A multiple pregnancy is when you're pregnant with two or more babies. This can mean twins, triplets, quadruplets or more.
Almost 2% of births in Ireland are twins. A woman is more likely to have twins if there are twins in her extended family. More people having fertility treatments means that multiple pregnancies are becoming more common.
In most cases, a dating scan at 11 to 13 weeks should tell if you are having a multiple pregnancy.
Types of multiple pregnancy
Identical twins happen when one fertilised egg splits in two. Each baby has the exact same DNA, so they will look very alike and be the same gender. Around one third of all twin births in Ireland are identical.
Around two thirds of twin births are non-identical. Two sperm fertilise two eggs at the same time. Babies may be different genders and will look more like siblings than twins.
Triplets can be identical or non-identical. Sometimes two babies may be identical with one non-identical baby. Sometimes all three babies may be identical.
How multiple pregnancy differs from a single pregnancy
Most women with multiple pregnancies have a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies. Your bump will be bigger than women who have single pregnancies.
Complications can be more common with multiple pregnancies. It may be safer to have your babies in hospital. You should opt for consultant-led care. Your medical team may tell you to have your babies in a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit. This is because you may go into premature labour.
Complications and multiple pregnancy
Pre-eclampsia and anaemia are more common.
Your babies may be born premature.
During labour and birth there will be more healthcare professionals than usual present.
Breastfeeding and multiple pregnancy
It is possible to breastfeed twins and even triplets. Your midwife will help guide you.
Planning for a multiple pregnancy
Remember your babies may come early. This might change your plans with work and leave. You should consider leaving work earlier than planned.
When your babies are born, you will be very busy caring for them. Take any help and support offered and try to establish feeding and sleeping routines early on. This will help you deal with the extra tasks a multiple birth brings.