Wondering how different a twin pregnancy is compared to a regular one? Read some of the most surprising differences between a twin vs singleton pregnancy.
I thought I had pregnancy down pat after I had my singleton. I did the research, went through nine months of pregnancy and finally, delivery. My second pregnancy would be simple, I figured, now that I’d already gone through it once.
So imagine my surprise when the doctor announced I was having… twins.
I was not prepared for two babies. I entered a new world with its own lingo and protocols I’d never heard of or didn’t need to know with a singleton.
Twin vs singleton pregnancy
I felt like a first-time mom all over again, and for good reason. From twin pregnancy symptoms to new guidelines, I had no idea how different a twin pregnancy could be compared to a singleton one.
You see, I knew close to nothing about a twin pregnancy. Sure, I figured that twin bellies got larger than normal, and that twin babies were likely to be born on the smaller side. Otherwise, I was clueless.
Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve learned a lot about carrying twins. I discovered things like the best ways to take care of myself and increase the chances of a healthy twin pregnancy. And I followed new timelines, from when to stop traveling to how much weight (and by when) I needed to gain.
This is the information I’d love to pass on to you so you don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did. Because—from the symptoms of twins to energy levels—being pregnant with twins is nothing like carrying a singleton.
Take a look at what you can expect during your twin pregnancy:
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. The nausea felt more intense than with my singleton. I also felt tired more quickly, even from simple things like a walk around the block.
Typical signs of twins are extra fatigue and morning sickness compared to a singleton pregnancy. After all, your body is making two babies and likely two placentas, increasing the chances of the symptoms even in the early stages of pregnancy.
You’re also producing more hormones that contribute to all sorts of physical and emotional changes right from the start. And the extra blood and other fluids flowing through your body also add extra weight.
Thankfully, my morning sickness began and ended around the same times as my singleton pregnancy. While the nausea felt more intense, it at least only lasted around the same time as it did with my first.
The fatigue however doesn’t go away as easily. The physical drain of carrying two babies happens much earlier, even well in the second trimester.
A much larger belly
I was sitting in the waiting room during one of my prenatal appointments when I saw a pregnant woman walk in. Common enough to see in a doctor’s waiting room—except this woman’s belly was large. I knew right then she must have been carrying twins.
Only later when I too was in the later weeks of my twin pregnancy did I know just how big our bellies can get.
How large is a twin belly compared to a singleton? A twin belly at 32 weeks is about the same size as a singleton belly at 40 weeks. So while singleton moms are ready to get their babies out at 40 weeks, twin moms have a few more weeks to go.
In fact, one of the reasons I felt down about expecting twins was because I was imagining the worst with my belly. I couldn’t grasp the thought of getting so large, and scared myself by Googling images of twin bellies.
But while our bellies do get larger than singletons, the change happens gradually. Your body will adjust to the extra weight so that, come the third trimester, it’s not as bad as you may have originally thought.
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Less need to exercise
With my singleton pregnancy, I exercised often, from walking to swimming to prenatal yoga. So I was surprised when I took my normal walk around the block and felt ready to pass out a few minutes into it.
“Is exercise necessary with this twin pregnancy?” I asked my doctor at my next appointment. 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. I was encouraged to exercise throughout pregnancy to better improve my health throughout those months.
As always, check with your doctor about your own physical needs, since yours might differ from mine. But I learned that my twin pregnancy posed different risks from my singleton one.
For one thing, our bodies are hard at work making two babies, not one. Between rest and exercise, resting became more important than over-extending myself.
And second, my twin pregnancy came with its own set of complications that exercise could worsen. Whereas exercise was a positive factor in my singleton pregnancy, it became a risk with my twin one.
My doctor said I should still be limber and move throughout the pregnancy, but to choose simple movements. I followed a slow pace and stretching exercises over vigorous and lengthy ones. Try mild exercise as long as you can, then cut back when it gets to be too much.
