The number of twins born in the UK has risen 50% in the last 20 years.
Having one baby is hard enough, but two to feed, bathe, cuddle, love and bring up can help bring even the most natural 'earth mother' type teetering towards the edge.
The moment your midwife tells you're expecting more than one bundle of loveliness, you should start preparing for the birth (not just in terms of double buggies but mentally too), no matter how many months away.
How to tell if you're having more than one baby
HcG is a hormone present in your blood or urine from 10 days after conception. If you're having a multiple birth, your HcG levels will increase rapidly, peaking at approximately 10 weeks. An early sonogram isn't a foolproof way to tell if you're having twins, but an ultrasound will.
An AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) test measures a protein secreted by the fetal liver and an abnormally high reading usually indicates more than one baby.
Ultimately, you won't know you're having twins until you have an ultrasound from 11-13 weeks.
What to expect if you're having a multiple birth
Multiple-birth pregnancies are automatically considered high risk, but that doesn't mean you should start panicking. While each pregnancy is different, these are common:
- Weight gain of 10lbs in your first trimester and a total of 15-25lbs by the end of your second trimester because of the increased volume of blood and uterine size. Since twins often arrive preterm, this early weight gain is important and good nutrition is vital.
- Excessive morning sickness
- Extreme fatigue, especially during the first trimester
- Feeling fetal movement earlier in pregnancy, although medical professionals disagree about this.
Develop a support network
You will need all the help you can get from your friends and family in the weeks before and after your birth. Sit down and discuss what each person can and is willing to do, so there are no arguments or confusion when you really need help.
You will also feel calmer about having things planned out beforehand.
Create a notebook for resources you'll need after the birth.
Numbers to include are: TAMBA - the twins and multiple births association, The Multiple Births Foundation (020 8383 3519), Home-Start (0800 068 6368) and your local Social Services.
Home-Start is a family-support organisation and their trained volunteers can arrange home visits for a couple of hours a week to help you cope or just to chat about your changing needs.
Your local Social Services might also be able to arrange home visits and extra childcare help, but it can be a bit of a postcode lottery in terms of the availability of services.
www.twinsclub.co.uk is a UK-wide network that offers support groups and online chatrooms and resources for parents and relatives of twins or more. There is also a very handy classified section where you can pick up second-hand gear or view companies, such as Twinsthings and JusOnne UK, which sell special buggies and cots.
www.twinsuk.co.uk is a site for families and expectant families of twins. Learning from her own experiences as a mother of twins, Delyth Raffell discovered that there was little advice and few products available especially for twins or multiple births and her website hopes to address these issues.