Seeing double: pregnant with twins

Wow, you’re pregnant – with twins! Finding out that you’re expecting twins is fantastic news and it’s rather rare in Switzerland: only 1.7% of all births are twin births*. So on that note: congratulations! This will change your circumstances slightly and put your pregnancy in a whole new perspective. Even though you can’t really go wrong if you follow your gut feeling, we would still like to give you seven tips so that you’ll know what to expect and can fully enjoy your pregnancy.

1. Pregnancy symptoms with twins

The additional pressure on your organs and blood vessels means you will tend to experience pregnancy side effects such as heartburn, flatulence and varicose veins (link only available in German). These symptoms can be somewhat alleviated with the right nutrition. For instance, slowly chewing lots of unpeeled almonds can help and you should try to avoid having lots of carbonated drinks. And ask your midwife about acupuncture. You may also experience back and pelvic pain earlier than other pregnant women, as your body will be expanding more rapidly.

2. Finally book that relaxing holiday you’ve been planning!

A double pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean double the risks. However, you will have to take care of yourself and rest more than women carrying a single child. Start organising a few books and podcasts and ask your partner to rearrange the furniture so you can easily access the sofa in the living room, the armchair in the sunroom and the sun lounge on the terrace.

This is the one time in your life when exercise isn’t that important. During the first three months – if your morning sickness allows it – it is a good idea to do gentle exercise such as swimming, walking, pregnancy yoga and pilates. Or belly dancing (you can read more about this in our blog post Sport during pregnancy: what’s ok, what’s not? – only available in German and French). But after that, it’s more important for you to listen to your body and put your feet up. Book that relaxing holiday in the mountains, by a lake or in a nearby country you have been thinking about for months. And seriously listen to your doctor’s advice: take it easy!

3. Premature births are common – talk to your doctor

Twins are frequently born prematurely from week 30 onwards. So on average a double pregnancy lasts 36 to 37 weeks, instead of 40. The risk of possible complications decreases the longer the babies can continue growing inside the womb. So please keep point 2 in mind: The less stress you are under, the less likely you are to give birth prematurely. And: a good gynaecologist will gladly provide you with further assistance. Talk to your gynaecologist about the issue of premature birth and don’t use any alternative methods with discussing them first. You should also pack your hospital bags a few weeks before your due date.

4. The babies’ long growth phase

Your babies (and hence their bodies) will be the size of a single pregnancy baby until week 28. By this point, many pregnant women feel absolutely massive. But you have to keep going: your twins will continue growing for another few weeks.

5. Two placentas for two babies

The placenta is responsible for supplying the baby with nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s metabolic system. With twins, if each baby has its own placenta there are generally fewer complications. Identical twins sometimes have to share one placenta and that can lead to the following kinds of problems:

If incorrectly connected blood vessels cause one twin to receive more blood than the other, this is called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. The result is an uneven exchange of blood between the babies and this leads to an insufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients. If this happens, medical intervention is required. Your gynaecologist will determine whether your babies have twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome during an examination sometime between the 17th and 25th week of pregnancy.

6. Prenatal lung development

Due to the high risk of premature birth, your gynaecologist can inject you with steroids to activate the development of your babies’ lungs. This can be done in the 28th week of pregnancy. Steroids are used as a precautionary measure to promote the development of the babies’ lung function, so that if they are born prematurely they will have fewer breathing difficulties caused by underdeveloped lungs.

7. Vitamins and minerals for you and your twins

The two little tots will thrive if they’re getting all the same valuable nutrients that their mother needs. So it’s important that you take double the amount of pregnancy dietary supplements and also add iron to the mix. If you breastfeed after giving birth, your gynaecologist will continue to prescribe you with pregnancy dietary supplements.

Last but not least: you’re pregnant! What a fabulous experience! You’re sure to receive a wide variety of well-intentioned advice, but don’t let it throw you off balance. Listen to your gut feeling and ask your gynaecologist if you are unsure of anything. Try to enjoy your double pregnancy. The developmental process of two (or more!) babies is truly amazing. From the moment when you start to feel the babies moving inside your belly (normally after the 18th week), to the unbelievable ultrasound images that reveal how two little specks slowly grow into little humans – it’s a phenomenal and extraordinary experience!