Multiple births: What to expect when you’re expecting twins, triplets or more

You’ve been for your baby scan and found out the awesome news that you’re expecting more than one baby!

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you first find out you’re expecting twins, triplets or more.

Australian Multiple Birth Association Chairperson Ashlee Tenberge says for most parents expecting multiple babies, the mental shock comes first.

“How are we going to do this?” is a common first reaction, she says.

“The idea of having one baby is big enough, so it’s a shock when you go for the scan to find out how far along you are, only to find out there's two, three, four or more.

“Initially it’s more about how we’re going to do this logistically, and then the worry about finances comes next.”

Arm yourself with information

“Knowledge is power,” says Tenberge. “Arm yourself with as much information as possible”, she advises.

While you’re pregnant, make the most of your time before the babies are born to find out as much information as you can.

Do some research into:

  • giving birth to multiple babies
  • setting up a nursery
  • how to encourage babies to sleep at the same time
  • whether you really need to buy two – or more - of everything.

The Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) has some great resources on its website, including information about pregnancy, feeding, babywearing, special needs and school-age twins, triplets or other multiples.

Find a multiple birth support group

Pregnancy is a great time to join a local support group to make connections with other parents who have – or are expecting - multiple babies.

Chances are, they’ll become your support network at times when you really need help.

Tenberge also recommends families join the Australian Multiple Birth Association.

“Look for your closest club or support group, because the benefits of being surrounded by others who are going through, or have gone through, that same multiple birth journey is immeasurable.

“The peer support, knowing you're not alone, being in an environment where you can just be yourself and put your feelings and concerns out there, and getting support from those who know, is the whole reason why the association exists.”

Build a network to help during any tough times

Having other parents to turn to will be invaluable to help deal with the extra challenges associated with having multiple babies.

For instance, during pregnancy there’s a greater risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. On top of this, post-natal depression is two to three times more common among women with multiple babies.

But with the support of a group of like-minded parents, the rate of postpartum depression drops, Tenberge believes.

It’s important for families with multiple babies to be well prepared with resources and information. This helps you cope better as a family and engage with those around you during any tough times, according to Tenberge.

Be prepared for extra medical costs and preparations

If you’re expecting multiple babies, there’s a higher chance they could be born prematurely. That means they might need to be cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks.

If that’s the case, you may be faced with preparations and costs such as:

  • buying or hiring a breast pump if you wish to keep feeding your babies breastmilk
  • finding accommodation close to the hospital so you can regularly visit your babies for feeds and bonding.

Factor in potential costs of therapy

It’s not just the medical care of your babies that can add up. Your babies may also need ongoing therapy and support if they have any complications.

For babies who are born very prematurely, there’s a higher risk they may have special needs, says Tenberge.

“This may bring with it costs associated with specialists, therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists - some of which may continue for years.

“Some of those things you will know about from birth, and other things won't really come to the fore until they're toddlers.

“Those sessions and treatment may need to continue all the way through primary school.”

Budget for changes to the family income

Your family income might take more of a hit if you’re expecting more than one baby. With more demands at home, you might choose to stay home longer before returning to work, or return to work part-time.

“With more time demands for raising two or three or more children, the ability to go back to work becomes more challenging,” Tenberge says.

“If, or when, you do go back to work, then you'll also be looking at increased childcare costs compared to a single baby or toddler.”

There is an Australian Government multiple birth allowance that is paid until children turn 16, but it’s only available to parents with triplets or more – not to parents of twins.

Planning and understanding your health cover

As part of your preparations, we also recommend reviewing your family’s health insurance cover and how you will manage the financial aspects of your pregnancy and birth.

From a health cover perspective, the same 12 month waiting period applies to pregnancy and birth whether you are having one or more babies.

“We always recommend members phone us prior to becoming pregnant,” said Sarah Keough, CUA Health’s senior product officer. “However we know this isn’t always possible,” she said.

Regardless, she encourages families to phone as soon as they know they’re pregnant so they can find out exactly what they’re covered for.

If it’s an unexpected pregnancy and a member isn’t covered for pregnancy and birth, then most women have their baby (or babies) as a public patient in a public hospital. The alternative is to pay the entire cost of a private hospital admission as an uninsured patient, which is cost prohibitive for most families, Sarah said.

Another consideration is the cost of care for your babies on their arrival. Sarah says it’s common for multiple birth babies to be formally admitted to hospital even if they’re all born healthy and don't require admission to a special care unit.

“You might also need a longer hospital stay and your babies might also need additional care,” Sarah said. “Private health cover gives you peace of mind about how your hospital and medical costs will be managed – so you know what to expect financially over this period.”

CUA Health can also help you plan for any ongoing care requirements for your new family once everyone is at home. CUA Health has a range of Extras packages that cover some of the costs of services including occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology, and a range of other family wellness services.

You can speak to one of our friendly customer service team members on 1300 499 260.

Ashlee Tenberge is Chairperson of the Australian Multiple Birth Association which aims to improve health outcomes for multiple birth families by providing educational information, local and practical support, and advocacy.

Multiple Birth Awareness Week is held in Australia from 15 to 22 March 2020. This year’s theme is "Better Together", which aims to build a connection between multiple birth families and the community.

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