Some people dream about raising twins, triplets, or more from childhood. They think about how cute it would be to dress their babies in matching or coordinating outfits, how fun the birthday parties will be, and about names that fit together in a perfect way. Others hope to keep their families small, and are shocked to learn that they’re carrying more than one baby.
With the increase in people having children later in life, and the use of IVF, the number of people giving birth to multiple children has also grown. Between the year 1980 and 2009, the birth rate for twins grew by around 76 percent (it’s remained pretty stable at that rate since 2009). In 2013, twins made up about three out of every 100 births within the United States.
There was a spike in the birth of triplets and quadruplets between 1980 and 1998 when the instances of these births quadrupled, but then the numbers dipped by one third in the years since. The odds of someone having identical twins (when one egg splits creating two genetically “identical” babies) has remained consistent throughout time at around three to five in 1000 births and is exceptionally consistent all over the world.
For some people when it comes to having multiples, the odds are ever in their favor. In the early days of pregnancy there are a number of signs that might indicate there’s more than one baby on the way. Sometimes all flags are pointing towards a world of bunk beds and double, or even triple, strollers. These are the things that moms who suspect they are having multiples may notice.
15 The Pregnancy Tests Positive Really Early
Most pregnancy tests are less accurate if they're taken really close to the first day of a missed period. This isn’t always the case, particularly for moms expecting more than one child.
Those who get a positive pregnancy reading really early (within a day or two, or even a few days before a missed period) or get a reading with a really dark or distinctive positive sign (as opposed to the faint line many women get when testing really early) may find out later they're having multiples.
When I was expecting twins, my pregnancy tests revealed stronger than usual lines (and I took more than one) even though I was testing three full days prior to my regularly scheduled period because of a hunch that I was expecting. One test revealed that I was one to two weeks along, my husband still jokes that the test really meant there were one to two babies on the way.
14 Extreme Intolerance To Foods And Smells
Many expectant women experience intolerances to certain foods, smells, textures, and even the appearance of certain foods during early pregnancy. Common foods to hit the no fly list for many moms to be include meat, seafood, coffee, or tea.
Other smells, even ones that someone might normally enjoy, like cologne or perfume can be too much to handle. Hopefully mom’s significant other doesn’t take it too personally. These sudden intolerances or aversions again are often increased in frequency and intensity for moms of multiples, sometimes long before they know they’re carrying more than one baby.
I didn’t even suspect I was expecting until I couldn’t physically stomach the idea of eating some sushi I’d just purchased for lunch. After I threw it out, untouched, something was triggered inside me and I went and bought a pregnancy test, and found out I was with child. It was two and a half months later before I learned that I was expecting twins.
13 Crying And Mood Swing Central
It infuriates me how emotional and unhinged expectant women are portrayed in movies and on TV. Unfortunately, sometimes the hormones do take over and a mom-to-be may find herself a hostage to her emotions, even when they don’t make sense to her.
Moms of multiples can look forward to an increase in weeping, sobbing, and freaking out about things that normally wouldn’t even make them blink. This is a common side effect of pregnancy for all women, but there are a number of things that should be kept in mind: if the crying is interfering with daily life on a regular basis, not just a one off bad day, there might be something more serious at play here.
Around 10 to 15 percent of women experience some form of depression during their pregnancy even though most people focus on awareness surrounding postpartum depression. Depression during pregnancy is called antepartum or prenatal depression and shouldn’t be ignored. Keep an open line of dialogue with your family, support network, and healthcare practitioner if you suspect depression is an issue.
12 Mom Gains Weight Earlier Than Usual
When mom is carrying more than one baby, this usually means that she’ll also be carrying more weight compared to her singleton peers. By the second trimester a twin mom can expect to have gained around five additional pounds more than most singleton moms have put on.
This is because of increased blood volume, a faster growing uterus, and the physical weight of two fetuses compared with the usual one. Women who are carrying twins, or triplets are eating for three or four, and it’s estimated that mom will need to consume about 300 additional calories each day for each child she is carrying to help babies gain as much weight as possible.
This is particularly important since additional food for babies means added nutrition and growth. Remember many multiple mamas do not end up carrying their baby to full term so get those nutrients in early!
