When I found out I was having triplets, I was shocked, I’d never been pregnant before, so I really didn’t have any idea what things to expect in pregnancy. I’d trained as a nurse, did my bit on the obstetric wards and delivery suite but to be honest, whilst it was part of my training, it didn’t really interest me much.
Everyone loves a baby, so I didn’t have a problem with that, I just didn’t enjoy the birth part. I had to have IVF so I suppose a multiple pregnancy was more likely but having had years trying to get pregnant, I really didn’t think I would ever manage it! So it was still the huge shock when they were actually confirmed on scan, so I thought it might be interesting if you are expecting twins or triplets or indeed quads or quins, to have some insight into the journey through pregnancy to multiple birth!
I started feeling sick from about the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test ! I’m not generally a ‘sickly’ person. I like my food, but I found that smells would set me off and I have to be honest, even now 10 years later, I can still remember that feeling when I smell certain things.
Fried food, just the smell would be enough. I remember walking to work one day, walking past a Fast Food outlet – fried food – and immediately the waves of nausea came over me. I threw up in the gutter. By this point I had become an old hand at it, I was around 10 weeks pregnant.
Its not the sort of sickness that you get with say…. food poisoning where your stomach continues to churn and retch, once I’d been sick I would still feel slightly nauseous but the overwhelming feeling that I had to throw up went.
I probably only actually ‘threw up’ once a day. However, ‘morning sickness’ is misinformation because mine went on for most of the day.
I think because the morning sickness was so acute, I had a very early scan, my ObGyn suspected that having had IVF and severe morning sickness, that there was more than one.
He even prescribed me a safe anti-emetic ( anti-sick tablet) but I was so reluctant to take it, I tried alternative, natural ways of coping with it. I drank ginger tea most of the first 14 weeks and nibbled on ginger biscuits… the ones with the big bits of ginger in them. It did help but whether it was that I was just keeping my stomach from being empty or that actually the ginger did settle down the nausea, I’m not sure.
I took them wherever I went and like these days with people walking about with a bottle of water, I would go out and about with a thermos beaker of ginger tea. I survived it and my babies were none the worse for it, they were all growing along the 50th centile. I’d been told that a high hormone level causes the nausea so I accepted it as a positive sign that the pregnancy was healthy. It started to tail off around 12-14 weeks although it was soon replaced by indigestion!
This makes me laugh now I think about it because from around 5-13 weeks I felt exhausted. Little did I know that this was inconsequential tiredness in the greater scheme of things to come!
But at the time, when I was only just pregnant and still coming to terms with being pregnant at all. I was still going out and about my normal life, going to work, taking the dogs for a walk, visiting friends, ice skating (my passion !).
I would come home and fall asleep on the sofa! I think at first I thought that pregnancy is a condition not an illness and I shouldn’t make it into that by ‘giving in’. Many women when they first get pregnant, feel tired. The body is starting up a new role, to grow a baby, but with a triplet pregnancy, all the pregnancy symptoms started happening much sooner!
I had never been pregnant before so had nothing to base this level of tiredness on. I remember one day, I was probably about 15 weeks, so sickness receding but generally still very tired, I thought I would walk round to the corner shop, get some chocolate digestives and newspaper, then back home, make a coffee, switch the tv on and put my feet up for an hour.
I had just got myself comfortable, everything to hand, when the landline phone rang. Grrrrr…… got up, the usual cold caller, not interested. Went back to sit down…..my dog had eaten my chocolate digestives! Aaggghhhhhh……! I was too tired to go back to the shop!
I was quite shocked when the ObGyn suggested that we reduce the number of fetuses from three to two. Being my first pregnancy, there was the obvious danger of premature birth and by reducing it to two babies, the risk would reduce. But we had struggled to get this far and really, how do you choose which one?
They would have done it at a very early stage, maybe 7-8 weeks gestation, but we refused. We thought that we were blessed to be in this position and we were prepared to take our chances and the consequences of our decision with all three.
Religion or anything else didn’t come into our conversation . As it turned out, I went on to have a very premature delivery, and one of my triplets is disabled, but even having a crystal ball and looking into the future would not have changed our minds.