And don’t get down on yourself or think you’re not tough enough if you get winded after 10 minutes of exercise, even if you’ve been previously active. Singleton moms might be able to walk miles every day, but a twin pregnancy is a whole other ball game!
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. After all, the best way to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy is to attend all your prenatal appointments.
So, while you may have seen your doctor once a month for a singleton pregnancy, you might see her every two weeks in the beginning. If you’re like me, you might even need to see your doctor several times a week if you run into complications she needs to monitor.
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 I’d have mementos as it was to monitor my babies’ growth.
More time resting
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 desks all day.
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.
Don’t be surprised if you barely make it through the morning before needing a lunchtime nap. And you just might find yourself spending most of your time on the couch, especially in the third trimester. These are all normal signs of having twins!
Include downtime into your day so you don’t get to that point of feeling exhausted from simple activities. But don’t wait for your body to feel tired before you force yourself to rest. Cut strenuous activities you used to do or take them down a notch.
And while no one can guarantee herself 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 when you’re most uncomfortable and just about ready to give birth.
One gallon of water a day
I always considered myself an avid 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 a day, I assumed I already was.
Just to be sure, though, I began measuring and tracking how many cups I drank for the day.
To my surprise, I barely reached 10 cups, and that’s with me trying. 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.
Why one gallon? Dehydration can trigger complications like preterm contractions and early labor. Drinking water can also relieve uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and constipation.*
And with a twin pregnancy, your body needs an extra dose of water to stay hydrated.
Taking a lot more vitamins
With my singleton pregnancy, one prenatal vitamin a day was enough to cover all my needs.
My twin pregnancy, however, needed way more than one prenatal vitamin. For instance, my doctor recommended an extra 2,000 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium. To compare, my prenatal vitamin had only 220 IU of vitamin D and 145 mg of calcium.
She also gave me an extra iron supplement and recommended at least 1mg of folic acid (the prenatal vitamin only had 400g). On the positive side, taking all those vitamins helped me reach my 16 cups of water requirement!
And with all that iron in your body, talk to your doctor about increasing your fiber intake to ease constipation. Supplements or eating fiber-rich food usually do the trick.
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, 24 weeks is the latest most doctors will allow their twin moms to travel.
Why the travel restrictions with pregnant twin moms?
Travel itself is tiring even for the average person—you don’t want to add extra stress to your already exhausting pregnancy. (Remember that “rest is important” section?)
Complications can also happen more often and at any time during a twin pregnancy, so staying local is advisable if anything happens. Your doctor can monitor you more closely or admit you to a hospital for emergencies.
And if you deliver early while traveling and the twins are admitted into the NICU, you won’t be able to take them home until they’re ready. You then run the risk of being stuck in a different place away from home while you wait.
The last few weeks of your pregnancy are dedicated to preparing for the baby, from getting your gear assembled to packing the hospital bag. But with a twin pregnancy, you’ll want to prepare even earlier than singleton pregnancies.
60% of twin pregnancies are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks), with the average twins born at 35 weeks. My own pregnancy was scheduled to go no later than 38 weeks, before that due date was eventually moved to 37 weeks because of complications.
We rarely have the space or resources to house our twins through 40 weeks or beyond, so most twins are born earlier. Complications and certain types of twins also make it more likely that twins will deliver earlier.
For instance, mo/di and mo/mo twins tend to be born earlier because these twins either share a sac, a placenta, or both. Even di/di twins like mine don’t always make it all the way to 38 weeks—I ended up going to labor at 35 weeks.
While no one wants their babies born that early, it’s smart not to put things off to the last minute. Have your hospital bags packed, car seats installed, and cribs ready to go no later than 30 weeks. Mo/di and mo/mo twin pregnancies should be even earlier than that.
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 how different this had been from my singleton pregnancy, but I’m glad I learned all I could to prepare.
Want more resources on expecting twins? I created an all-encompassing guide and workbook on how to prepare for your twins! Get information about twins you don’t always find, plus checklists and worksheets to keep you on track during your twin pregnancy.