Multiple pregnancies are more likely in women who are between ages 35 and 40, are African-American, have had many pregnancies, have a history of twins elsewhere in the family, and/or have taken drugs to improve the chances of getting pregnant. HOW ARE MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES DETECTED?
Multiple pregnancies are detected if the fetus grows at a very fast rate and/or if multiple heartbeats are heard by the doctor. In women who have had more than one pregnancy, multiple pregnancies can be detected by her if there is more movement of the fetus than in prior pregnancies.
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Sometimes, however, multiple pregnancies are not discovered until an ultrasound is performed. An ultrasound is a procedure that uses types of sound waves to produce images of the body.
ARE THERE RISKS WITH MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES?
Yes. Women with multiple pregnancies are more likely to develop complications. One such complication is preeclampsia. Preeclampia is a severe condition that occurs in the 2nd half of pregnancy, which is characterized by a sudden onset of high blood pressure with edema (a type of swelling), and/or abnormal amounts of protein in the urine. High blood pressure by itself (without preeclampisa) is also a complication of pregnancy. Another complication is a high level of amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is a clear, watery, slightly yellowish fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus in the uterus. IS ANY SPECIAL CARE REQUIRED WITH MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES?
Yes. Doctors will perform frequent ultrasounds to monitor the positions of the babies and to monitor their growth. If one or more fetus is not growing at the normal rate, a nonstress test may be ordered. A nonstress test involves attaching a special belt around the motherís belly with attached devices that monitor her contractions and the heart rate of the fetus. The heart rate is recorded for about 20 to 30 minutes, during which time the mother states if she feels any movements of the fetus.
It is not uncommon for doctors to order the mother to spend most of her time resting in bed. Such a recommendation is likely if complications arise. When severe complications arise, the doctor may need to induce labor. This decision, however, will depend on what stage of pregnancy the mother is in. In some cases a caesaerian section (c-section) may be needed. A c-section is when the belly and uterus are cut open so that the baby can be delivered through the belly. ARE DELIVERIES OF MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES OFTEN PREMATURE?
Yes. Multiple pregnancies usually come to delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy, and this is technically considered premature. However, the baby has an excellent chance to develop normally, provided the birth is not very premature. The reason why premature births are common in multiple pregnancies is because the multiple fetuses grow too large for the uterus. This leads to contractions and full labor.