Health Encyclopedia

Care and Management of Multiple Pregnancy

Management of multiple pregnancy

Specific management for multiple pregnancy will be determined by your healthcare provider or midwife based on:

  • Your pregnancy, overall health, and medical history

  • The number of fetuses

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the pregnancy

  • Your opinion or preference

Management of multiple pregnancy may include the following:

  • Increased nutrition. Mothers carrying 2 or more fetuses need more calories, protein, and other nutrients, including iron. Higher weight gain is also recommended for multiple pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women carrying twins who have a normal body mass index should gain between 37 and 54 pounds. Those who are overweight should gain 31 to 50 pounds; and obese women should gain 25 to 42 pounds. 

  • More frequent prenatal visits. Multiple pregnancy increases the risk for complications. More frequent visits may help find complications early enough for effective treatment or management. The mother's nutritional status and weight should also be monitored more closely.

  • Referrals. Referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, called a perinatologist, for special testing or ultrasound evaluations, and to coordinate care of complications, may be necessary.

  • Increased rest. Some women may also need bedrest. This can take place either at home or in the hospital depending on pregnancy complications or the number of fetuses. Higher-order multiple pregnancies often need bedrest starting in the middle of the second trimester. Preventive bed rest has not been shown to prevent preterm birth in multiple pregnancy. 

  • Maternal and fetal testing. Testing may be needed to monitor the health of the fetuses, especially if there are pregnancy complications.

  • Tocolytic medicines. Tocolytic medicines may be given, if preterm labor happens, to help slow or stop contractions of the uterus. These may be given orally, in an injection, or intravenously. Tocolytic medicines often used include magnesium sulfate.

  • Corticosteroid medicines. Corticosteroid medicines may be given to help mature the lungs of the fetuses. Lung immaturity is a major problem of premature babies.

How are multiple pregnancies delivered?

Delivery of multiples depends on many factors including the fetal positions, gestational age, and health of mother and fetuses. Generally, in twins, if both fetuses are in the vertex (head-down) position and there are no other complications, a vaginal delivery is possible. If the first fetus is vertex, but the second is not, the first fetus may be delivered vaginally, then the second is either turned to the vertex position or delivered breech (buttocks are presented first). These procedures can increase the risk for problems, like prolapsed cord (when the cord slips down through the cervical opening). Emergency cesarean birth of the second fetus may be needed. Usually, if the first fetus is not vertex, both babies are delivered by cesarean. Most triplets and other higher-order multiples are born by cesarean.

Illustration of a twin birth, head down/head down
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Illustration of a twin birth, head down/head up
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Illustration of a twin birth, head up/head down
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Vaginal delivery may take place in an operating room because of the greater risks for complications during birth and the potential need for cesarean delivery. Cesarean delivery is usually needed for fetuses that are in abnormal positions, for certain medical conditions of the mother, and for fetal distress.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Burd, Irina, MD, PhD
  • Kanipe, Jennifer, RN, BSN