The human body is made to conceive, nurture and deliver a single fetus. Under circumstances that scientists are yet to correctly diagnose and accurately predict, the human body conceives and births more than one baby. Multiple pregnancies are rare, in fact, twin pregnancies occur in 1 out of 80 births. This is a subject of great interest to science as the study of twins is will help in the prevention of and cure a great many human ailments.
Pregnancy and childbirth is a natural phenomenon, though it is not without attendant risks to the lives of mother and child. The risks are compounded in the case of a twin pregnancy. The main risks in a twin pregnancy are:
- Pre-term labour and childbirth: The normal period of gestation for a single pregnancy is 40 weeks. In the case of a twin pregnancy, the period of gestation is normally 34-36 weeks. Pre-term labour is more likely in the case of multiple pregnancies as compared to single pregnancies. Early-onset of labour and premature birth would pose a great risk to the lives of the babies as the full period of growth in the womb would not have been completed. Twins generally have a lower birth weight than singletons, even at full gestation. In the case of preterm delivery, the babies are likely to have low birth weight and may have to be kept in an incubator till they attain normal weight.
- Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: In the case of identical (Monozygotic) twins who share the same placenta, blood vessels within the placenta may be misaligned. Consequently, one of the twins may receive a larger share of the blood supply through the placenta at the cost of its twin. This is dangerous for its twin. This syndrome can be corrected surgically through special laser procedures. The fetus receiving the additional blood will have difficulty with the heart in dealing with the excess supply and the other fetus receiving less blood will be anemic.
- Monoamnionic Mono chorionic syndrome: This syndrome afflicts monozygotic twins which share the same amniotic sac. The fetuses, in the course of moving in the womb get the umbilical cord entangled with each other. With further movement as the pregnancy progresses, the umbilical cord compresses, and the supply of nutrients and oxygen through the cord is cut off. This is a very serious situation and the only option then is to try and deliver the twins at the earliest as their chances of survival outside the womb are higher.
- C- Section: Twin babies are generally born vaginally, but their chances of a cesarean section (c-section) during delivery are also becoming common. A c-section is a surgery used in deliveries where an incision is made in the abdomen. This means a longer recovery time but it may be medically necessary.
Fortunately, science has progressed enough to give a chance of survival of even very low birth weight twins.