Pregnant with twins: Everything you need to know

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Pregnant with twins
Whether you've got twins in the family already or yours will be the first set, finding out that you're pregnant with two babies rather than one is likely to be a big shock.

How will I cope with twins? What will I need to do? How did this happen? We answer your twins pregnancy questions and look at what you need to do to prepare for your two new arrivals...

Pregnant with twins: Finding out

If you got pregnant through IVF the chances are you'd considered the possibility that you might end up pregnant with twins. But for parents that conceived naturally, it can be a huge surprise.

Once the initial shock has died down, there are likely to be a few questions you'll want to ask and we've got all the answers.

There are no twins in my family or my partner's, how did this happen?

Again, ruling out IVF, a family history is just one of the things that can affect your chances of having twins. Many people think that if there are twins in the man's family, this also makes it more likely, but there's evidence to show that having a history of twins in the family is only relevant when it happens on the mother's side.

For those with no family link, your age and the amount of children you already have can also affect your chances of conceiving two at once. Women in their late 30s and those who have had children before have a higher chance of conceiving twins but if you still don't fit into any of these categories, then you may just be lucky! Twins have been on the rise over the last 20 years and now roughly 1 in every 42 pregnancies results in twins, triplets or quads.

Pregnant with twins: Will they be identical or not?

It can be hard to tell if your twins will be identical or not. If you're carrying boy/girl twins then obviously you'll know they won't be identical. Other than that, finding out has to be done quite early on.

At your first scan it's usually possible to tell if the babies have one placenta or two (but this becomes harder later on). One means they'll definitely be identical, but two can mean either identical or fraternal (non-identical).

Even when your twins are born it can be tricky to know if they're identical but a closer look at the placenta(s) or even a blood test should be able to confirm.

Pregnant with twins: How will my pregnancy be different?

Although a lot of the week by week pregnancy stuff will be the same, if you've had kids before then you're likely to find being pregnant with twins quite different.

By the end of your pregnancy the volume of your womb will have nearly doubled to 17.5 pints compared to 9 pints for a single pregnancy and you may have put on as much as 25kg (56lb), although the recommended weight gain is nearer 18kg (40lbs).

If you've had children before you might've worked right up to your due date with your last baby but with twins you need to be realistic and understand that you'll find it a lot harder to this time. For mums who don't have the luxury of maternity leave, it can be tempting to carry on working for as long as possible but you need to think about whether the extra pounds are really worth you struggling in on public transport every day and putting up with the stress of a full-time job.

We hate to be the bearers of bad news but women pregnant with twins are also more likely to suffer from fatigue, morning sickness, heartburn and indigestion. There's also a slightly higher risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes which is why it's extra important to attend all your antenatal appointments.

One last thing we'd advise is to make sure you're prepared for the birth quite early on. Have your hospital bag packed and make sure you know how you're going to contact anyone you'll want at the birth from around 32 weeks - twins have a habit of coming early.

Pregnant with twins: How will my birth be different?

The main thing about twin pregnancies is that they rarely go full term, with most twins being born at around 37 weeks. Because of this the babies are often smaller and rarely get above 6lbs, making them more vulnerable. This can all sound quite scary but think of their small size as a plus point - they'll be easier to deliver.

A lot of twins can be born naturally providing that both the babies are facing the right way, head down. A common problem with twin births is that after baby number one pops out, baby two flips around on to their side which is referred to as 'breech'. If this does happen, it's sometimes possible to get them to turn round again and continue with a vaginal birth, but sometimes they will have to be born by Caesarean section.

You are likely to also be recommended to have an epidural to make the birth easier, but if you're really keen on having a natural birth then talk to your midwife about other options.

Because of their low birth weight, around 40% of babies will need to be kept in hospital after birth for monitoring, but it's often just precautionary.

Pregnant with twins: What will I need to buy?

You will need to buy more stuff than you would if you were just having one baby but don't think because you're having twins, you'll need two of everything.

Cots: When they're little, it might be easiest to get your twins down to sleep in two moses baskets that you can move around from room to room. If you'd rather get them sleeping in a cot early on, why not invest in a cot bed which is a bit bigger, so it should fit two of them in for quite a while and will save you forking out a big sum all at once.

If you've got the space, you could buy two small cots right from the start.

Clothes: If you're keen to dress your twins in matching outfits then you will need two of everything but otherwise, let them share. If you're expecting boy and girl twins, then try and go for neutral colours so you won't need a separate wardrobe for each of them. Little touches such as pink and blue hats or frilly socks (items that need washing less) can be good ways to distinguish between them and give them gender identities but without the extra cost.

Car seats: Car seats are an expensive buy and it's not something you can really scrimp on, unless you don't have a car. If you're planning a lot of overnight stays with the babies then a travel cot is useful but again, it'll probably be big enough to fit two in for quite a while so one should be enough.

Prams: The basic thing you've got to decide on when choosing a twin buggy is if you want your babies to be side by side or one behind the other and there are benefits to both.

Side-by-side twin pushchairs do tend to be a little bit cheaper and most are suitable from birth, but will also do for carting your twins around as toddlers. Some mums find them awkward because their width can cause problems going in and out of narrow doorways and carrying them up and down stairs. When your babies are a bit larger, they might also squabble more sat next to each other than sat apart where they can't poke and prod each other.

Continued below...

One-behind-the-other buggies eliminate the problem with narrrow doorways but they do tend to cost a bit more. You'll also need to check that both seats are suitable from birth because often the back is designed for an older child, and the front is for a newborn.

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