The chances of a pregnant woman having twins or a multiple birth have never been higher. According to the NationalCenter for Health Statistics, about one in every 35 babies born is a multiple (twin, triplet, or more). The incidence of twin has risen 52 percent since 1980 and the number of triplets has risen by more than 400 percent, largely due to the fact that more women are having children later in life and/or taking fertility drugs.
With these statistics in mind, it's important for women having twins or multiple births to know what to expect. "It's not your average pregnancy," explains Nancy Bowers, an Atlanta mother of two twins and president of Marvelous Multiples, an educational program and Web site for expectant parents of twins and other multiple births.
Carrying twins is a "high-risk" pregnancy, which means there's a higher likelihood of premature labor, high blood pressure, and c-section delivery. In addition, many expectant mothers need hospitalization before their due date. "Women need to understand what 'high risk' means," Bowers says. "This doesn't mean it's a doomed pregnancy, but it does mean this pregnancy is different." Working mothers should discuss the nature of their pregnancy with employers. Ask if you can work from home, reduce your traveling, and reduce your time standing on the job, she says. In addition to educating your employers, expectant mothers may need to educate their partners. "Women do go through a significant change in their body," says Joe Capezio, a Chicago-based obstetrician/gynecologist who has delivered hundreds of sets of twins. "It's important for the man (or partner) to understand what women go through."
Bowers recommends the couple attend initial doctor appointments together. Both people need to hear that by 24 weeks the expectant mother may need two naps daily, that she may gain 40 to 50 pounds, and that she may need to stay off her feet or be hospitalized during the final weeks of her pregnancy. "They (partners) will have to assume many different roles (such as cook and nurse) that they may not be used to," she says.
Joining a twins club, expectant parent group, or prenatal education class could also provide important information and support. Following delivery, couples should enlist assistance, be it paid help, family, or friends, because for the first two to four weeks, according to Bowers, the mother has three priorities3/4feeding herself and her babies and sleeping. "She should do nothing else in the house," she adds. The couple, however, can share in celebrating. "It's pretty incredible," Capezio says of delivering twins. "It's such a miracle when the babies are born, much more so than a singleton."