11 The Chest Becomes Incredibly Tender
Breast tenderness is a normal symptom associated both with premenstrual syndrome and the early stages of pregnancy, but some women may find that this feeling is much more intense when they are carrying more than one child.
Some find even a simple graze of the arm or wearing a bra too much to handle when they are expecting, particularly with multiples, and cope by opting for a bandeau or shelf bra instead of their regular underwire bras until the tenderness subsides.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy will cause an increase in blood flow to the breasts which leads to this soreness, feelings of swelling, tingling, and make them extremely sensitive to the touch. The extra boost of hormones coursing through the system of a multiple mommy may cause a dramatic spike in the presence of this type of tenderness.
10 Extreme Nausea
Pregnancy and nausea is normal. It’s called morning sickness, but for most women who have been expecting, the truth is that in the first trimester it doesn’t just happen in the morning, it’s constant. Up to around 90 percent of expectant women experience some amount of nausea during the first trimester, and as many as one third of women will vomit from this feeling during their pregnancy.
Since so many symptoms experienced in pregnancy occur because of the hormonal changes, it makes logical sense that when someone expecting is having more than one child, these symptoms are more likely, and at a more extreme level.
During my twin pregnancy, fresh air along with just about everything else triggered my morning sickness - that winter I felt like I’d thrown up in every snowbank and garbage can imaginable. Expectant women expecting twins may also have a higher risk for hyperemesis gravidarum (morning sickness that is so prevalent and intense that they may need medical assistance including receiving intravenous fluids).
9 Mom Was More Likely To Have Multiples
There are so many things that can increase a woman’s chances of conceiving twins. Women over 30 years of age, or those who are peri-menopausal are more likely to conceive multiples. Tall? Women who are taller than most have increased odds of twins compared to their shorter peers.
Women with higher Body Mass Indexes (BMIs), specifically those who have a BMI that is greater than 25 will conceive multiples more often than those who score lower on the index. Women who have already given birth to other children, particularly other multiples are more likely to do so again.
People with specific family histories, like those whose mothers, aunts, grandmothers, have had multiples are more likely to conceive them thanks to their biology. Women who are of African American decent are more likely to conceive twins. People who have a number of these items checked off have a further increased odd of conceiving multiples.
8 A Bigger Baby Bump Sooner
When an expecting mother first shows that she is with child, it's dependent upon a number of factors, including her frame (slender women often begin to show earlier compared to an expecting mom with a bit more meat on her bones), and whether or not it's her first, second, or even third pregnancy.
Carrying more than one child is another factor that might lead to someone looking a whole lot further along than a mom carrying one child would at any given time throughout pregnancy. For moms who notice that they're looking a lot bigger than their expecting peers, it could be due to expecting a greater number of children.
If suddenly, and very early in a pregnancy, clothes no longer fit, this may be a sign that there is something different about this pregnancy. Mothers of multiples will also often measure bigger for the gestational age of their fetus, and sometimes this is a flag towards multiples.
7 Elevated Levels Of The hCG Hormone
Sometimes our blood work can tell more about what’s going on with our bodies than we can guess. An elevated level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is sometimes present when someone is carrying twins. HCG, also known as the pregnancy hormone, is what doctor’s look for in blood and urine test results in order to determine whether or not someone is expecting.
If these numbers are particularly high in an early blood test this could point to more than one baby. But take note although multiple pregnancies often have increased hCG titers, so do some singleton pregnancies, which means a high hCG could mean multiples, or it could be completely unrelated.
Usually the hCG levels will double every 72 hours in the early stages of pregnancy, reaching their peak level somewhere between week eight and 11. After week 11 they decline and will level-off for the rest of pregnancy.
6 Complete And Total Exhaustion
Making a baby is hard work on the body. Making more than one baby at the same time is beyond exhausting. The idea of multiple babies may sound exhausting, but truthfully multiple toddlers, and the actual gestation of multiple babies can be what takes the most toll on a new mom. Multiple baby pregnancy exhaustion is often constant and doesn’t seem to lift.
