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When Janelle Porter learned that she was carrying twins, she wondered how she would ever juggle the needs of the newborns and her 4-year-old daughter. Two months after the twins were born, she still felt as if she and her husband were “flying by the seat of our pants.” But thinking of the cuddly additions to her family while lying in bed at night, the Lincoln, Neb., mother often has to smile. “I catch myself thinking about their first birthday and how they’ll be toddling around here,” she says. “Each milestone is just going to bring more and more happiness.”
Porter is hardly alone. Thanks largely to increased use of fertility drugs and procedures, twin births rose by 62 percent between 1980 and 1998 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Births of triplets skyrocketed by 470 percent in that same period, the CDC reports. Still, births of multiples are not ordinary events, and they bring with them extraordinary stresses.
By ensuring a healthy pregnancy, lining up support in advance and accepting help from family or friends, carrying and caring for twins can be a manageable, joyous affair. Here is advice from doctors and mothers of twins for making it the best experience possible.
Mind your health
“Women carrying twins need to respect their bodies and slow down,” says Connie L. Agnew, M.D., a Los Angeles obstetrician and co-author of Twins! Pregnancy, Birth and the First Year of Life (HarperCollins, 1997). Getting rest, particularly in the last trimester, is critical because it can help prevent premature labor, which is common when carrying more than one baby. “If you can, cut down on your work hours, delegate household chores and have your husband take care of the other children so you can put your feet up for a few hours,” Agnew advises.
Eating well is also paramount because the two fetuses need a tremendous amount of nourishment. “I recommend increasing protein intake by eating an egg or some cheese at breakfast,” says Agnew, “and six small meals throughout the day to keep up your [energy].” Taking an iron supplement to avoid becoming anemic is also crucial, as is drinking plenty of water and juices throughout the day.
These days, women carrying twins are often over 35, which means they are at higher risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia than their younger counterparts, says Agnew. But no matter what your age is, your doctor will probably want to see you for frequent checkups in your second and third trimesters. Serial ultrasounds are usually recommended, too, to monitor the twins’ growth. Since one baby often will lie in the breech position (feet down), many doctors feel it is safer to deliver twins by Cesarean section, which can lengthen your postpartum recovery.