Is there a way to prepare yourself for the arrival of two, three, or even four babies? The challenges of a multiple pregnancy start from pregnancy and extend to parenting. A complex but gratifying process.
Nicolás Ramos Rodríguez
Surgeon, specialist in
Pediatrics and Neonatology
It is time for the first ultrasound, will it be a boy or a girl? Deep down, mom and dad have a preference, however, in this moment, inclinations take a backseat and the priority is finding out about the health of the new family member. The ultrasound starts, and there is a surprise. There is more than one heartbeat: it is not just one baby, there are two! The faces of the parents change and their emotions fluctuate between fear and happiness. “The heartbeat can be seen as soon as the embryo is 2mm long. The discovery of two embryos with heartbeats allows for a certain diagnosis of twins as well as the life of both embryos,” explains Nicolás Ramos Rodríguez, surgeon specialized in pediatrics and neonatology.
He also says that with this news comes an avalanche of questions, which are often fears disguised as doubts. The most common questions are: What will the pregnancy be like? What are the risks? What should I eat? “Multiple pregnancies present high biological, emotional, and social risks for the fetuses, the newborns, mom and dad, as well as for the rest of the family,” he states. For this reason, it is important to have medical support during the pregnancy, which usually lasts 32 weeks – the average length of a pregnancy with triplets. The expert complements that in the country there is more experience with twins, however pregnancies with three or more fetuses in Colombia have increased in recent years as a consequence of assisted reproduction programs.
The neonatologist answers mom and dad’s questions; the recommendations increase as the weeks pass: “the mother who is pregnant with twins should gain up to 20 kg, and a future mother of triplets up to 27 kg, depending on the average weight of the woman.” Doctor Ramos also talks about the importance of liquids, “the risk of contractions and a premature birth increases when the women is dehydrated.” The mothers take note and follow the recommendations point by point. Eating for three? “Some doctors recommend that women with multiple pregnancies consume about 300 calories more per day than a woman who is only expecting one baby. This is equivalent to, approximately, 2,700 to 2,800 calories per day,” adds Ramos.
Days pass, and at home, the daily routine has already been completely transformed for the future parents who, amidst constant emotional changes and material needs, are preparing for the moment of birth, of coming home again with a multiplied family.
With the arrival of the babies begins the great challenge that, in a few words, consists of doubling or tripling, as the case may be, the basic needs and requirements of a baby. “It is important to count on family, on friends. It is also important to have a lot of patience and be willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary,” explains Juan Pablo Bernal, father of three girls and founder of the Liga de los Múltiples (the League of Multiples), a community that brings together families around the country with twins, triplets, quadruplets.
Similarly, they also increase care due to the risks. Neonatologist Ramos explains: “The human uterus is capable of holding a single fetus up to 40 weeks of gestation. As the fetuses increase in number, the tendency for preterm birth increases.”
Juan Pablo Bernal explains that with a family of multiples, the changes are happening in all directions: professional, economic, emotional, time for resting will be less and less, “and that is where love and the desire to push the family forward are imposed to make the experience less chaotic,” he adds.
Psychological support is essential. “There are parents who may not have as much help from their families or their economic resources are not as representative, and this can lead to other problems. Recycle strollers, clothes, shoes: keep things in good condition so you can help other families,” concludes the coordinator of the League of Multiples.
This way, families become aware of creating community, a support network with other groups that have already gone through the challenge of the first days, and seek to help those who are just beginning the journey. •
30 quadruple births occurred in Colombia in 2018.
1.8 % of births in Colombia are multiple births, according to the DANE.
It is essential to count on your partner, friends, and other family members to lessen the burden and prevent the situation from overwhelming the family.