Delivering Twins

While most mums will only need to deal with the delivery of one baby, others might need to give birth to twins. While twins aren’t exactly common, they are born often enough that your doctors and midwives will have had some experience in their delivery. In this article the differences between a single and twin births are discussed.

What is different about delivering twins?

The first and most important point about twin births is the fact that more often than not twins will be born early, at about 36-38 weeks into the pregnancy. Less than 50% of all twin pregnancies in the UK go past the 36-week point.

Secondly the major difference when it comes to the delivery of twins is that you will be delivering two babies as opposed to one, and so labour will be longer. Because of this, and because of the special care your babies are likely to need because of their early birth, hospital births are strongly recommended as opposed to home births.

Special care and delivering twins

Twins will often need special attention because of their premature births. Fortunately because your doctor or midwife will determine the presence of twins earlier on in the pregnancy through an ultrasound scan, your medical team will be prepared to deliver your babies safely and care for them using the best technologies available. Twin births are safer than ever thanks to advances in medicine that make their care effective.

How are twins delivered?

The delivery of twins can be done vaginally, and about half of the twin births in the UK occur via the vaginal route. What this means is that both babies are delivered as per usual through the birth canal. The main difference in the vaginal birth of twins is that stronger pain relief is often recommended (like the local anaesthetic known as the epidural for instance) because labour is longer, and often, more painful.

Vaginal births are considered safe for twin deliveries when the first twin (the baby to be born first) is in the cephalic, or head down, position. There are cases however, where this may not be the best and safest course of action in terms of your health and that of your unborn child. For example, if you have had a Caesarean Section (a surgery which allows for the safe delivery of children through an incision in the stomach) in the past then you are likely to be advised against a vaginal birth.

The vaginal delivery of twins can often need some assistance, which usually comes from one of two assisted delivery techniques. These are forceps or suction cup delivery, and are effective methods of delivering a baby safely in the event of any complications.

After the delivery of your first child, your doctor/midwife will then go onto do a quick exam of both your vagina and abdomen. This is to determine whether the second twin is in the right position (head down) for a safe delivery. If your second baby is in the cephalic position then he or she will often be delivered quickly as your contractions will usually continue and your cervix (the opening of the vagina) is already open and prepared for delivery. Sometimes your contractions might stop after the birth of your first child, and if this happens then your doctor will provide you with a drip to get them started again.

In some instances a caesarean section is actually a safer method of delivering a baby than standard vaginal births. In the UK about half of all multiple births (that’s both twin and triplet births) occur through a C-Section, so this is in fact fairly routine and not something to worry about.

A C-Section will often be opted for if your unborn babies are in an abnormal position (feet downwards in what is called breech position, or in a sideways (transverse) position. Or if you suffer from a condition like pre-eclampsia for example. There are a number of reasons why your doctor might think a C-Section is the better option for your childbirth, but all of them are relevant medical reasons that bear in mind both your safety and that of your unborn children.

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