A twin pregnancy is not like being pregnant with just one (or “singleton,” as we like to say). It takes extra calories, many more visits to the doctor, plus more tests and ultrasounds. In short, it takes more patience and planning. But you can do! Below are 10 things you need to know if you are pregnant with twins. No sugar-coating; just the straight honest-to-goodness truth. But, hey, you are a strong woman because after all, you have super powers. You can create twins!
1.) You’re a high risk patient.
Let’s start out with a bang, shall we? Whether you’re 22 or 42, if you’re pregnant with twins, you’re considered a “high-risk patient.” Why? Statistically, women pregnant with multiples are at a much higher risk for developing complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm labor. Their babies are more prone to problems, too, many stemming from preterm delivery. I’m not telling this to frighten you but rather to empower you! As a twin mom-to-be you need to be extra vigilant in your prenatal care. Keep all your appointments with your doctor and meet with a perinatologist who specializes in multiple pregnancies, slow down and get plenty of rest every day by lying on your left side to increase blood flow to the babies, and make your diet your number one priority.
2.) Your weight gain matters.
The research and data show a direct correlation between early maternal weight gain and strong fetal growth. According to new guidelines, a healthy mom pregnant with twins should gain between 37 – 54 pounds during her pregnancy with the biggest gains occurring during her first trimester. With that in mind, shoot for a minimum of 2,700 calories a day (3,100 claories is optimal) in order to gain 24 pounds by Week 24. This often results in each baby tipping the scales at 5 pounds 8 ounces or higher at birth. Researchers believe that early weight gain aids in the development and function of the placenta.
3.) Protein is key.
Just how the heck are you supposed to gain that weight? Protein. The amino acids found in protein are essential in building cells and vital in the growth and development of fetal heart, brain, tissue, and muscle. In fact, research has shown that when a pregnant woman with a singleton consumes 80 grams of protein a day, her baby would weigh at least 6 pounds at birth. A mom expecting twins should try to get at least 130 grams of protein each day. (Dr. Barbara Luke, an expert on maternal nutrition and author of When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy, 3rd Edition, recommends 176 grams!) Think lean meat, chicken and fish. (Sardines, if you can handle them, are super high in protein.) Peanut butter and other legumes such as lentils and soybeans are very high in protein. Eggs and dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese are other good options, too. Keep a food dairy to track your progress.
4.) Early in your pregnancy, know for sure if your twins are fraternal or identical and whether they share a single placenta.
During your first ultrasound, ask your doctor to carefully examine your twins to determine their zygosity and if they share one placenta. Why does it matter? Twins who are identical and share one placenta are monochorionic and are at risk of developing twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a rare but potentially dangerous condition. The cause of TTTS is due to an abnormal blood vessel connection between the two fetuses. One twin gets too much blood while the other doesn’t get enough. If left untreated, the risk of death for one or both twins is very high. But when TTTS is diagnosed and treated early through the watchful eye of a maternal-fetal specialist, the chances of a positive outcome for both twins is much greater.
5.) Your mother-in-law is your new best friend.
Sure, she may tell you that you’re swaddling the babies all wrong or that you shouldn’t let your pet labradoodle in the nursery, but you need your MIL. As a matter of fact, you need anyone that is willing to come over and do a load of laundry or cook you a meal. Take any and all help. In the weeks leading up to the birth of your babies, think about what you’d like your new crew of volunteers to do for you. Do you want them to take care of your home by doing the dishes and vacuuming thereby giving you time to bond with your babies, or would you prefer them to hold and care for your infants while you rest or shower? And know who would be better at which job as not everyone adores a new baby or is a good cook! Having a clear view of what you want and need before the arrival of your babies will help eliminate any miscommunication and create a more peaceful environment.
6.) Your back will hurt, your feet will swell, it will be difficult to sleep, and people will constantly say, “Due any day?” when you’re only in your fifth month.
That doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? But the good news is that it all ends the day your babies are born (well, not the sleeping part). Don’t be shy about using a wheelchair when you’re out with the family at say, the zoo, or motorized shopping cart when at the store. No one will mind! To prevent mild edema to your feet, try compression stockings. And when someone asks you when you’re due for the tenth time in a day, just smile and say, “Not soon enough.”
7.) Sex during pregnancy won’t trigger preterm labor.
Depending on how you’re feeling physically, this may or may not be good news! According to recent research, sex won’t bring on preterm labor. So enjoy an intimate evening with your man. The trick, of course, is finding a comfortable position!
8.) Breastfeeding your newborns will save you thousands of dollars (and it’s good for the environment, too).
Did you know that the percentage of moms who breastfeed their twins is way, way less than moms of singletons? It shouldn’t come as a surprise since there is a larger learning curve to breastfeeding more than one. Furthermore, new moms to twins often feel overwhelmed after the birth of their babies and bottle feeding allows others to pitch in. But if you do your research now, you’ll reap the benefits later as breastfed babies drink for free (bottle-fed babies eat up about $3,500 a year). If you’re planning on breastfeeding, read up on the subject before the babies arrive (a good book to get is Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More), invest in a breastfeeding pillow such as Twin-Nursing-Pillow, get a few referrals for a licensed lactation consultant, and try to attend a La Leche meeting to connect with other breastfeeding moms.
9.) It will take about a year for your body to fully recover after a twin pregnancy.
Give yourself a break and don’t hop on the scale or stare at your sagging stomach or “twin skin.” You just gave birth to twins, for goodness sake. Cut yourself some slack! Eat sensibly once the twins arrive and the pounds will slowly creep off. Once your doctor gives you the OK to exercise instead of hitting the gym, hit the pavement with a baby stroller with an eye towards a hilly neighborhood. Walking briskly for an hour while pushing that double stroller burns about 220 calories!