Although there are one or two early signs that may suggest you’re expecting twins (an unusually large bump early on, extreme fatigue, excessive sickness or early and frequent foetal movement) these could also be common in a single pregnancy so there’s no indisputable proof that there’s more than one baby growing until you go for an ultrasound. You may have suspicions, especially if you’ve been pregnant before and this time things feel very different, or if twins run in your family … or, you may have no clue whatsoever until you’re told “I can hear two heartbeats! You’re expecting twins!”
You’re initial reactions will probably range from shock, through disbelief, to elation, to pride, and back again, over and over again! Your mind will no doubt be racing and full of questions: ‘How will we cope?’, ‘How can we look after two babies at once? I was worried about coping with one!’, ‘How will I manage to give birth to two?’, ‘My bump will be huge!’, ‘Will we be able to afford two of everything?’, ‘Where will they both sleep? Will they sleep? Will they sleep at the same time? Will I ever sleep again?!’, ‘Will I be able to go full term?’, ‘But there are no twins in the family, how has this happened?’, ‘Will I need a caesarean?’, ‘Are they identical?’, ‘Will I know which is which?’, ‘We’re struggling to think of one name, let alone two!’…
All this time, the sonographer will no doubt be talking, telling you important information while you struggle to hear anything after the word ‘twins’ which continues to echo around your mind as you attempt to process this mind blowing information. Don’t worry if you can’t take it all in. With a twin pregnancy you’ll have more antenatal appointments and more scans to keep an eye on things so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask questions once you’ve had time to think and get your head around the amazing news!
The sonographer will be able to tell whether they’re sharing a placenta (if they are, they’re definitely identical – if they’re not there’s still a 30% chance that they’re identical, or monozygotic, meaning they’ve developed from the same egg). You may well be scanned every 2 to 4 weeks during your pregnancy to keep a close eye on the babies and their development, so if you feel like this first ultrasound has been a bit of a blur you’ll have many more chances to see your growing babies on screen and give them a wave!
If you’re wondering how this has happened, then it could be influenced by a number of factors – or just chance! There’s no evidence that identical twins run in families. They develop when a single fertilised egg splits into two; nobody knows what causes this but there’s around a 1 in 250 chance of this happening in any pregnancy. There can be a genetic predisposition for non-identical twins if they’re in the family on the mother’s side, or there are some non-genetic factors that can increase the probability too, such as age, ethnicity, or fertility treatment.
Once you and your partner have had chance to process the information and you’ve had a chat to your midwife to have your questions answered, you’ve got the fun task of seeing the same shock on your friends’ and loved ones’ faces as you tell them your exciting news too!
Twin pregnancies are not uncommon (around 1 in every 65 pregnancies in the UK) so there are many other parents out there who have experienced or are experiencing the same emotions. Talking to others can help to allay some of your fears and give you the chance to share thoughts and feelings (and coping strategies!). You can find lots of useful information on the TAMBA website (Twins and Multiple Births Association) https://www.tamba.org.uk, as well as details of local clubs or courses, or try http://www.twinsclub.co.uk too. Whatever you’re thinking, feeling or worrying about you can guarantee you’re not the first expectant parent of twins to think it!
Have you had twins? How and when did you find out? How did you feel and how did others react when you shared the news? We’d love to hear your stories!