The Dangers of Twin Births

The Dangers of Twin Births

Having a child can be a lot of fun, so having two should be twice as fun, right? That isn’t always the case in twin births, and a twin pregnancy can actually be twice as stressful as a more common single child pregnancy. This excess stress in the mother is caused by a wide variety of dangers that come with being pregnant and giving birth to a pair of twins. The dangers consist of premature labor, various birth defects, miscarriage, and many other scary things that can happen when having a pair of twins.  

Preterm Labor


Also known as premature labor, preterm labor is when a pregnant woman starts having contractions and going into labor premature to her due date, as much as 5 weeks early. This can be extremely dangerous for the child, especially if the woman is pregnant with twins. Children born early are extremely more likely to development and health problems starting early in life and into adulthood. Preterm labor can lead to a handful of various birth defects and neurological problems that have long term effects into adulthood. One of the major birth defects caused by preterm labor is newborn jaundice. Newborn jaundice is a liver disease that affects the liver in a very harmful way. In most cases the newborn will have a type of jaundice called physiologic jaundice, which causes the liver to not properly rid the body of bilirubin. This overload of bilirubin will start spreading through the blood and eventually end up spreading into the tissue areas of the body. When this happens, you will be able to notice the symptoms very easily, consisting of yellowing in the eyes and skin.This isn’t a deadly disease if caught early and treated, but if it isn’t treated the bilirubin will find access to the brain and begin to build up, leading to brain damage within the next year.

Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome

Twin to twin transfusion syndrome is extremely rare and only really occurs 15% of the time during twin births. Along with preterm labor, this is what mothers nightmares are made of. This is when a pair of identical twins are sharing the same placenta, which creates an uneven flow of blood to both of the two fetus. Result of an uneven flow of blood causes one fetus to get massive amounts of blood and the other a very bare minimum amount. The fetus neglected of sufficient blood flow will be born anemic which has its own wide range of issues, the fetus who had too much blood pumped will have a very high chance of developing blood clots, and future heart failure. Again this is very rare, and those who have it during pregnancy are examined and monitored closely by their doctors to maintain good health and help guide through the course of the pregnancy.

Monoamniotic Monochorionic

Also known as “mo-mo” this is one of the biggest fears mothers of twins have during the length of their pregnancy, the tangling of umbilical cords. This is another rarity when it comes to general twin pregnancies, but there is always a chance and it’s better to be informed earlier than later. This is a condition where both of the fetus in the mother’s womb get their umbilical cords tangled together, preventing oxygen and essential  nutrients from entering either fetus growing body. This is another condition that if caught early, it is monitored by the doctor. The only solution to this problem is going into labor, which isn’t an easy deadline to wait for.


The chances of having high blood pressure while having twins is 3 times more likely in mothers of twins than those of a single child. Around 13% of women pregnant with twins will have high blood pressure, and this increase in blood pressure is the cause of pre-eclampsia in the mothers. This is an extremely dangerous complication and can be seen through excess protein in the urine, swelling in hand or feet, and organ failure. Pre-eclampsia typically begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and has multiple symptoms including blood pressure flares, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and abdominal pain. The only known way to reduce the symptoms when you have pre-eclampsia is rest, changing to a healthier diet (less salt, more protein), increased water intake, and frequent prenatal checkups monthly. This is more or less just high blood pressure, and it can be passed through the mother to the fetus if it is not treated correctly and not caught early.


When pregnant with twins, miscarriages are twice as likely as a single child pregnancy. Unfortunately, it is extremely common to have an early miscarriage within the first trimester when pregnant with a set of twins. It is also very common to miscarry one of the babies in the first trimester, but still give birth to the other child. Typically the embryo is so small that it eventually reabsorbed into the lining of the womb. This is also known as vanishing twin syndrome, and it is the most common form of a miscarriage in a twin pregnancy (up to 30% of multiple child pregnancies experience this tragedy. If this happens to you, it isn’t uncommon to become depressed and sad, it is important that you talk to your doctor and find the resources available to you to cope with this stress. There are hundreds of counselling centers and bereavement midwives available to help any woman cope while suffering from a lost child, as well as the miscarriage association helpline that you can call anytime and have a nice understanding person to talk to and listen during this grieving period. (The helpline number is the following – 01924 200799)

Conjoined Twins


One of the rarest condition you can develop when pregnant with twins. Conjoined twins are two identical babies with fused body parts, this is caused by the failure of separating the fertilized embryos. Most commonly conjoined at the chest, back, or buttocks. When born, conjoined twins will be surgically separated if their bodies are in the right health to do so, but not every pair of twins can survive a surgery of that nature. A woman carrying conjoined twins will most likely not have any major telltale symptoms other than extreme vomiting, chronic pain, and fatigue. The most common way the mother finds out about her conjoined twins is through a routine ultrasound, typically catching her, the father, and the doctor all by surprise. Conjoined twins are at an extremely high risk of birth defects and diseases after birth, most conjoined twins don’t live past the age of 3, most only surviving one day after birth. The oldest pair of conjoined twins are ronnie and donnie galyon at the age of 64, and most doctors don’t know how they were even able to live past their first years.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction

This is a complication in the set of twins that slows their growth rate way down around the 29th to 32nd week of the pregnancy. This happens because the placenta can not take anymore of the growth from the two bodies, causing the twins to absorb nutrients in the form of a competition, draining your body as the mother of essential nutrients that you need as well. Your children will also be at risk of being born within the 10th percentile in size and weight, as well as other possible birth defects and malnutrition. The causes are typically an abnormally low placenta , genetic diabetes, living in higher altitude areas, being underweight during the pregnancy, and the use of harmful drugs.

Twin Reversed Arterial Perfusion

Twin reversed arterial perfusion (TRAP) is a birth defect that is rare and only appears in 1% of twin pregnancies. This is when one of the two twins develops with an abnormally functioning heart, sometimes leading to missing limbs, organs, and key body fluids needed for survival as a human being. The child with the birth defect receives all of its blood from the partnering healthy twin through the shared umbilical arteries being the placenta. There are no known symptoms that let the mother know that one of her twins is affected by twin reversed arterial perfusion, but if the mother is going to frequent doctors appointments, the ultrasounds will be able to tell the doctor before it’s too late. If not caught early, there is a 50% chance the child with the birth defect will not survive all three trimesters of the pregnancy.

Birth Defects


Twins have a much larger percentage of birth defects worldwide when compared to single birthed children, and there are many theories why but most scientists and doctors have no clue why. The list of possible birth defects could go on for pages, but i will be giving a quick list of the most common and known birth defects in twin births and a brief description of each down below.

  • Congenital Heart Defects – Most common defect in children, general heart defects
  • Genital and urinary defects – affects the genitals and urinary organs
  • Congenital hip dislocation – abnormal hip joint, causing ball and socket joint to dislocate
  • Birth weight defects – very low weight, can cause blindness, hearing loss, and mental retardation.
  • Spina Bifida – when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, leading to brain defects
  • Cerebral Palsy – movement disorder that limits coordination, stiffens muscles, weakens muscles, and verbal communication.

When having a pair of twins, reading this article can be extremely terrifying and hard to swallow, but don’t fear soon to be mothers of multiples! These dangers are almost all rarities in the medical world, and only happen 5% of the time, most of the time! It is still very important to inform yourself and others about these defects and complications to better prepare for the possibility of developing one of these dangers and how to seek help. The best person to talk to about these dangers is your local healthcare providers and doctor, together you can figure out of the avoid these defects and possibly prevent them in your loved ones as well.