Prematurity and its Siblings

Multiple pregnancies are much more likely to result in premature deliveries than are singleton pregnancies. Infants born before 37 weeks are considered premature. Twins are often born between 34 and 38 weeks and triplets between 32 and 36 weeks.

The dangers of premature delivery include low birth weight and an underdeveloped baby who may have difficulty surviving outside the womb. However, due to advances in medical technology, the outlook for premature babies is fairly good. In addition, there are some things you can do, such as taking great care of yourself, to improve the likelihood of a healthy, full-term delivery.

While it can be linked to premature delivery, low birth weight is also a problem for babies born at term. Around the world, the “standard definition” for low birth weight is five pounds, eight ounces, and about half of all twins fall below this mark. Incidentally, studies have shown that the most direct link between diet and low birth weight is the amount of protein consumed by the mother during pregnancy. It’s not merely a matter of how much you eat, then, but also what you eat. “You are what you eat,” and so are your babies.

Another problem often cited in multiple pregnancies is that of a “crowded womb.” This condition provides an explanation for both premature delivery and low birth weight. Presumably a womb that is brimming with babies is likely to unpack its load sooner than one that is merely full. This idea, however, is the subject of heated debate, since many mothers have borne healthy, full-term twins and in some cases, these twins weigh upwards of seven pounds apiece.

One camp of experts argues that many problems associated with multiples, including premature deliveries and low birth weight, can be remedied if the mother gets proper nutrition and rest . Full-term babies are typically more healthy and need less medical assistance than do preemies.

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