creates, makes a picture of what's inside your uterus. Ultrasounds can diagnose multiple fetuses as early as 6 or 7 weeks into your pregnancy.