Multiple pregnancy and premature birth
Multiple pregnancy means carrying more than one baby, normally twins.
Multiple pregnancies are getting more common because they are linked to infertility treatments, which are becoming more available. The most common multiple is twins.
Twins can be monozygotic (one fertilised egg splits in two) or dizygotic (two eggs are fertilised). Monozygotic twins will normally be the same sex. Infertility treatments are linked to dizygotic twins.
Most women who are pregnant with twins deliver healthy babies but carrying more than one baby increases the health risks for the mother and baby.
Multiple pregnancy is normally spotted in routine pregnancy scans and most women know by 20 weeks that they are carrying more than one baby.
Carrying more than one baby means you are more likely to have a premature delivery.
The average gestation for multiples is:
- Twins: 37 weeks
- Triplets: 34 weeks
- Quadruplets: 32 weeks
If the baby is not born by then, most twin pregnancies are induced by 38 weeks because the health risks increase after that.
Read more about gestational age of delivery and medical needs.
What are the risks and complications of multiple pregnancy
Most women with twins stay healthy through the pregnancy and deliver healthy babies. However, you will be at higher risk of some of the potential complications that can cause premature birth or lead to induction, including:
What treatment can I expect if I have a multiple pregnancy?
Multiple pregnancies are considered high risk so you will be put into the care of a special team of obstetricians and specialist midwives who will monitor your pregnancy and baby carefully for the problems above.
The delivery, vaginal or caesarean, will depend on the position of your babies. There will be a specialist team present at the birth in case of complications. It will include midwives, obstetricians, anaesthetists and paediatricians.
Reviewed June 2014, next review June 2017
Macdonald S (2012) Mayes Midwifery, Fourteenth Edition, Balliere Tindall Elseviere
Norman J, Greer I (2011) Preterm labour, managing risk in clinical practice, Cambridge University Press
NICE (2011) CG129 Multiple pregnancy: full guideline, National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence
The causes and problems of premature birth
Your premature baby:
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