The best way to allay some of these worries is to equip yourself with some facts. Every hospital provides tours of its delivery suites and all three of our local hospitals – King’s, St Thomas’ and Lewisham – offer antenatal classes for parents expecting multiples. Book yourself on these early – it pays to be prepared when twins or triplets are on the way. There will be a chance to look around your hospital’s neonatal unit. With ‘term’ considered to be 37 weeks (instead of 40 for a singleton) the average birth weight of multiples tends to be lower with twins’ at 2.5kg (5lb 5oz) and triplets 1.8kg (4lbs) compared to a singleton average birth weight of 3.5kg (7lb 7oz). The possibility of having early or small babies needs to be considered, although it is by no means a certainty.
As your pregnancy progresses you will discuss the likely mode of delivery. Expectant mothers can find the barrage of medical information directed at them at this stage overwhelming and frightening. Some hospitals prefer women carrying monochorionic twins (babies sharing one placenta) to deliver by caesarean-section and other potential complications may also mean a caesarean-section is recommended.
However all hospitals should be prepared to discuss your preferred birth option and you can then reach a mutual decision on how to proceed. It is a good idea to have an ‘ideal’ birth in mind, but if it does not come to pass it does not mean you have failed, simply that circumstances have moved beyond your control.
The birth stories written by members of the Dulwich and District Twins Club which follow will give you some insight into the huge variety of experiences that you may encounter. Your birth will not replicate any of these, of course, but we hope they illustrate that you may need to expect the unexpected.
A final word on postnatal recovery in hospital. Our local hospitals stress that, where possible, mothers of multiples will be given a single room separate from the postnatal ward. However, these rooms are in short supply, but do ask and continue to press your case.
Looking after two or more babies on the main postnatal ward especially after being immobolised following a caesarean-section birth is difficult. King’s College Hospital tries to enable partners to stay with mums and babies now in both single rooms and on the wards.
All three hospitals also offer specific breastfeeding support from midwives. Multiple mothers can be overlooked in this support and it is important that you ask for help with breastfeeding and for advice on feeding generally. Learning to latch on properly from an early stage is crucial to successfully establishing breastfeeding. There is a lot of expertise in hospitals – if very overstretched – so try to use it.
Pre-eclampsia – caesarian birth
“We were delighted when we found out we were having twins and surprised that they were going to be identical. As the twins were monochorionic diamniotic (MCDM – one placenta but two sacs) I was scanned once a fortnight. We were pleased to see the regular progress of our babies…”
Sonya from Forest Hill, mum of Otis and Silas, 6 months
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“When I went for my routine fortnightly scan at 31 weeks, I expected to be back at my desk by lunchtime. However, the ultrasound showed that the smaller twin was not getting all the nutrients a growing fetus requires…”
Maeve from Peckham, mum of Maia and Iona, 3
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“My waters broke at home at 38 weeks and two days. Initially the contractions were quite mild. At midnight I went to bed still with mild contractions but at about 3.30am I had the urge to have a bath to either make the contractions pick up or stop…”
Fleur from Tulse Hill, mum of Rosie, 2, Vincent and Audrey, 4 weeks
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