Coping with the Loss of a Twin
What can cause the loss of a baby during pregnancy?
Sadly, pregnancy loss in the first 12 weeks (early miscarriage) is common. It usually happens because the embryo is not developing as it should.
The risk of losing a baby in the first two trimesters of a twin pregnancy is slightly higher than with a single pregnancy. And this risk is increased for twins who share a placenta and/or an amniotic sac (identical twins).
A miscarriage after 12 weeks and before 24 weeks(late miscarriage) is much less likely to happen. A late miscarriage may be caused by a problem with the uterus (womb) or cervix, but this is not always the case.
Is loss more common for twins than single babies?
Unfortunately, the loss of a baby is slightly more common. About 12 out of every 1,000 twin births and 31 out of 1,000 triplet births result in a baby who is stillborn. This is compared with about five in 1,000 singleton births.
The risk of stillbirth in twins increases slightly after 38 weeks. So if a mum hasn’t already had twins by the time she is 38 weeks pregnant, a caesarean or induced labour is usually suggested. This is especially the case with identical twins, as sharing a placenta increases the risk of a baby being stillborn. That’s why it’s often recommended that twins are born by 37 weeks.
What happens when one twin dies in the uterus?
The loss of a twin during the first trimester of pregnancy doesn’t usually affect the development of the remaining baby. This is called vanishing twin syndrome, and happens when a twin pregnancy is found at a very early scan but only one baby is seen at your dating scan .
You may experience few or no symptoms, apart from some mild cramping and spotting or light bleeding. But if you’ve had an early scan and were excited about expecting twins, you may feel bereft when you find out you’re expecting one baby.
With the loss of twin in the second or third trimester, complications with the remaining twin are more likely. Your doctor will carefully monitor you and your baby. She’ll strive to get the right balance between giving your baby a little longer in your uterus, and assessing if it’s safer for him to be born early.
Most babies whose co-twin is lost in the second or third trimester are born healthy. However, there is an increased risk of problems such as cerebral palsy, particularly for identical twins. There is also an increased risk of going into labour early.
You will may feel very distressed by the idea of the twin who has died remaining in your uterus with his surviving twin. On the other hand, some mums feel comforted by the fact that their twins are together. You may even feel guilty about any happiness you feel about your surviving baby. All these feelings are perfectly understandable. Hospital staff can help you to plan a birth that respects your loss, while meeting the needs of your surviving baby.
How will losing a twin affect us?
Losing a baby is a tragedy that affects you, your partner, and those close to you in many ways.
You may feel a range of difficult emotions. This may include:
- Denial, holding on to the belief that doctors have made a mistake, and that both your babies will be born alive and healthy.
- Guilt, feeling that you caused your loss through being fearful of having twins. Or because you wanted a baby of a different sex, or didn’t want two babies.
- Anxiety, worrying that your grieving may affect your ability to bond with your surviving baby.
- Fear that your surviving baby will become ill, or even die.
- Failure or disappointment, as expecting twins felt special, and the birth of the single, surviving baby may feel like an anticlimax.
Each twin or triplet in a multiple pregnancy is precious to a parent. But you may not receive the sympathy you need from other people if you lose one baby while your other baby survives. Family and friends tend to focus on your surviving baby, and assume you will do the same. But having a living baby may not lessen your pain over the twin you lost, Saying Goodbye understand that.
Your grief may be not only for the loss of a precious baby, but also for the loss of being a parent of more than one baby.
Depending on the stage of your pregnancy loss, there may also be practical matters to deal with, such as organising a funeral. You may not be able to focus on your surviving baby as much you’d like to at this difficult time.
Your grief may emerge or re-emerge later than when you first heard of your loss. Celebrations such as Christmas may be hard to cope with. And when your surviving twin reaches a childhood milestone, such as when he takes his first steps, it may bring your grief to the fore again.
All information on this website, and advice and support offered by the charity team is on a non-medical basis. The charity advises that anyone going through baby loss, medical treatment or health issues, should seek advice from their own GP, Consultant, Midwife or Healthcare Professional.Download the Saying Goodbye Support Leaflet (PDF)