Multiple pregnancy survival guide

Multiple pregnancy survival guide

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Multiples pose significant challenges to mothers carrying them; here’s how to cope.

Multiples pose significant challenges to mothers carrying them; here's how to cope.

The incidence of twins or triplets has increased largely today because fertility drugs are often used to prod the ovaries back into action after contraceptives have kept them inactive for many years. It's quite common for more than one egg to be released at a time and since they're all likely to be fertilized at conception, twins or more have to learn to share a womb!

What's different about a multiple pregnancy?

A multiple pregnancy is classified high-risk because everything about it is exaggerated- size, weight, amniotic fluid, tiredness and moving body parts! This puts a whole lot more strain on the mother.

Preclampsia

Women expecting twins are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. After 35 weeks there is a strong risk of eclampsia when work overload affects the efficiency of major organs. All systems slow down, resulting in fluid retention and edema (swelling). In severe cases it may be necessary to deliver the babies earlier than expected.

Pressure

Pressure, pressure everywhere! The overstretched womb pushes against the stomach, diaphragm and lungs, intestines, bladder and bowel! Each protests in its own way resulting in exaggerated breathlessness, heartburn, constipation, an irritable bladder and hemorrhoids!

Prematurity

This is a biggie for multiple births. Every week beyond 28 weeks is a bonus. Women experiencing strong Braxton-Hicks (or "practice contractions") are advised to rest, rest, rest and rest some more!

Birth - What to expect?

Vaginal birth for a multiple pregnancy is rare because doctors (and midwives) want to avoid all possible complications. Vaginal birth will be considered if you've had a problem- free pregnancy, a no-hassles labor and delivery before, and the leading baby is head down, chin well tucked in.

Vaginal birth depends on the mother's state of health and the gestational age of the babies at the time of labor. Twins or triplets need to negotiate delivery positions - it could lead to problems if they're all vying for first place. Delayed (or slow) labor can stress the babies unnecessarily. For these reasons, prepare yourself physically and emotionally for a caesarean.

An epidural (or spinal) is tricky with an oversized uterus because it's really difficult for the mother to sit and bend over. More often, this is given with the woman lying on her side.

Reality Bites!

For couples expecting more than one baby, think beyond the romantic notion of having an entourage of cute little babies all in a row. The truth is that they're hard work! You will get a lot of attention, but this can be annoying when you're in a hurry! Your babies will be individuals with a name - not simply the twins or triplets. As they grow up, they may not have the same appetite, likes and dislikes, sleeping patterns, physical, emotional or mental needs. They may not necessarily sleep through; take to solids, teethe or potty train at the same age. But there are hidden bonuses. Couples have to work together; they always each have a baby (or two) to cuddle, and parenting is a shared responsibility. Children also learn to share, parents learn to be fair and you have an instant family!

Where to get help

Don't be shy to ask for help. Gently hint to family and friends that you need time out and voluntary baby-sitting services! Time alone as a couple or an adult is essential.

Tips

Rest - without a doubt, rest helps to prolong the pregnancy! Do this several times during the day for about half an hour each time. Lying on your left side helps to increase blood flow to the womb, maximizing oxygen and nutrition to your babies. This also helps the kidneys to remove excess water from the body.

Limit your salt intake to minimize edema.

Increase your water intake to eight glasses daily. Together with resting, it helps to flush waste products from the body.

Improve nutrition with high-quality calories. This means eating a balanced diet from all the food groups.

Be aware of contractions, learn to monitor them and listen to your body!

Be prepared for anything and everything.

If you get the opportunity to visit a neo-natal unit to see what the machines, equipment and monitors look like, do so. We never think it will happen to us - but it can and it can be quite emotional when babies are born so tiny and helpless.

Refrain from doing a major shopping spree until the babies are home and healthy and you know what you need.

Buy enough good quality bottles to make feeds for 24 hours

Learn to step back and say it doesn't matter. You can't do everything

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