Pregnancy is an exciting time for anyone. I know it was for me. Then I had an ultrasound and the technician started counting…That was the end of a “normal” pregnancy for me. I was going to have triplets!
I was excited, scared, in shock, and there were many other feelings to come. I am now the proud mom of healthy, 16-year-old triplet boys.
Having more than one baby at one time used to be a surprise that might not have been discovered until the babies were born. With ultrasound, today almost everyone knows about their special pregnancy before delivery. Once you have received the diagnosis of a multiple pregnancy and have started to get adjusted, there are many things you will have to consider. Your doctor will be making lots of suggestions to help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Nutrition is especially important with multiple births. There are quite a few potential problems that can be addressed or headed off with diet, vitamins or minerals.
• Anemia is a common problem because of the increase in blood volume with all those babies. Some solutions include red meat, fish, pork and eggs. Fruits and veggies that are high in iron include beans, spinach, asparagus, dried fruit, and nuts. Vitamin C helps you absorb the iron. If you are a vegetarian, you may want to consult a dietitian.
• Drinking adequate fluids can help to keep you from having contractions early. This really does mean 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. I found that I had contractions if I went below this amount.
• Frequent small meals become more important as your pregnancy progresses. Your babies will press on your stomach, and you will not be able to comfortably hold a large meal.
• Nausea may last longer during a multiple pregnancy. I was discouraged when I learned this. Your OB doctor will have some solutions for this. Some that I learned over the years include ginger, peppermint, crackers first thing in the morning, liquids separate from solids, Vitamin B6 and not letting your stomach get empty. My nausea got significantly better when I went back to the vitamins that I was on before I got pregnant.
• The large amount of hormones produced during a multiple pregnancy make you more prone to gestational diabetes. This is high blood sugar usually limited to pregnancy. It isn’t good for you or the babies. You can help by avoiding sugary foods and high carbohydrate and starchy foods.
There are many problems during pregnancy that can be helped by bedrest. I found this to be very boring and nicknamed it “house arrest”. At least I got to spend mine at home. Sometimes this is spent in the hospital. If you have been bleeding or contracting, hospital observation may be for you.
Bedrest is used to help reduce your blood pressure if you are having problems with pre-eclampsia (toxemia). It also gives more flow to the placenta to help the babies grow. It keeps the pressure off the cervix to help prevent early dilating (opening) and early delivery.
If you are early in the pregnancy and have more than twins, your doctor may recommend a selective reduction. This is a procedure to terminate one or more of the babies so that the other babies have a better chance of surviving until they can live outside the uterus. This is very controversial. You may want to consider this if you have a large number of babies, as the risk of extreme prematurity increases as the number of babies increases. It is a difficult and very personal decision.
If your doctor thinks you are at risk for delivering early, he or she may recommend a steroid shot. These shots are given to mature the babies’ lungs. This shot should be given 48 hours before delivery if at all possible. When I was pregnant, they started the shots at 28 weeks, but this practice has changed.
Other Common Problems
There are other problems that are magnified when you have more than one baby.
• The uterus grows faster with two or more passengers. So there is more stretching and pulling. Ask your doctor for solutions.
• Your abdomen gets heavier because it carries more baby than most people. There are some support garments out there that can help. Your insurance may even pay for them. They really do help.
• Eventually, there is hardly any room for your lungs to expand and you have shortness of breath. This is highly annoying, but goes away as soon as you deliver.
• I even got so big that I couldn’t turn over by myself. It took at least one other person to help me “flip” at the end of my pregnancy.
It may help to be prepared for some of those discomforts before they happen. They are temporary. Healthy babies make it all worthwhile.
Read more from Dr. Maryellen Smith:
15 Things I Learned During my Triplet Pregnancy
How to Avoid Anemia During Pregnancy
Bedrest During Pregnancy