Download a PDF of this fact sheet here
Women who take fertility medicines to get pregnant
have a higher chance of having more than one fetus
in a pregnancy. Fetus is the term for developing
humans from 11 weeks of pregnancy until birth.
A multiple pregnancy or multiple gestation may
have 2 fetuses (twin pregnancy), 3 fetuses
(triplet pregnancy), or other (high-order multiple
pregnancy). Each added fetus raises the chances
of having a risky pregnancy and can be dangerous
for both the mom and babies. Early (preterm) birth
is one of the most common problems.
What are some problems with having a multiple pregnancy?
The more fetuses there are in the womb, the more
likely it is that the pregnancy will end in miscarriage,
premature delivery, or stillbirth. Sometimes one or
more of the fetuses will no longer be seen with
ultrasound, called vanishing twin syndrome. In
fact, 1 out of 3 pregnancies with more than one
fetus will naturally reduce its number very early in
Problems for the babies
Many problems are linked to the babies being born
early (prematurity). Premature babies can have
problems with their lungs, stomach, and bowels,
and even die. Some require long stays in the
neonatal intensive care unit. Prematurity can also
cause problems with bleeding in the brain, which
can lead to problems with the baby’s nervous
system and development. Prematurity can cause
problems with movement and mental retardation,
inlcuding cerebral palsy. Some problems may not
be noticed until the children are older.
Problems for the mother
The risk of pregnancy complications goes up
with each fetus in the womb. Some women can
develop high blood pressure in pregnancy, called
preeclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy. This can
be dangerous and it can cause preterm birth,
seizures, and, in extreme cases, death of the
mother. Gestational diabetes (problems with
high blood sugar) is more likely with a multiple
pregnancy. In the early stages of a multiple
pregnancy can also have more nausea, vomiting,
and constipation than a woman carrying one
baby. Problems with bleeding before and after the
delivery are also more common.
What can I do if I have a multiple pregnancy?
If you are carrying more than one fetus, talk with
your doctor and partner about your options. Multiple
pregnancy often means specialized obstetric care,
especially for triplet and other high-order multiples.
Many complications cannot be prevented, but
getting good care is important to reduce your risks.
Some women may choose to have a procedure
called multifetal pregnancy reduction. This can be
used to reduce the number of fetuses to a smaller
number to increase the chances of having just
one or two healthy child(ren). Women with serious
health problems may consider this necessary to
make the pregnancy less risky.
What do I need to worry about with a multiple pregnancy?-pdf