We are blessed to have three beautiful children who are a joy to us and each other every single day, if we had decided on selective reduction, which one wouldn’t be with us now? And there is a risk that by having the reduction, you can upset the pregnancy and cause a miscarriage, that would have been devastating.
Complete Bed Rest
I had a fairly sedentary job when I got pregnant with my triplets. I was a medical PA so I thought I would continue until around 30 weeks. Having not been pregnant before, I had no idea how much the pregnancy would take out of me or how much my activity would affect the growth of my babies.
I was shocked to be told that usually with triplets, you are taken into hospital around 21 weeks for complete bed rest and you stay in hospital until you deliver. OMG! I think I would have died of boredom! But my ObGyn was happy if I stopped work at 20 weeks and stayed home, doing nothing. He said that this was the only way if I wanted them to grow and be a decent weight at birth.
It was still pretty dull, I watched a ton of movies and crocheted various baby things. I had to get a neighbour to take the dogs for their walks, although I thought a walk round the park each day was okay. Little did I know at 20 weeks that I would only get to 27 weeks, I would have tried to enjoy it more!
I suppose this is fairly obvious – if you’re pregnant, your belly is going to grow. I think it was the speed of growth that surprised me. I had never been pregnant before, it was almost a case of ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ in the way my belly grew.
By the time I was 12 weeks, you would have thought that I was about 18 weeks. They say that a triplet pregnancy size-wise can be anything from 8-10 weeks ahead.
I remember going into a local store and my server asking when my baby was due and that it must be soon, (I was pretty big!) but actually I was only 26 weeks!
One thing that I was surprised about was that I never got any stretch marks…. how lucky was that considering how rapidly a triplet pregnancy grows. The flip side of this was that I got a lot of abdominal pain and back pain, particularly later on in the pregnancy.
I think with the rate of growth, muscles get super stretched and the added weight, understandably that’s going to take its toll. What I didn’t appreciate until only recently (when I had a tummy tuck) was that the abdominal muscles had split apart – rectus diastasis and had never gone back into place and my stomach was protruding through the gap!
There was a 7cm gap. No wonder I often felt bloated! Abdominal exercises can help with this, it’s not life threatening or anything like that, but weakening in this area can lead to back pain.
More ObGyn Visits
This is probably obvious. Having a multiple pregnancy puts you at a higher risk of premature birth and other pregnancy complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. If they’re identical, there are other medical issues that have to be carefully monitored. Along with that, certainly for triplets, there is more medical interest too.
I was cared for at a teaching hospital so not only did I have to go for more appointments, there were a lot more doctors at the appointments. One appointment I went to, they wanted to do some teaching on ultrasound scanning triplets, so this was going to be an extra scan for me, I was around 23 weeks, everything was going well.
Except this scan went slightly differently. The sonographer did an initial scan and announced to me, ” Well, you will be pleased to hear that there are three heartbeats!” I thought…..WHAT???? Why would you say that ??? There was never any suggestion that there weren’t going to be three heartbeats… so why would you say that !!
That frightened me rigid and after that my husband, a junior ObGyn doctor, had to buy a fetal heartbeat monitor so I could check them everyday.
Increased Food Intake
This isn’t an excuse to stuff yourself. That, sadly, will just make you fat after you have delivered your babies. So that you can grow three good sized babies, intake of food needs to be nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals and increased protein.
Protein shakes are a great idea, especially if you are having trouble keeping things down to start with or you start suffering from indigestion, which I did. I found a protein shake, milky, would enable me to have something nutritious without suffering with indigestion afterwards. Smaller meals more frequently seemed to work too.
I only got to 27 weeks before I went into premature labour, but at that stage I still had a bump the size of a full term single pregnancy. As it turned out, each baby when they were born, was more or less the size a single baby would have been at that stage, so my food intake had been pretty good. Whilst it was devastating, at least they were the best weight we could have hoped for, to give them the best chance of survival.
Premature Birth/Emergency C-Section
This has to be faced. It’s not something I had thought about at 27 weeks and I probably should have – that my triplets could come early. I think I had thought that they might be delivered around 32-36 weeks by c-section but I hadn’t considered that they would arrive sooner than that.
