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Tamara: As I lay flat on the examining table, the radiology technician smeared my belly with greasy jelly, then turned the ultrasound screen toward me. I was about to catch my first glimpse of the baby that had been growing inside me for 18 weeks.
But as she slid the probe across my abdomen, the technician frowned. Pushing the screen to one side to block my view, she began to fiddle with the knobs. Then she stepped into the hall to summon a doctor. Together, they manipulated the dials of the ultrasound machine, whispering and pointing.
Trying to squelch a sudden rush of fear, I choked out the words: "What is it? Is something wrong with my baby?"
The doctor turned the screen to face me again and said, "Well, here's what we've got. This is a leg, and an arm and this is the head. And now, over here, we see a foot, and a back, and another head -- twins! And they look just fine."
If You Too Have Joined The Ranks of expectant mothers of multiples -- twins, triplets, even quadruplets or more -- congratulations! You're now in a special group whose membership is swelling more and more each year. Between 1975 and 1995, twin births rose by 63 percent. During that same period, the birth rate of "supertwins" or "higher-order multiples" (meaning three or more babies born together) surged a whopping 367 percent.
You've probably got a thousand questions and concerns about your pregnancy, but chances are, you've had trouble finding the answers you need. "As soon as I found out that I was going to have twins, I read everything Icould find on the subject. Yet most pregnancy books have only a page or two about multiples, and the books devoted to twins focus on taking care of the babies after they're born," says Judy Levy, mother of twin girls and an older daughter.
Or perhaps you succeeded in finding some material on multiple pregnancy but were put off by its gloom-and-doom tone. "Everything I read about having twins seemed so frightening, as if the writers were saying, 'You will definitely have all sorts of problems -- and your babies will too.' I couldn't bear to read that scary stuff," says Stacy Moore, mother of twin boys. "What I really needed was some sensible advice on the specific steps I could take to avoid complications and give my babies the best possible start in life. And I found it -- at a special clinic for expectant mothers of multiples, where I learned that many problems associated with multiple births are preventable. I did everything they told me to do, and my whole pregnancy went very smoothly. My twins were born big and healthy at full term, weighing 6 lb., IIoz., and 6 lb, I oz."
Dr. Barbara Luke: Here's where I come in. As a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and a researcher and nutritionist, I helped establish the clinic that Stacy Moore attended. Our goal is to improve pregnancy outcome -- in other words, to help our patients have the healthiest pregnancies and the healthiest babies. To achieve that, we provide special prenatal care, including patient education, risk screening, and intensive nutrition therapy.
The Multiples Clinic program works. Our clinical success proves it. Compared to the average mother of multiples, women who follow our guidelines experience significantly fewer complications before the birth of their children. For instance:
- Our expectant mothers develop fewer infections.
- They have less trouble with high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
- The moms in our program have a lower incidence of preterm premature rupture of the membranes.
- Our patients are hospitalized for preterm labor less frequently, and they spend fewer days in the hospital if they are admitted.
For infants born to our moms, the results are even more impressive:
- Triplets born to mothers in our program weigh 35 percent more at birth, on average, than triplets typically do. Our twins are generally born 20 percent heavier than the average twins delivered at the same gestational age.
- Two out of three of our newborns weigh more than five and a half pounds at birth, and one of four is born weighing more than six and a half pounds. These birthweight figures, which are double the average for infants of multiple-gestation pregnancies, prove that you can break the "rule" that says twins are always born small.
- Two-thirds of our mothers of twins deliver at 36 weeks or later, compared to only about 40 percent of twin moms nationwide.
- Our babies are healthier at birth, regardless of when they are born, because they have grown well right from the start of the pregnancy.
- Infants born to patients in our program go home sooner than the average multiple-birth baby, spending only half as much time in the hospital. (Their hospital bills are only half the average too!)
To describe the University of Michigan Multiples Clinic program in complete detail, I've teamed up with Tamara Eberlein, a professional writer and mother of twins. Follow the advice in our book, and you and your babies should reap the same rewards our clinic patients do.
The Information You Need
I'd Had A Typical, Routine Pregnancy with my first child a year and a half earlier," says Judy Levy. "So when I learned I was carrying twins, I figured it would be just like a regular pregnancy, only more so. But it turned out to be more challenging than just 'more so.'"
Why shouldn't a woman who's expecting twins or supertwins just follow the same standard advice given to a woman pregnant with one baby (a singleton)? Because when you're carrying multiples, your pregnancy requirements go beyond what is standard.When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads. Copyright © by Barbara Luke. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.