If naps, more hours logged sleeping every night aren’t helping mom cope, her body may be preparing to house multiple children. Expecting moms can try some of the following caffeine free tips to get through some of the more tiresome stages of pregnancy including: drinking more water, decreasing consumption of sugar, regular exercise to increase endorphins, eating more food that is high in protein, fiber, and iron.
Never underestimate the power of a short power or “disco nap.” Sometimes just 15 minutes can be the difference between functional and fast not.
5 Mom Received IVF Or Fertility Treatment
Those receiving IVF treatment may have more than one embryo transferred during their IVF cycle, which can sometimes lead to the miracle of one, two, or even more babies. Remember Octomom? People receiving IVF treatment can also become expectant with identical twins (two babies from one egg), in addition to fraternal multiples.
On average when one embryo is transferred 98.1 percent of births are singletons, and 1.9 percent are twins. When two embryos are transferred 33.9 percent of all births that result are twins, and .8 percent are higher order multiples such as triplets, or quadruplets.
When three embryos are transferred around 25 percent of births are twins, and somewhere between 2.5- four percent are higher order multiples. The bottom line here is this: more embryos, the greater the chances are of having multiple babies.
4 More Frequent Urination
When mom to be finds herself heading to the bathroom much more often, particularly between weeks six to eight, she might think it’s because she has more than one baby pressing against her bladder. Early in pregnancy it isn’t a baby (or babies) that causes this need to pee, it’s the pregnancy hormone and can increase with high levels of the hormone, as is seen in twins and multiples.
Remember to keep hydrated. Expecting moms can minimize midnight trips to the loo by drinking most of their fluids during the day and cutting back in the evening. If frequency of urination is still an issue consider reducing consumption of caffeinated drinks including coffee, tea, and soda.
Contact a healthcare professional if it burns or hurts during urination, there is blood in the urine, you have a fever, or you have the urge to go again right away after emptying your bladder.
3 The Doppler System Reveals Multiple Heart Beats
A fetal doppler ultrasound is a frequently used test to reflect sound waves and can amplify fetal heart sounds as early as the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. An experienced doctor, nurse, or midwife is usually able to determine whether or not they hear more than one heartbeat when using the Doppler system.
There are other things that could interfere with this sound and provide a misleading result. Sometimes what may seem to be a second (or third) heartbeat is simply a background noise, or even the mother’s own heartbeat in some circumstances. Sometimes multiple babies have a similar heart rate, or are positioned in such a way that it is difficult to tell.
Often the Doppler will be used to monitor heartbeats of multiple babies after an ultrasound has confirmed their presence.
2 Sometimes, Mom “Just Knows”
Call it mother’s intuition, call it what you will, but many parents of multiples will confirm that they weren’t all that surprised when they found out they were carrying more than one baby cause they already knew it somehow. When I went for my first ultrasound I actually asked the technician if there was just one baby there, and to this day I still don’t know what prompted me to ask the question.
She turned the monitor away and made her supervisor break the news to us. Some people just have a hunch that something is different about their pregnancy, and sometimes they’re completely correct! Some mom’s report having had a dream or a vision, sometimes even before they learn that they are expecting that reveals they are having multiples.
Sometimes a variety of systems associated with multiples, combined with a hunch from mom and her doctor will prompt an earlier appointment for an ultrasound to confirm one way or another.
1 The Ultrasound Confirms It
While most ultrasounds don’t happen until a number of weeks into the second trimester, some people manage to schedule them earlier, particularly if they suspect multiple babies. Ultrasounds can determine the presence of multiples at as early as six to eight weeks into pregnancy and are the only sure way to verify exactly who, and how many babies are occupying the womb.
In addition to confirming the number of heirs to the family fortune ultrasounds will also check baby’s heartbeat, detect an ectopic pregnancy, accurately date the pregnancy, assess the risk for particular genetic abnormalities, examine the development of baby’s organs and baby’s growth, assess the amount of amniotic fluid and determine the location of the placenta(s).
No matter how prepared parents may feel to take on a new family the news of multiples can be overwhelming and emotional, particularly for those stressing about logistics and costs. Take a deep breath. You can do it, no matter how many babies the ultrasound says are present.