The positive pregnancy test left you spinning with excitement, but the scan that showed you were carrying three babies probably left you spinning in a very different way…
You’re expecting triplets. While that means three times the cuteness, you may also be thinking of three times the stretchmarks, three times the labour effort. And let’s not go near the prospect of nightfeeds.
Add in the strong possibility that you don’t know anyone else who’s had triplets (and, no, Phoebe of Friends fame doesn’t count) – you may be in the middle of a-never-bargained-for-this meltdown.
But the human body is amazing and it’ll surprise with how it adjusts – and expands – to house your little ones. We’ve asked experts at the Twins and Multiple Birth Association (TAMBA) about what to expect when you’re expecting twins, triplets or (gulp) more.
In this article
Getting to grips with triplets
Around 200 sets of triplets are born in the UK each year, so rest assured that lots of women have been through a triple pregnancy before and had three beautiful and healthy babies.
Your babies are most likely to be non-identical (three separate eggs fertilised by three sperms at the same time), as identical triplets, from one egg split into three, are very rare. If you can’t tell by looks alone, once your babies are here, you can find out with a DNA test on your placenta.
Being pregnant with triplets is classed as a high-risk pregnancy. However, you’ll be assigned to a consultant obstetrician who will monitor you very closely throughout your pregnancy so you’ll be in safe hands at all times.
‘Try to take it easy – you’ll probably find you tire quickly and need to stop work sooner than if you were carrying one baby,’ says Sandra Bosman, midwifery consultant for TAMBA. ‘High blood pressure, diabetes and premature labour are all possibilities, but taking care of yourself will help prevent this developing.’
And, as you might expect, you’ll look like you’re expecting triplets.
Sharon Farmiglietti, multiple birth expert says: ‘Pelvic pain is unfortunately quite common and occurs because the pelvis needs to be more flexible for birth but sometimes it can relax too much and become unstable. Ask your midwife to refer you to a physiotherapist who should be able to help.
‘Sickness is more common with multiples because of the additional pressure on the body but you should see a medical professional if you are unable to hold down fluids or food.’
When your due date approaches, if one or more of your babies doesn’t seem to be thriving, your doctor may induce labour.
What to expect during labour
Most triplets are delivered at around 34 weeks, so it’s sensible to get your hospital bags (yep, plural, or mahoosive, in this case) packed a few weeks before this so you’re ready when you’re babies are.
‘You’ll probably have to stay in hospital for longer than usual,’ Sandra explains. ‘And it also means you have over a 50% chance of having a caesarean. Your first baby may be born vaginally but if the others get distressed then you might need a c-section.’
‘You are also more likely to be encouraged to have an epidural if you are having multiples but it is entirely up to you,’ adds Sharon. ‘The reasons they may encourage you to have one is so that it is already in place in case you need a c-section but some units will set up the epidural but not administer the drugs unless required.
‘The other reason is that if they need to turn the second baby it can be painful. Induction can lead to more intervention later on, so it is normally only done if there are medical grounds to do so. However the type of pain relief you have is your choice – the midwives have a duty of care to you, whatever you decide.’
When having multiples, you’ll have your labour monitored more carefully and there will be more medical professionals present than for a singleton birth.
The length of labour will be similar to that of a singleton as the first part of labour when the cervix dilates and the opening is made for your babies to arrive is the same for one baby as for two or three.
Your triplets will probably be born very small and may have some trouble breathing. If this is the case, they’ll need to stay in an intensive care unit until they are strong enough to look after themselves.
What to expect when the triplets arrive
Being a mum to three babies will be extremely time consuming and exhausting – so, rest whenever you can. ‘A routine and good organisation skills are essential,’ advises Sandra. ‘Prioritise things that are essential.’
Try to feed your babies at the same time so that they start to synchronise – even if that means waking one or two of them up. If you would like to breastfeed, you can – you breasts will respond to the feeding and keep producing milk until all three of your little ones are full.
‘You will be reassured to know that a sleep study of twins showed that twins who sleep together are no more likely to wake each other than those that sleep separately,’ says Sharon. ‘So don’t be concerned that your triplets will be waking each other up with.
‘Having twins can be more tiring so accept any offers of help you get. If you feed them at the same time they are more likely to sleep at the same time.’
Look for multiple and triplet groups in your area, to swap stories with and vent to other parents about things that only a mum of multiples understands. TAMBA is a fantastic online resource which you can use to chat with experts and receive advice.
Having triplets will probably be the most trying and tiresome thing you’ve ever done – or will ever do – in your life.
But the rewards are endless and very few people can say that they have triplets. It’s definitely a unique parenting experience.
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Meet Sharon Farmiglietti, multiple birth expert
Sharon has a diploma in antenatal education and holds a current NCT Licence to practice. She runs multiple birth courses for Twins And Multiple Birth Association (TAMBA), providing couples with the information and confidence to face the journey ahead, and is responsible for training all teachers and ensuring the quality of provision.
As well as running antenatal courses for both singletons and multiples, Sharon trains childcare students to work in nurseries and has two kids of her own.