Since the 1970s, the number of twin pregnancies has been on the rise. Expecting triplets or quadruplets, however, remains less frequent. A multiple pregnancy is an event that requires much moreanticipation and preparation than a single gestation. Are you carrying several babies and would like to know what to expect ? Take a closer look at multiple pregnancy.
What is a multiple pregnancy?
The most common type of multiple birth is that of twins. Every year, more than 3.2 million twins are born worldwide. These babies are :
- Identical twins " resulting from a single ovum fertilized by a single spermatozoid;
- Or " fraternal twins " conceived from two separate eggs and two separate sperm cells (that don't look alike).
Pregnancy of triplets
Triplet pregnancies are rarer. A woman pregnant with three babies will give birth to :
- True triplets " that develop from a single egg and a single sperm each;
- False triplets " resulting from three eggs fertilized by three spermatozoa;
- Or two twins and a different baby (in this case, two sperm cells fused with two eggs, then one of the two embryos formed split in two).
Pregnancy of quadruplets or more
Multi-fetal pregnancies with quadruplets, quintuplets or more are much less frequent. In France, they concern around ten births a year. A woman expecting four children will thus give birth to "true quadruplets", "false quadruplets" or two pairs of "identical twins".
What are the chances of having a multiple pregnancy?
High-order multiple pregnancies (more than two embryos) are quite exceptional. Spontaneous triplet and quadruplet pregnancies account for less than 10% of this type of gestation.
Most are the result of ovarian stimulation or in vitro fertilization (IVF ), involving the transfer of several embryos into the woman's luterus. Future parents undergoing MAP (Medically Assisted Reproduction) have a 2.5% probability of having triplets or quadruplets.
The chances of a natural multi-fetal pregnancy also increase with age l. Women aged 35 to 39 are more likely to have a multiple pregnancy, as their ovaries tend to release several eggs at the same time.
What are the symptoms of multiple pregnancy?
Certain pregnancy symptoms are sometimes exacerbated in multiple pregnancies. A woman pregnant with several children, whose body works much harder, may suffer from :
- Violent nausea due to increased beta-hCG (gonadotropic chorionic hormone) levels;
- A much much greater weight gain than with a single gestation;
- Intense fatigue (exhaustion, drowsiness, etc.).
Is a multiple pregnancy risky?
While a multiple pregnancy is similar to a single pregnancy, it entails greater health risks for both mother and children.
Mothers-to-be are more likely to suffer:
- Iron anemia (since maternal blood volume is greater than during a simple gestation, the body will use more iron to produce red blood cells);
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia (high blood pressure associated with high protein levels in the urine) due to increased heart rate;
- From glycosuria in urinea sign of gestational diabetes.
Various complications can also affect future babies:
- Triplets and quadruplets are at greater risk of developing birth defects and intrauterine growth retardation.
- They are usually born prematurely, due to a more rapid increase in the volume of the mother's uterus.
- If children share the same amniotic sac, their umbilical cords can s'tangle and cause an interruption in blood circulation.
- Some "true" triplets and quadruplets can develop transfusion-transfusion syndrome, or TTS (one fetus receives more blood than the others, putting them all at risk).
What is the medical follow-up for a multiple pregnancy?
A high-order multiple pregnancy requires closer medical monitoring than a single pregnancy. If you're expecting triplets or quadruplets, you need to consult a specialized ob-gyn.
He or she will suggest more frequent medical appointments and examinations. Regular medical check-ups will help reduce the risk of premature birth andavoid many complications. Monthly or fortnightly ultrasound scans are also essential to ensuresthat your babies are developing well throughout the pregnancy.
How do you deliver several babies?
Thedelivery of multiple babies generally takes place in a level 3 maternity hospital. This type of facility specializes in the care of multiple and pathological pregnancies. It also has a neonatal intensive care unit that can take care of newborns if necessary.
Pregnant women with triplets or quadruplets give birth by Caesarean section. If the pregnancy is going well, and the water doesn't break prematurely, the medical profession schedules the operation for around 36 weeks' amenorrhea.
During a multiple pregnancy, themother-to-be's uterus becomes very relaxed and contracts less easily. The placenta may also be poorly positioned. The risk of haemorrhage during delivery also remains higher. A Caesarean section therefore enables the medical team to get the babies out quickly and better monitor the pregnant woman's condition.
Our tips for preparing for the arrival of triplets or quadruplets l!
Thearrival of triplets or quadruplets is an important event that will turn your daily life upside down. To be well prepared, we recommend that you not only rest during your pregnancy, but alsoplan for the post-delivery period.
Taking care of yourself during pregnancy
In the case of a high-ranking multiple pregnancy, the mother-to-be needs to take care of herself and get plenty of rest. Pregnant women with several children are more prone to fatigue, shortness of breath and heavy weight. They therefore benefit from a longer maternity leave of 24 weeks before the expected date of delivery.
However, they don't have to stay in a reclining position! If their pregnancy presents no complications, they can carry on with their daily activities while listening to their body at l.
Preparing for the post-partum period
To make the most of the post-delivery period with triplets or quadruplets, we advise you to plan ahead. You can start preparing the bedroom and purchasing essential childcare equipment and clothing as soon as you start your maternity leave. The arrival of several babies in a family requires a substantial budget. To keep costs down, consider buying second-hand, renting or having items lent to you.
Finally, don't hesitate to ask family and friends for help. They can bring you cooked meals, do some housework or take care of bottles and diaper changes. The CAF also offers means-tested financial assistance for multiple births. If you are eligible, you will receive this automatically after the birth.
Multiple pregnancy FAQs
What is the world record for multiple pregnancies?
In 2021, a South African woman named Gosiame Thamara Sithole gave birth to 10 children! She gave birth at 7 months, 5 by vaginal delivery and a further 5 by Caesarean section. She now holds the record for the world's largest multiple pregnancy.
At what age are multiple pregnancies most likely?
From the age of 35, the probability of having a natural multiple pregnancy increases. Between the ages of 35 and 39, it's l13/1000, a risk multiplied by 2.2 compared to a 20-year-old. Older women are more likely to have double or triple ovulations.