BEAVERCREEK — Women who give birth to twins, triplets, or more are often a focus of admiration, even amazement, not to mention the center of media attention. Despite the fact the numbers of multiple gestation pregnancies are steadily increasing, the risks associated with these pregnancies are not often recognized nor reported.
An uptick in the number of women waiting until age 35 to conceive, coupled with an increase in fertility treatments, is the reason why twin and triplet babies born in the United States doubled between 1980 and 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Recently released data by the National Center for Health Statistics shows the trend is only increasing. In 2014, the birth of twins reached an all-time high of 3.4 percent of all births.
Richard O’Shaughnessy, MD, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine at Perinatal Partners, believes women need to be more aware of the risks involved with multiple-gestation births in order to make wise decisions about fertility treatments and the care they receive during pregnancy. Dr. O’Shaughnessy says media reports of positive outcomes in multiple births can paint a different picture from reality.
“These are high-risk pregnancies, which can create a number of complications for the woman as well as her babies,” says Dr. O’Shaughnessy, a Premier Health Specialists physician. “For many women, these risks, however, can be overshadowed by their real strong desire to conceive and the fear that motherhood may never become a reality for them.”
Societal norms evolve with each passing decade and those surrounding motherhood are no exception. Fifty years ago, women who entered their 30s single or withoutchildren may have been considered past their prime. Today, that perception has changed significantly as more women choose to delay motherhood so they might have the opportunity to finish schooling or get a head start on their careers, Dr. O’Shaughnessy says.
According to a report put out by the National Infertility Association (NIA), one in five women say they would prefer a multiple birth as a result of infertility treatments. However, less than half of these women were well-informed about the possible complications and risks associated with a twin pregnancy. Awareness of risks associated with multiple births above twins was higher, the NIA reported.
Women carrying more than one baby have a higher incidence of severe nausea and vomiting, cesarean section, preeclampsia, placenta problems, diabetes, and pre-term birth. Women older than 35 years of age are more likely to have underlying health problems, and are also less likely to withstand health issues brought on by pregnancy including high blood pressure or excessive blood loss during delivery, Dr. O’Shaughnessy says.
“Infertility and multiple gestation births are not always something women can control, but there are steps a woman can take to minimize complications,” says David McKenna, MD, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine at Perinatal Partners. “Many interventions have been adopted in the past to prevent complications related to multiple gestations, however none of the traditional interventions including hospitalization, bed rest, or activity restriction have been shown to be beneficial for mom or their babies. However, specialty multiple gestation clinics are one intervention that has been successful in improving outcomes.”
Perinatal Partners offers specialized care for high-risk pregnancies where women receive counseling regarding risks, screening for birth defects, maternal nutrition, and other health evaluations. Premier Health’s Multiple Miracles program focuses on the care of women with multiple gestation pregnancies and their fetuses, while working in collaboration with a woman’s primary obstetrician.
To learn more about multiple gestations or Perinatal Partners, visit www.perinatalpartners.com.
Story Courtesy of Premier Health Specialists.