What Are Multiple Pregnancies?

May 12, 2022
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The process by which a woman conceives multiple babies simultaneously is known as multiple pregnancies. In terms of biology, a fusion of multiple eggs with a sperm cell leading to the development of multiple embryos is known as multiple pregnancies.

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What are the different types of multiple pregnancies?

Multiple pregnancies can result in the formation of:

  • Identical children (occurs due to the division of a fertilized egg into multiple embryos) look alike and are of the same sex
  • Fraternal twins (occurs when two eggs are fertilised by two different sperm cells) do not look alike and does not necessarily have the bee of the same sex.
  • Triplets & higher order multiples, for example, quadruplets, quintuplets or sextuplets. These can result in both identical, fraternal or a combination of both.

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What kind of biological phenomenon usually results in multiple pregnancies?

Implantation of multiple embryos in the uterus of a mother due to the release of multiple eggs during the menstrual cycle which ends up getting fertilized by a sperm, split into two parts giving rise to identical embryos. These constitute the causes of multiple pregnancies.

How can you know that you are carrying multiple children?

The only ways to identify if you are carrying multiple children are:

  • Ultrasound Examination:

Ultrasound is the most appealing way to confirm if a mother is carrying multiple babies.

  • Doppler Heartbeat Count:

A hand-held ultrasound transducer used to detect the fetal heartbeat for prenatal care. Although, the results obtained might be because a single heartbeat can be detected in several areas of the mother's abdomen.

  • High Levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG):

Sometimes, an elevated level of the hCG hormone can tell us that the mother is carrying multiples.

  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) screening:

An Alpha-fetoprotein produced in the liver of a developing fetus, performed during the second trimester. This helps in screening for certain birth defects also measure the amount of a certain protein that is secreted by the fetal liver. Elevated levels of the protein indicate a high probability of multiple pregnancies.

  • The patient seems older as per her Gestational Age:

Gestational age is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual cycle to the current date is compared with her fundal height (the distance between the top of the pubic bone to the top of the uterus) during pregnancy, which helps in indicating the gestational age. Both uterine stretching and fundal height help in determining the probability of carrying multiple babies.

  • Increase in average pregnancy weight:

Women carrying multiples reportedly gained 10 more pounds than those carrying a single baby.

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  • Morning Sickness:

Sometimes, pregnant women carrying multiple children have to experience morning sickness whereas those carrying a single child don't.

  • Early Fetal Movement:

Many mothers bearing multiple children are said to experience early or frequent fetal movements. However, this can be attributed to their physiological conditions as well.

  • Chronic Fatigue:

Many mothers reported feeling fatigued this could be attributed to the fact that her body is attempting to provide nutrients to more than one baby.

  • Genetic or Hereditary causes:

Many mothers get to know about bearing more than one child even before diagnosis for the same this is due to the hereditary history of her family. Researchers need to look more into the matter to find the underlying causes.

What are the side-effects of bearing multiple children?

The side effects of bearing multiple children include

  • Postpartum depression (like  insomnia, loss of appetite, intense irritability and difficulty bonding with the baby)
  • Preterm Delivery
  • Reduction in weight of individual child during birth
  • Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
  • Preeclampsia
  • Elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy
  • Heavy bleeding due to placental abruption
  • Fetal Loss
  • The necessity for C-section delivery

The National Health Service UK stated that a 10% decrease in multiple births can save £15 million for their health services. It was reported that multiple births occur in 1%-2% of natural pregnancies and 11% of assisted conceptions.

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