December 4, 2023Read More
The discovery that you’re carrying twins (or more) likely brings with it a whole gamut of emotions. Your pregnancy journey can be more complex since multiples carry a higher risk of complication but knowing what’s ahead, especially during the ultrasound process, can help ease any apprehension you might be experiencing.
This article will discuss:
Your first prenatal ultrasound is when you’ll most likely discover you’re pregnant with twins or multiples. The first ultrasound of your pregnancy, usually performed between 6-14 weeks, will determine both the viability and the number of embryos you are carrying. Ultrasounds in your first trimester are also sometimes called ‘dating scans’ because they narrow down the due date and the gestational age.
In an ultrasound, a transducer rod transmits sound waves into the body at a frequency hundreds of times higher than humans can hear. The echoes of those sound waves are recaptured and processed to produce images and reports. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers prenatal ultrasounds to be low-risk exams, with an excellent safety record for more than 20 years.
If you have an ultrasound as early as 6 or 7 weeks, you’ll likely be able to identify whether you’re carrying multiple embryos. By the 10-week mark, the scan will be clear enough to discern what type of twins or multiples you’re carrying.
Your embryos’ appearance will depend on the kind of twins or multiples you’re having. Identical twins or triplets come from a single fertilized egg that splits into two or three, and are truly genetically identical. Fraternal twins or triplets come from two or three different eggs, each fertilized by different sperm. Depending on the type, the embryos might share a gestational sac, placenta or amniotic sac. Here’s a breakdown of the types of mulitples:
Twins and triplets are generally considered higher-risk, so you’ll likely have more ultrasounds than usual throughout your pregnancy to monitor fetal health and development, especially leading up to your delivery.
Since twin embryos are generally smaller, it’s possible to miss them in early ultrasounds. With a hidden twin, one twin might block the other from view, especially among twins who share an amniotic sac. As they grow, however, the likelihood of missing sight of one of them declines.
The usual prenatal ultrasounds include a dating scan somewhere between 10 and 14 weeks, and an anatomy scan between 18 and 22 weeks. These ultrasounds confirm your pregnancy, monitor the fetal heartbeat, determine the gestational age and sex, and observe general growth and development.
You may also have an optional nuchal translucency (NT) ultrasound between 10 and 13 weeks. The NT measurements taken during this ultrasound evaluates the risk of Down syndrome and other congenital abnormalities.
When you’re pregnant with twins or multiples, you’ll likely have several additional scans, including:
While being pregnant with multiples carries a higher risk, rest assured that your healthcare team is constantly monitoring your health, as well as the health and development of your babies. It’s why so many ultrasounds are performed throughout a twin or multiple pregnancy: to check for any potential complications and avoid any adverse outcomes.
Risks that your healthcare team are actively monitoring for, include:
Although many deliver twins vaginally, C-sections are more common with multiples than in singleton births and are often scheduled in advance. This is to ensure that your healthcare team can control the labor and delivery process. Due to the preterm delivery, twins and multiples may need to spend time in the NICU before returning home.
There are two main types of pregnancy ultrasounds: transabdominal, in which the technician coats your belly with lubricant and runs the transducer wand through it; and transvaginal, in which the lubricated transducer wand is inserted in the vagina. There are a few things you can do to prepare for your ultrasound:
To stay fully informed on your pregnancy journey, don’t hesitate to ask the sonographer or technician questions before or during the appointment. You can ask about the procedure itself and everything that surrounds it, like:
The sonographer, who cannot legally discuss the results of your ultrasound with you, will prepare the images for a radiologist to review. The radiologist will interpret the images and send a report to your referring practitioner. You’ll get the results during a follow-up appointment and can ask different questions then, such as:
If you want faster access to your medical records, whether it’s to see the report prior to your doctor’s appointment or to share the scan images with your family and friends, you can use PocketHealth. Access your records here.
With PocketHealth, you can securely access and permanently store your images and other health information all in one place. You can also use PocketHealth to conveniently share your ultrasound images with loved ones so they can easily see how your pregnancy is progressing.
If you find any of the terminology confusing in your ultrasound report, PocketHealth Report Reader can help. Report Reader provides easy-to-understand definitions of the terms in your ultrasound report so you can feel confident when discussing the results with your practitioner.
Finding out you’re having twins or multiples can be a lot to process and knowing you’re now having what’s considered a high-risk pregnancy can heighten your stress. But you can take comfort in knowing the additional ultrasounds will help ensure you and your babies are healthy and developing well leading up to delivery. Being prepared for what’s ahead in your unique pregnancy journey can help you feel more confident and in control.