Multiples have a multicultural history that stretches in many different ways across centuries and millennia. In the stories of Ancient Rome, you will find the legacy of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were left on the river Tiber as babies to die. Fortunately, they were said to have been swept down the river and found by a she-wolf who cared for them. They grew and decided to build a city of their own--but they disagreed on the hill to build it on, and thus Romulus killed his brother, and the namesake city he built evolved into the powerful Rome that we all read about in our history books.
In West African cultures, you will find differing perspectives of multiples. In the culture of the Yoruba, twins were praised and are protected; they were thought of as supernatural. The Igbo, however, feared the presence of twins and if they were born, the parents of the children had to leave them in a forest to die. In both communities, twins played an important, spiritual role, and whether they were cherished well enough by the Yoruba, or disposed of soon enough by the Igbo, the fate of the community would be at stake.
From the sixth century to the ninth century, there were two Chinese immortals called the Hehe Erxian, or the laughing twins of Taoism. They represent two poet-monks that existed during the Tang Dynasty. The image of these twins were common at wedding ceremonies, and represented harmony and mirth. The laughing twins are often presented in artistic ways that are adored and admired by many.
Other forms of art, movies, and plays often depict twins or multiples for dramatic effect. The Shining is a popular film that is notable for its use of twins to provide an eerie essence to the film's frightening scenes. Shakespeare featured two sets of twins who were separated at birth in his play The Comedy of Errors. Our world has always had a sincere fascination with multiples. While in some cases, twin existence was thought to bring devastation, today, the birth of twins or multiples is met with joy, and sometimes sought after.
As science has advanced over centuries, we know how special the development and birth of multiples are. Born in one of two ways, multiples may be the product of more than one egg releasing and being fertilized by sperm, or an egg being fertilized by sperm and then splitting into one, two, or more parts before attaching to the uterine lining. Multiple births make-up about three percent of all births, so the small chance of this happening makes multiples evermore unique.
As women age, their body begins to release multiple eggs at one time during ovulation. As such, older women are more likely to become pregnant with multiples. Alongside this, if multiples are common in one’s family lineage or if fertility medications are being used, there is a higher chance of conceiving multiple children at one time. With or without these qualities, twins and multiples are always possible.
The thing with multiple babies is that the pregnancy symptoms and problems that may come with one baby, will likely be heightened. With this in mind, it is important to take precautions and extra measures when you know you’re pregnant with more than one child. March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant with multiples should be sure to schedule a few extra prenatal and postnatal check ups to be sure that you and your babies are safe and healthy. Alongside this, extra medical care during birth would be helpful to ensure proper and attentive delivery.
Your typical pregnancy symptoms may be higher than with just one child, but there are also some other ways in which a multiple pregnancy can affect your health. First and foremost, it is very likely that you will go into labor prematurely. Premature labor happens before the thirty seven week mark. If you reach the thirty seven week mark, it is likely that your babies will have good weight and be healthy. Iron deficiency, or anemia, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), ICP, too much amniotic fluid, miscarriage, postpartum depression, and postpartum hemorrhage are also complications that can occur in all births, but are more likely to occur with mothers who are having multiple children.
In a multiple birth, the babies’ health can also be compromised. Complications may include premature birth, birth defects, growth problems, low birthweight, twin-twin transfusion syndrome, and neonatal death. These complications aren’t certain, just heightened for babies who are sharing their mothers uterus with a sibling as nutrients, blood flow, and space might not be shared equally between the infants. Because of these difficulties, it is more likely that mothers will give birth via c-section to their babies. However, if there are no complications and at least one infant is in a head-down position, vaginal birth is a possibility.
All in all, a multiple birth pregnancy will be different from the birth of a single baby. Be sure to read literature that focuses on specifics of twin and multiple births rather than just singleton births as there are some differences. An influx of nutrients, such as protein and iron will be important to maintain a healthy weight, and provide enough sustenance for you and your little ones as you navigate this journey of multiples. The rule of thumb from the Cleveland Clinic is to add 300 calories into your daily diet per child, so twins would require 600 calories extra, and so on. Enough fluids each day will be important as well. Alongside this, high impact activities may have to be reduced or cut out while you are pregnant. As you may be experiencing pregnancy symptoms more harshly than being pregnant with one baby, it is salient that you include enough rest in company with the activities you do. Be sure to talk with your doctor to figure out what activities will be safe and how much rest is needed for you and your babies.
The legacies of twins and multiples permeate our cultures--whether they are praised or feared, we can surely say that there is something unique and important about the birth of multiples into this world. Represented as the founders of Ancient Rome or symbols of marriage and laughter in Taoism--in any case, your journey with your little ones will be one of significance. Embrace each turn and challenge, each moment of joy, and know that you and your children will be welcomed into this world with open arms of delight and gratification.