As more women wait to start their families or turn to infertility treatments, more and more women are finding themselves pregnant with twins. In fact, the rate of twin births has increased 76 percent in the last three decades alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you’re having twins or multiples, you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the extra gear you need— but you need to remember that your health and your babies’ health are your top priority.
Here’s what you can expect and how you can prepare when you’re expecting more than one.
1. Put your health first.
Be sure you’re eating healthy and staying sufficiently hydrated because your nutritional needs are different when you’re pregnant with twins . Also, listen to your body, don’t disregard symptoms like cramping and discharge— call your doctor to be safe.
2. Expect more aches and pains.
“Our bodies were only really meant to carry one,” said Natalie Diaz, author of “What To Do When You’re Having Two” and founder of Twiniversity.
With twins, your uterus grows twice as much and your belly twice as quickly, so expect to have back pain and round ligament pain. You may start feeeling uncomfortable as early as 25 weeks. And with so much extra weight, especially on your cervix and pelvis, you may have to cut back on work hours or even go on bed rest.
3. Clear your schedule for more doctor’s visits.
You’ll likely see a high-risk doctor who will make sure you’re healthy and your babies are growing well— but who may also require more appointments
“They have you under a microscope,” Diaz said.
After 30 weeks, you may have sonograms every week to make sure your amniotic fluid levels are adequate and your babies are growing well.
4. Find support now.
A study in the journal Pediatrics found that moms of multiples were 43 percent more likely to have moderate or severe postpartum depressive symptoms than moms who had singletons.
Many moms who have twins have already struggled with miscarriage and infertility, which can put even more stress on them, said Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and author of “Raising Twins: Parenting Multiples from Pregnancy Through the School Years.”
Ask for help from a family member or friend, hire a babysitter or mother’s helper and look for organizations or online communities for moms of multiples.
5. Get ready early.
Full term for twins is 37 weeks, but be prepared because you may go into labor earlier.
“The more babies you carry, the earlier you’re going to deliver,” Vaziri Flais said.
6. Tour the NICU.
Although many babies born after 34 weeks don’t need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),, it’s a good idea to take a tour of your hospital’s facilities anyway. Make sure the hospital has a level III NICU or above and ask about their advanced units.
Even if your babies are in the NICU, the good news is that “the majority of twin pregnancies do proceed smoothly and have healthy outcomes,” Vaziri Flais said.
7. Stay positive.
If your babies are in the NICU, or go home with medical problems, don’t expect the worst.
“You should never be anything but positive, and then you worry about something when someone tells you to worry,” Diaz said.
8. Get a twin feeding pillow.
While you’re at the hospital, request a visit with the lactation consultant, but also talk to every single person who walks into hospital room because every culture has a different way of breastfeeding and their techniques might help you, Diaz said.
Purchase a twin feeding pillow and alternate your babies and breasts at each feeding to keep your milk supply equal.
9. Have a routine.
The earlier you get your babies on the same feeding and sleep schedule, the easier it will be. So even if only one wakes up for a feeding, wake the other one up so their schedules will eventually be in sync.
10. Ride the storm.
Chances are, your babies will be teething and sick at the same time as one another and although it will be tough, remember: As they get older and you’ve been through it a few times, it will get easier.
11. Make time for your partner.
“Nobody thinks about preparing their marriage,” Diaz said.
Since couples who have twins are more likely to end up divorced, it’s important that you make time for each other, get out as often as you can for a date night and make sex a priority.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.