Finding out you are carrying more than one baby can be a daunting experience, as well as an exciting one. Most people don’t consider the idea until a scan shows two (or more!) heartbeats. Most dating scans take place between 10 and 14 weeks,though if you suspect a multiple pregnancy - maybe you have severe morning sickness, are developing a baby bump at a rapid rate, or multiple births run in the family - an early scan can normally be conducted by 8 weeks.
Multiple pregnancies can occur in two ways - either one fertilised egg splits into two or more (resulting in identical siblings of the same sex), or separate eggs get fertilised at the same time (which results in non-identical siblings, which can be different or the same sex). It is possible for a pregnancy of three or more babies to combine these so triplets, for example, could be a set of identical twins and one non-identical, or three identical children. The rate of multiple births is higher now than historically, due to the increase in assisted conceptions (IVF or ISCI, for example), which are more likely than average to result in a multiple pregnancy.
Your pregnancy will progress in the same way as a single pregnancy, but you may well experience increased discomfort, as your body has to support two or more babies; you’re going to be carrying around multiple placentas and multiple loads of amniotic fluid as well as the babies themselves after all!
As in a single pregnancy, the last three months of a multiple pregnancy are likely to be especially tiring, so it may be advisable to stop working earlier than you had planned. Most twin pregnancies only continue to around 37 weeks, with greater multiples being delivered even earlier, so it’s important to get everything sorted as early as you possibly can before then. Pack your hospital bag in plenty of time, and make sure you book onto early antenatal classes so you can finish the course before your new babies make an appearance!
Multiple pregnancies can suffer complications more often than single pregnancies, but the main risk of a multiple pregnancy is premature labour, thought to be due to the uterus stretching. A caesarean-section is also more likely in twin births (and almost certain if expecting three or more babies), usually because one or more of the babies is in a poor position for a natural birth, for example being breech (bottom or feet down rather than head).
Multiples are likely to need a little more time in hospital than normal, as they are usually born a little earlier than is ideal, and you may well be advised to stay a little longer than normal too. However, you can rest assured that the majority of multiple births go to plan and you’ll all be home within a few days with double the fun and love!
There are some great websites and support groups for parents of twins and multiples that offer great advice and specialist products in the UK, of which we've listed a few below;