Babies born before 37 weeks gestation fall into the preemie category. Current statistics suggest about 50 percent of twins are born prematurely, with most twins being born between 35 and 38 weeks on average. Those are pretty steep odds for a premature birth. The good news is that even babies born as early as 28 weeks have a whopping 95 percent survival rate. So, if your chances of having preemie twins are 50/50, the likelihood of having healthy twins is much, much better, preemie or not. Keep in mind, your unique medical history will factor in, so be sure to discuss all of your questions and concerns with a qualified healthcare professional.
No matter how long or short a stay your twins have in the NICU, it’s never easy on a new mother. After having just given birth to two babies you will probably be tired, sore and hormonal to boot. You may even experience intense feelings of responsibility or that you could have done something to change the outcome. If your birth was by C-section, you will be dealing with that recovery as well. Not to mention, it can be very overwhelming to see your new babies in the midst of various, unknown wires, tubes and monitors. The thing to keep in perspective here is that your babies are being well cared for by experienced hospital staff. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be as involved as possible. It’s also important that you take care of yourself and try to get the rest that you need. Don’t feel guilty about the necessity to go home to shower, change clothes or have a nap. Some hospitals are better equipped than others in accommodating parents and may have a nice area where you can rest and refresh yourself without having to constantly leave the premises.
If you have chosen to breastfeed your babies, you may need to alternate between a breast pump and actual nursing (it is common for preemies to have suckling/latching issues). Most hospitals will offer breast pumps for use while you are admitted, but you may find yourself having to leave the hospital to go home and pump fresh milk to bring back. I recommend purchasing or renting a good quality breast pump ahead of time if you are interested in breastfeeding, as this will be a great help and one less thing to worry about. Breastfeeding twins is a rewarding experience and you will be more likely to succeed the better prepared you are.
There are several really great blogs, web sites and books that offer personal stories, advice and experience from parents who have dealt with premature twin birth of their twins. This is another ideal way find information on how to cope. If your hospital allows, you may see about touring their NICU facilities to better familiarize yourself ahead of time. And you should definitely discuss premature birth with a pediatrician, as they will have the most pertinent information on how to deal with preemie babies, their possible complications and length of stay. The NICU does not have to be a scary, foreign place. Many twins will have only a short, uncomplicated visit and some will forgo it completely. Whatever the outcome, it’s always better to be prepared … I know, I’ve been there.
Photo courtesy of Twin Pregnancy and Beyond