Multiple births are everywhere these days – if you haven’t spotted them rolling in double- or triple-wide strollers in the park, you’ve probably seen the famed Octomom or the Gosselins on TV and magazine covers. Though twins, triplets or even more births were once a rarity (and a shocker in the delivery room), medical advances such as fertility drugs, ultrasound technology and fetal heart monitoring have made it no surprise that multiples are, well, not as surprising.
If your doctor has pointed out two or more tiny heartbeats in the ultrasound, there are a few things you can expect to experience throughout your pregnancy that differ slightly from moms who just need to prepare for one new addition. Most symptoms for moms of multiples are the same, just heightened, and can include severe nausea, extreme fatigue and fast weight gain, among others.
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A rapid and early weight gain during the first trimester often indicates a multiple pregnancy. This isn’t just a result of eating more, or even the baby’s weight itself, but also the additional tissue, fluid and blood being produced by your body to support the extra fetus. How much more you will gain varies on your age, weight and height, but generally pregnant women log 10 extra pounds on the scale for each extra baby.
Measuring large for gestational age
Fetal development is measured through a pregnant women’s fundal height, or the distance between the top of her pubic bone to the top of the uterus, to gauge gestational age. If you’re measuring larger than the typical projections for development, it may be because you’ve got a little extra something going on in there. This isn’t definite, though, as other possible causes for a large fundal height could be a miscalculated due date, extra amniotic fluid, or the presence of uterine fibroids.
Severe morning sickness
This one’s tricky – about half of all pregnant women report experiencing some form of nausea or vomiting during their pregnancies. Some mothers of multiples report more severe symptoms of morning sickness, while others do not. It seems that it’s hard to say if more than one developing baby will double the trips to the toilet – some women experience this, while others share a similar experience to a woman carrying only one child.
High AFP test results
An AFP, or alphafetoprotein, screening is performed during the second trimester. This test measures blood for the amount of a certain protein that is secreted by the fetal liver. A high test reading can be additional evidence that you’ve got more than one bun in the oven.
While all women experience overwhelming fatigue in their first trimester of pregnancy, women carrying twins report a tiredness that never lifts and can’t be ignored. Lots of bed rest is recommended, especially early on in the pregnancy as well as a week or two before delivery.
Early fetal movements
Pregnant women carrying one child report feeling their baby’s first movements between 18 and 24 weeks, or about the middle of the second trimester. If it’s earlier than that and you’re feeling those first flutterings, its probably not just butterflies – women who are pregnant with multiples often report feeling a few kicks earlier than normal. This is perhaps due to the fact that there’s less room for the babies to move around, so contact with the outside world comes earlier than with a single fetus.
Some families have an unexplained history of multiples. Even stranger, many women just “know” that they’re eating for more than two long before they confirm it with a doctor. So this isn’t the most scientific sign, but it might be worth listening to your gut in this case.
The only way to be sure if you’re carrying more than one baby is to check it out at the doctor’s. The presence of multiple fetuses can be confirmed by ultrasound imaging – one for the baby album, that’s for sure.