It's important to understand your birth options if you're expecting more than 1 baby.
Twins and triplets are more likely to be born early and need special care after birth than single babies. Parents expecting multiple babies are advised to pack a bag around 26 weeks of pregnancy, as there is an increased chance of any early hospital stay
Your birth choices with twins
It's a good idea to discuss your birth options with your midwife or consultant early on in your pregnancy.
You will be advised to give birth in a hospital, as there's a higher chance of complications with twins.
There are usually more health professionals at a multiple birth – for example, there may be 2 midwives, an obstetrician and 2 paediatricians (1 for each baby). You'll already have met your obstetrician and midwives to discuss your baby's birth beforehand, so they should not all be strangers.
The process of labour is more or less the same as for 1 baby, but your maternity team will usually advise you to have your babies electronically monitored because of the higher risk of complications. This means attaching belts with sensors (1 for each twin) to your bump. You'll still be able to move around into different positions.
Once your waters have broken, your midwife may ask your permission to attach a clip attached to a wire to the first baby's head to get a more accurate measure of their heartbeat. You'll also be offered a drip in case it's needed later – for example, to restart contractions after your first baby is born.
Can you have a natural birth with twins?
Lots of women think they have to have a caesarean section with twins. In fact, more than 40% of twin births are vaginal. You're more likely to have a vaginal birth if the first twin is in a head-down position. There may be medical reasons why a vaginal birth is not recommended, your maternity team will plan your care with you, taking into account what matters to you.
As with any vaginal birth, you may need an assisted birth. This is where forceps or vacuum delivery are used to help deliver your babies.
Once the first baby is born, your midwife or doctor can check the position of the second baby by feeling your tummy and doing a vaginal examination. They may also use an ultrasound scan. The second baby may need turning to get into a good position for birth. Once this has been achieved, a member of the team will hold the baby in place by pressing on your tummy. If the second baby is in a good position, it should be born soon after the first, as your cervix is already fully dilated.
If your contractions stop after the first baby is born, the doctor or midwife may discuss giving you hormones via a drip to restart them.
Caesarean section and twins
In the UK, more than half of twins and almost all triplets are delivered by caesarean.
You may choose to have a planned caesarean, or your doctor may recommend a caesarean, if:
- The first baby is lying feet, knees or buttocks first (breech)
- 1 twin is lying sideways (transverse)
- You have a low-lying placenta
- Your twins share a placenta
- You have had a difficult delivery with a single baby before.
As with any pregnancy, if you plan a vaginal birth, you may still end up needing an emergency caesarean. In very rare cases, some women deliver 1 twin vaginally and then need a caesarean section to deliver the second twin. This happens in less than 5% of twin births.
Finding out if your twins are identical
After the birth, your midwife will examine the placenta to check that it's all there and look at the membranes.
If your babies have a single placenta with 1 outer membrane (chorion) and 2 inner membranes (amnion), they must be identical (monozygotic). Otherwise, the only way to tell if they're identical is through DNA testing. This is not available on the NHS.
For advice on how to find out if your twins are identical, you can phone the Multiple Births Foundation on 020 3313 3519 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your birth choices with triplets
Triplets or more babies are almost always delivered by a planned caesarean section. The process for this is the same as for any other caesarean section and your birthing team will go through this in detail with you prior to the birth.