Carrying twins is different from carrying one baby. Read some of the most surprising differences between a twin pregnancy vs single pregnancy.
I thought I had pregnancy down pat with my singleton. I did the research, went through nine months of pregnancy and finally, delivery. And I figured my second pregnancy would be as simple as the first time around.
Then, when I found out about the twins, I felt like I entered a new world with requirements and protocols I’d never heard of or didn’t need to know with a singleton.
How different are twin pregnancies from singleton ones? Very. And it’s not just having a bigger belly either, despite what I had assumed when I first learned I was having twins.
Twin pregnancy vs single pregnancy
From pregnancy risks to energy levels, being pregnant with twins is nothing like carrying a singleton.
Below are a few surprising differences between singleton and twin pregnancies:
More fatigue and morning sickness
“I think I’m carrying a girl,” I told my husband before our first prenatal appointment. “My nausea and fatigue are worse this time around. Maybe it’s because the baby is a girl.”
Long before I learned I was having twins, I noticed a difference in morning sickness and fatigue. It was so different I thought I must be having a girl this time around. Turned out, I was having twins instead.
Expect extra fatigue and morning sickness with twin pregnancies. Your body is making two babies and likely two placentas, increasing the chances of morning sickness even in the early stages of pregnancy.
Your twin belly will be larger than a singleton belly
As your body grows, your belly will also be larger than a typical singleton pregnancy. How large? A twin belly at 32 weeks is about the same size as a singleton belly at 4o weeks. So while singleton moms are feeling ready to get their babies out, we can have several more weeks to go before we do.
Exercise isn’t as important
With my singleton pregnancy, I exercised often, from walking to swimming to prenatal yoga. With twins, I was ready to pass out after a 30-minute walk.
“Is exercise necessary with this twin pregnancy?” I had asked my doctor. She smiled and shook her head. “You can do yoga and stretching, but I won’t have you doing aerobics or strenuous activities.”
This blew my mind away. During my singleton pregnancy I had heard and practiced the importance of exercise. We were encouraged to exercise throughout pregnancy to better improve our health throughout those months.
Twin pregnancies pose different risks though. For one thing, rest is more important than active exercise. An overworked and exhausted body isn’t going to help when you’re trying to create two babies.
And second, twin pregnancies are automatically high-risk and come with its own risks of complications that exercise can worsen. Whereas exercise is almost always a positive factor in a singleton pregnancy, it can become a risk with a twin one.
You should still be limber and move throughout your pregnancy. Choose simple movements, a slow pace and stretching exercises over vigorous and lengthy ones. Because when your body tells you that a simple walk is too much, you’d be wiser to heed its warning signs.
Increased risks and more prenatal visits
No matter how healthy you may be, once you’re carrying twins, you’re automatically considered a high-risk pregnancy. Our bodies aren’t meant to carry more than one baby, no matter how common it is to give birth to multiples.
Many of these complications are manageable, but your doctor will want to assess them along the way. Whereas you may have seen your doctor once a month for a singleton pregnancy, you’ll now likely see her every two weeks in the beginning, then every week toward the end.
I also received more sonograms with the twins than I ever did with my first. My singleton pregnancy included a total of three sonograms, but I’d get a sonogram at nearly every visit. This isn’t so much so parents have mementos as it is to monitor your babies’ growth more precisely.
Rest is imperative
Pregnancy—especially a twin one—is deceiving. It seems silly to feel tired when it doesn’t look like we’re doing anything, but our bodies are working at a tremendous pace creating two babies. So much so that we feel exhausted even if all we’ve done is sit at our desk all day.
Don’t wait for your body to feel tired before you force yourself to rest. Include downtime into your day, or cut out strenuous activities you used to do.
Think about it this way: Your body needs a total of 600 extra calories a day to make your babies. That’s a lot of energy it’s using! Imagine exercising long enough to burn off 600 calories every day and you can see why your body needs to rest.
And while you can’t guarantee yourself from pre-term labor, my doctor advised me to take it easy. If you feel like taking a nap, take a nap. If you’re too tired to stand up to cook, don’t. Lie down often and take care not to lift or carry anything heavy.
Taking it easy becomes even more crucial during the last few months. Your body is so tired and more likely to enter pre-term labor when it’s under stress.
Drink one gallon of water per day
I always considered myself a big water drinker. I don’t drink anything else, other than tea. So when I heard that I should drink one gallon—or 16 (8 ounce) cups—of water per day, I assumed I already was.
Just to be sure, though, I began measuring and keeping track of how many cups I downed for the day. In a twin pregnancy, staying hydrated can keep contractions away and your body hydrated.
To my surprise, I barely reached 10 cups, and that’s with me putting in some effort. I never knew how difficult drinking 16 cups of water is, but after that experiment, I made it a point to. I bought a one-gallon water bottle which I kept at my side to track how much water I actually drank.
A lot more vitamins
With my singleton pregnancy, one prenatal vitamin a day was enough. So imagine my surprise when my doctor recommended an extra 2,000 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium. (To compare, prenatal vitamins typically have 220 IU of vitamin D and 145 mg of calcium.)
She also gave me an iron supplement on top of that and recommended at least 1mg of folic acid. (On the positive side, taking all those vitamins helped me reach my 16 cups of water requirement!)
Limited to no travel
When I was pregnant with one baby, I was able to travel all the way up to 36 weeks. Not so with twins, where my doctor preferred I didn’t travel at all. And if I had to, 24weeks is the latest most doctors will allow their twin moms to travel.
Travel itself is tiring even for the average person—you won’t want to add extra stress on your pregnancy. (Remember that “rest is imperative” section?)
And complications can happen more often and at any time during a twin pregnancy, so staying local is advisable should anything happen. I you deliver early and the twins are admitted into the local NICU, you won’t be able to take them home until they’re ready and run the risk of being stuck away from home.
Prepare everything much earlier
60% of twin pregnancies are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks), with the average twins born at 35 weeks. Have your hospital bags packed, car seats installed, and cribs ready to go in advance.
Moms of di/di twins should be ready by 30 weeks (with mo/di and mo/mo twins even earlier). Increased complications can sometimes land moms into the delivery room early. While no one wants their babies born that early, it’s smart not to put things off to the last minute.
Twins are a whole new world.
I thought twin pregnancies just meant your belly is huge and your babies are small. Boy was I wrong.
You’re more tired and much earlier in your pregnancy than if you were only carrying one. Exercise isn’t a must-do, especially with the increased risks of a twin pregnancy. Instead, rest is more important, as is drinking double the water and taking more vitamins than a woman pregnant with one.
With increased risks and complications, pregnant women with twins are also advised not to travel at all, or if they must, to do so before 24 weeks. And because most twins tend to be born prematurely, you’ll want to have your hospital bag and baby gear essentials ready to go.
It’s overwhelming to consider just how different this experience had been from my singleton pregnancy, but I’m glad I learned all I could to prepare for the arrival of my twins.
Want more resources on expecting twins? I created an all-encompassing guide on how to prepare for your twins!