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Risk factors of twins and multiple pregnancies


Written by:
Clare Eves
National Practice Leader | Medical Law

Recent data has shown that multiple births are increasing in Australia and globally, with almost 1 in 40 children born twins. Fertility treatments are becoming more and more accessible, and the general maternal age has also matured, with women in their 30’s more likely to release more than one egg during a menstrual cycle.

Multiple pregnancies and the births which follow carry increased risks of harm to both mother and her babies. While many mothers give birth without issue, it’s important to acknowledge the risks involved.

If these risks are incorrectly dealt with by your medical team, it can cause serious health consequences for you and your babies. In circumstances where medical treatment is below a reasonable standard, legal help is available.

Twins and multiple pregnancy risks

If you are a mother expecting multiples, you may be exposed to increased risks of:

  • High blood pressure, which increases the risk of major complications, such as pre-eclampsia or a placental abruption, where the placenta becomes detached, which is a medical emergency.
  • Gestational diabetes.
  • Miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
  • Caesarean section being required to deliver the babies.
  • Post-partum haemorrhage.
  • Post-natal depression.

Just as the risk is higher for Mum, there are also increased risk to your babies including:

  • Developing twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), which is a condition of the placenta that can develop with twins that share a placenta, and occurs when one twin starts to receive more blood flow than the other, causing harm.
  • Prematurity (being born before 37 weeks), which often results in a baby being born before their bodies and internal organs are ready to work alone in the outside world. Most twin or multi-birth occur with an earlier delivery, and full term for twins is considered 38 weeks, not the typical 40 weeks.
  • A low birth weight and / or ongoing growth problems.
  • A higher chance of the babies being born with a birth defect or abnormality.
  • Increased risk of mortality.

Managing the health risks of twins or multiple pregnancies

Not all twin or multi pregnancies are high risk, but the prospect of a multiple birth can still be daunting. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider/s and assemble your obstetric team early.

It’s possible you may need extra medical care during the pregnancy, labour and birth. You may need to attend more regular antenatal check-ups so your health provider can monitor you and your babies to ensure no concerns are emerging. You also may need more frequent pre-natal tests (like ultrasounds) to check on your babies throughout your pregnancy.

If you are considered to be high risk you may need to take extra precautions such as bed rest, or may even be referred to a sub-specialist, such as a Foetal Medicine Specialist, who has greater experience in managing high risk pregnancies than a general Obstetrician or Midwife.

If you are concerned at any time during your pregnancy, don’t be afraid to speak to your Obstetrician. Your medical team should develop a robust birth plan which allows for risk. Talking to your doctor early about the best planned delivery for you in the circumstances, and considering how this may change as the pregnancy advances is important.

Medical negligence during twins or multiple pregnancies

Shine’s Medical Law team is currently representing a family who was let down during the labour of their twins by their treating medical team. The mother presented to hospital after her waters had broken but she was sent home from the hospital without management or advice.

She returned a day later in labour. She was allowed to delivery naturally, although, the birth was far from uneventful and an emergency caesarean section was eventually called. Both twins required resuscitation and adrenalin, and one has suffered an extensive brain injury as a result of lack of oxygen on delivery.

The family are now seeking compensation to allow them to meet the medical and financial needs of the twins. A successful claim would remove some of the significant burden placed on the family to care for the family as well as reassurance that care will be provided long-term. It would support the child or children to live the fullest life possible, allowing them to participate and contribute to the community, and the family unit to be preserved.

How Shine Lawyers can help

The Medical Law team have a proven record when it comes to achieving results for families who have suffered due to negligent medical treatment during pregnancy and birth.

We offer free, no-obligation consultations to discuss your medical negligence experience and potential claim. If you’d like to speak to a medical law expert, enquire now.

Written by Clare Eves. Last modified: March 17, 2021.

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