When I was growing up, twins were relatively rare. There were only a few sets of them in my high school of around 1600 kids. The rate of twins has increased 76 percent in the last 30 years. In addition to my twin boys, there are two other sets of twins on my short street of about 12 houses, a few more in my medium-sized neighborhood and several in my children’s elementary school. And though there are no clear cut signs until you get an ultrasound, we know of a few signs you might be having twins.
As most people know, the increase in the number of multiple births, especially twins, is largely due to the increase in fertility treatments, but there are other factors, such as advanced maternal age and simple luck, as always. USAToday cites CDC statistics, reporting that “46% of IVF babies are multiples — mostly twins — and 37% are born premature. By comparison, only 3% of babies born without fertility help are twins and about 12% are preterm.” A friend of mine had two sets of twins with no fertility intervention and she was in her twenties when she had them. We joke that she should have bought a lottery ticket.
Do you suspect you might be carrying twins (or more)? Although nothing less than an ultrasound and a doctor can tell you for sure, there are some indicators. Of course, if you’ve had fertility treatments of any kind (ranging from injections to in vitro fertilization), your doctor should have alerted you to the possibility of a multiple birth. However, unlike Octomom’s unethical doctor, most fertility specialists do all they can to minimize the chances of multiples because they do carry some increased risk.
Increased hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin)
hCG is the pregnancy hormone that your body produces in increasing levels when you are pregnant. With twins, your levels can be even higher and that can cause more nausea and morning sickness (although not everyone experiences this). I was nauseous throughout my daughter’s pregnancy, and with my boys, the nausea came more quickly (by 6 weeks) and was worse. Other symptoms can be elevated when having twins as well.
More weight gain
Although having twins isn’t a license to gain lots of weight, your doctor can tell you a safe weight range for twins, which can be upwards of 35 pounds or more. That might sound appalling, but your body does need to nourish more than one baby, so early in pregnancy you might notice that you are gaining more weight than you might have before, or expected to, if this is your first pregnancy. You might also be measuring larger than expected for the number of weeks pregnant you are. A healthy diet is always advisable, but be prepared that you will mostly likely be bigger than you would be with a single birth. It can be discouraging and cause other symptoms like back pain. Later in pregnancy, carrying two fetuses can be very uncomfortable.
Pregnancy is often exhausting, but carrying twins is very tiring. If you are, by your own measure, exceptionally tired, it might be worth finding out if you are having twins as a cause. If you are having twins, you should look ahead and consider how this increased fatigue could affect you later in pregnancy. You might need to change your work situation and number of commitments during your pregnancy. It might be a good time to minimize your volunteering efforts and extra projects at work, if possible. If you already have children, depending on their age, you might consider some extra help.
These symptoms can be present in any pregnancy, and as we discussed, the possibility of twins is remote, but if you believe you might be having multiples, it’s best to find out early and plan accordingly. Your doctor can discuss any potential risks with you.
Many people think having twins would be really fun, and if you are on fertility treatments, a two-for-one bargain. As the mother of twins, I can tell you that they are, indeed, fun, but also a lot of work (especially as infants). Anyone with children very close in age will attest to how stressful it can be, but having your kids be best friends from the cradle is pretty amazing, too. Having twins was a surprise, but I couldn’t imagine life without both of them.