I hadn’t even read about premature birth on the web – I thought it would tempt fate. It was a desperate shock. I hadn’t been around NICU, I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see them. It was something I will never forget. It would have been far better to have crossed that bridge, maybe I would have recognised the signs that I was going into premature labour sooner.
Be prepared, face the demons and overcome them. I have written a blog about other triplet pregnancy risks,
It’s natural for people to be inquisitive. Twins are more common than triplets, but nevertheless people will still stare and ask questions, particularly with identical twins or triplets.
I hadn’t realised just how much it would happen and how at times I would feel rather sidelined. I was going shopping one day with them in their stroller, a woman walked past me and stared. I must have gone another few hundred yards up the road and she ran back to have another look!
At school I was known as ‘the triplets mom’ which I really didn’t like. I am very proud of my children, but they don’t define me as a person. I also tried not to call them ‘the triplets’. They are triplets but they each have a name and an individual personality that defines them.
Your babies will come earlier than single babies. Twins arrive sometime around 36 weeks and triplets, usually, around 32-36 weeks. Invariably they will arrive sooner, particularly if they are your first, like me. I should have thought it through, my first pregnancy, triplets…duh…of course they were going to be early.
My body had never done this before, so stretching and growing to three times the size for the very first time, its not really surprising. So try to get preparations going. Think about diapering and the practical aspects of how you will feed your twins or triplets. Breastfeeding twins is easier for obvious reasons but that doesn’t mean you can’t breast feed triplets too, not all at once of course, but by combining breast and bottle feeding. Have a look at my blog.
Naturally you want the best for your twins or triplets, so breast feeding if at all possible is a great idea, at least in the initial stages. I expressed breastmilk as my triplets were tube fed for several weeks. Sadly I never got to breast feed them properly because by the time they could suck, I had no milk left. I hoped that I would be able to, on a sort of rota, but the stress and worry, the lack of regular food and drink ( I was in NICU so much) didn’t help the milk production, plus waking up at 2 am to use the breast pump (simulating the times a baby would wake) was pretty hard to do.
So whilst you are pregnant, think this through. Explore the possibility that if your twins/triplets are not too early, how you would physically manage it. Look at the breastfeeding bottles that you could use to include your partner/helper if you have triplets, bottles that would not cause nipple confusion so allowing you to do both bottle and breast.
I was totally unprepared for my triplets arrival, not unreasonably I suppose but I did have time to come to terms with it whilst they were in NICU. It wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, but they all survived, with some long term issues, but I got to take three babies home! I hope this has given you some insight into what to expect during your multiple pregnancy.
If I can offer any support or you have any questions, just contact me on my website.
About The Author
Helen Penman – Twins and Triplets World
I have triplets, two non-identical girls and one boy. They were my first pregnancy. They were born very prematurely at 27 weeks which wasn’t the start I had in mind when I found out I was expecting. In my head everything would be perfect, I would breastfeed them all, and be the perfect mom! Supermom! Whilst it didn’t all go to plan, the birth certainly wasn’t to plan and the initial care when they were tiny was all consuming, as we moved into toddlerhood, things calmed down! My husband is a doctor and at the time he was a senior houseman, so not around much. That was tremendously hard in the beginning, but family were tremendous, supporting us through those difficult stages. As a consequence of prematurity, my son Giles, has cerebral palsy but he is one of the most determined characters I have ever seen. He understands his limitations, but where there aren’t any (school), well he just shoots for the stars! My girls are very supportive, but very different in character. They all have different strengths, so whilst they are fiercely competitive, they are also very proud of each others achievements. As a family we tend to choose holidays that we can all enjoy, so not skiing, but we love travelling to Italy to the lakes or visiting Rome.
My website was born through my experience with my triplets. I found it tough to get the equipment I wanted, or the information I needed to make balanced decisions. I wasted a lot of time and money on equipment that I thought would make things easier but didn’t and of course I love sharing my experiences, I love talking about my children and this gives me the green light to do that in buckets !