When a couple finds out they are having twins, it can come as a genuine surprise. Shock, anxiety and denial combined with utter joy are common reactions. “How will we manage?”, “How can we afford them?”, “Our house is too small”, “I/we won’t cope”, “They must be wrong”, are some of the more common responses.
There is no one right way to respond to the news of having twins and it can take time to process this news. This is why it helps to just aim for an easy life for the first few weeks after having a twin pregnancy confirmed and to avoid being so busy that you don’t have a chance to process the reality. Because although every woman has some chance of conceiving with twins, finding this out for sure is another thing entirely.
Whether pregnant with one or more babies, many couples choose not to share their news of a positive pregnancy until after the first trimester has passed. By then, the high risk of miscarriage is reducing and the chances of continuing to term are increasing. Though it’s reasonably common not to have a twin pregnancy diagnosed until into the second trimester, when a mother and her health care provider may become suspicious about the size of the mother’s tummy.
But sometimes it can be very clear from the earliest days of having a pregnancy confirmed that twins may be present. Early pregnancy symptoms can be so exaggerated and severe that this is enough reason to warrant having a first trimester ultrasound when two little embryos can be seen.
There is no definite time frame when couples will know they are having twins. There are just too many individual factors to consider. Perhaps twins may already run in your family, you’ve had twins before or you’ve had fertility assistance – all of these factors will increase your likelihood of having twins. Some women suspect almost from the moment of conception that “something” is different. Their senses of taste, smell and alertness change so remarkably that not only do feel they are pregnant but are strongly suspicious they are having more than one baby.
Some women dream they are having twins in such detail that they wake convinced this is true. Or they’ve been so exposed to the possibility of having twins by their families that they, in turn, always assumed they would. In this case having a twin pregnancy confirmed is not so much a shock but an affirmation of what they simply knew to be true for them.
But if you’ve never had anything to do with twins other than knowing they exist, then your reaction is likely to be very different. Once you’ve recovered from the initial shock of finding out you’re having twins, your practical side will emerge. Exactly when this happens is highly individual.
It’s never too early to start planning for managing two babies and it’s worth remembering that less than 50% of twin pregnancies extend beyond 38 weeks. Prematurity is common when having twins and many couples aim to be organised from around 30 weeks. Similarly, pregnancy complications are more common, so being organised and doing some planning is important. Don’t leave everything to the third trimester because you’re likely to find yourself running out of time and getting stressed out.
Sometimes expectant parents can feel very differently about having twins. A mother may feel more apprehensive than her partner, who could just view having twins as the best thing that ever happened. The practical reality of coping with more than one baby at a time can weigh especially heavily on mothers. Although you may feel you should be delighted, your reality may be very different.
No matter how many times you hear “you’ll be alright… you’ll cope”, you could still find yourself ruminating with worry. Building anxiety creates feelings of stress which then impacts on the ability to sleep and enjoy everyday life. If you or your partner feel this way it is important that you seek mental health support. Start with your GP who can speak to you about referral to a psychologist. Recognising how you feel and acknowledging it is the first step to feeling better.
Having twins is a joy, but it is also made easier by some planning and organisation.