What I’ve learned about twin pregnancies

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, it was a bit of a surprise (there are no other twins in my family!) and I knew very little about pregnancy, let along twin pregnancies. Along the way I’ve had to find and filter information and come to my own conclusions about what is best for the twins. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of the knowledge that I’ve gained in the hope that it will help other twin mums-to-be.

First of all, a disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert in any way shape or form. These are just my opinions based on my own experiences and my interpretation of the material that I’ve read. Please use your own judgement when reading this and come to your own conclusions.

The most important thing that I’ve come to realise is that twin pregnancies are different to single pregnancies, and you need to treat them as such. They take a much larger toll on your body and carry a whole extra set of risks. I’ve been very lucky with my pregnancy, which has gone very smoothly but I know of other twin mums who have had complications, been put on bed rest or given birth to pretty premature babies. It is really important that you look after yourself throughout your pregnancy to give your babies the best possible start. Now I am over 37 weeks pregnant with healthy-looking full-size babies who are currently showing no signs of wanting to come out!

Please don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing: I was admitted twice to hospital with threatened miscarriage twice very early in the pregnancy. Thankfully both times the babies were fine. I think that problems like this, and exaggerated pregnancy symptoms (such as morning sickness and heartburn) are all part and parcel of twin pregnancies.

Rest

I would recommend that you slow down and rest as much as possible. I’ve been in the fortunate position that for most of my pregnancy I was only working part time and since about 24 weeks I’ve not been working at all (my Etsy shop is now my work but I can do that at my own pace!). I attribute this to a significant part of how well my pregnancy has gone. If I’m tired, I can sleep in in the morning or stop what I’m doing and take a nap. I realise that many others may not have this luxury but you still need to rest as much as possible. At the very least, you will want to stop work earlier than if you were having a single baby.

More significantly, you need to listen to your body. At various points along the pregnancy, I’ve been out doing something and fatigue has totally overcome me either then or the next day which made me realise that I can’t do that anymore! For example, we were showing some friends around Hong Kong and I just got too hot and tired and had to sit down and let them continue without me. I learned from that that I needed to avoid being out in such hot weather for long periods of time. Since then, the amount I can do has gradually got less and less and now at the end of my pregnancy I barely leave the house. My body quickly tells me if I’ve done too much!

Eat well

This was an area that I found very confusing. I read a book called ‘When You’re Expecting Twins’ by Dr Barbara Luke, and she advocates that twin mums-to-be consume 3500 calories a day (a huge amount) and lists the amount of weight that you should have put on every few weeks! I read this book when I was at about 24 weeks and I had only put on about half the prescribed amount! By contrast, the NHS guidelines say that you should not eat any more than normal until the end of your pregnancy, when you should consume an extra 300 calories per baby per day.

After talking to a few people and deliberating this a large amount I opted for a middle ground. I do actually believe that you need to eat more than usual throughout a twin pregnancy, despite what the NHS says. By 24 weeks (during which I had been eating a similar amount to pre-pregnancy) I felt that I had lost a little weight off the rest of my body, although the bump and babies were growing well. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have enough stores to make breast milk once the babies were born too.

One twin mum told me that her doctor had suggested eating 6 small meals a day, each with some protein in. I felt that this style of eating didn’t quite suit me, but I adjusted my diet to include more protein and added substantial snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon (sometimes more than one!). I now try to eat as much protein and calcium as I can, and lots of fruit and veggies too. Since then I have gained weight much more steadily and I actually feel a bit podgy now! I’m hoping that breastfeeding will help to take away the excess weight!

Here are some examples of the things I’ve been eating:

  • Cheese and ham sandwich
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Pancakes
  • Omelettes
  • Jacket potato with cheese (I don’t like baked beans but these would be a good addition too)
  • Chunky soup
  • Porridge
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Cereal bars
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Raw carrot and hummus
  • Yogurt

Strengthen your core

About halfway through my pregnancy, I started getting backache. I’ve never been a particularly fit or physically strong person and I guess my body was just complaining about the extra weight on my front. Therefore I’d recommend that early on in a twin pregnancy you should start building up your core, perhaps through pregnancy-specific back exercises, prenatal yoga or prenatal pilates.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t do any of these – perhaps I am just too lazy! Some other twin mums recommended buying a pregnancy support belt and it has been a bit of a lifesaver for me. I wear it every day and whilst my backache isn’t completely gone, it has definitely been alleviated to significant extent.

Another thing that I found is that some of my bras were getting too tight and giving me backache or sore ribs. A bra extender (or two) helps with this (or you could just buy bigger bras…).

Get support

I joined the Hong Kong Mothers of Multiples group, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting with other women who have been through or are going through the same thing as me. It’s good to know that I can turn to them if I have any questions or problems. I’d really recommend other twin mums and mums-to-be find a mothers of multiples group in their area. I think most areas have them.

In the UK, there is an organisation called TAMBA (Twin and Multiple Births Association) who are a great source of information. They also have a hotline that mothers of multiples can call if they have any problems, and they run twin-specific antenatal and parenting classes. If was in the UK I’d definitely have joined!

There are other online sources of information too, although I have to admit I haven’t really used them. Some examples include:

What to buy

I think deciding what you need or want to buy for your babies is a very personal thing but you need to remember that you don’t actually need two of everything! For example, we have only purchased one cot (and no bassinets). While the twins are small, you can put them both in the same cot – and I read somewhere that often twins like to be near each other as it mimics their conditions in the womb. Similarly, you only need one bath, one changing table/mat and one set of toys (they can share). However, you will need twice as many clothes, bedding, nappies (diapers) and feeding bottles!

We have gone fairly extreme in our aims to keep purchasing to a minimum and have only bought a single stroller (pushchair). Double pushchairs aren’t very practical in Hong Kong as they tend to be big and heavy, and most people here use baby carriers instead of pushchairs anyway. Our plan is that if Tom and I are out together we’ll take one baby each in a baby carrier, and if I’m on my own, I’ll carry one and push the other one in the stroller. We’ll see how well that works!

We’ve also bought a lot of things second hand, partly because there is no point in spending a lot of money on things that the babies will grow out of quickly, and also because baby stuff in Hong Kong is very expensive! Here are some great sources of second hand baby goods in Hong Kong:

  • AsiaXpat – this is the most active with something like 100 new listings per day
  • Discovery Bay Flea Market – DB has a LOT of families (and a surprising number of twins) so there are new things going up all the time. I don’t live in DB but I’ve still bought things from here
  • GeoBaby – not as active but still worth a look
  • swap-it-hk – very active but not just baby/children stuff
  • Hong Kong Mothers of Multiples – occasionally people sell things through this facebook group, sometimes very useful twin-specific items

So those are my main learnings from my pregnancy. As I said, this is all based on my own opinions so if you are a twin mum or mum-to-be and you disagree with any of these or have additional things to add, please do write them in the comments below! I’d love to hear your experiences!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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One thought on “What I’ve learned about twin pregnancies

  1. Best article I’ve read so far ! Thank you for keeping it real. What a breath of fresh air to know that it’s ok to just listen to your body and follow how you feel. I’m in my 32nd week with painful pelvic girdle pain and take to rest most of the time. Can’t help it! I feel ashamed and sometimes guilty for being in bed most of the time but it’s what my body wants and I listen. It’s winter here in UK which makes it difficult to walk outside being overly careful with slipping on black ice but I’ll be getting back to my half hour walks tomorrow ( browse around in supermarkets lol) ;)

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