Your body will go on an incredible journey as you nurture the babies developing in your uterus to the point where they can exist outside.
Preparing your body for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond
Preparing your body for pregnancy is a marathon event. It is something our bodies are designed for, but the effect it has on our bodies can be vastly underestimated! It changes our pelvis, ribcage, lung capacity, hormones and ligaments which in turn impact our shape, size, balance - and more! You wouldn't try to run a marathon without training (and certainly not without sustaining some injuries along the way), so why expect your body to be able to handle pregnancy without giving it some help?
Strength and fitness work during pregnancy can help to prepare your body for the later stages of carrying your babies, childbirth itself and your postnatal recovery. Moreover, the dedicated time you spend focusing on yourself will help you connect with your mind, body and growing babies, as well as other mums to be if you're in a class group environment.
Strength and stability
In preparing your body for pregnancy, building strength can help to stabilise your body before imbalance sets in due to your growing bump and boobs. This can help to prevent common pregnancy complaints such as back pain and Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) by strengthening and stabilising through the inner thighs, buttocks and core to protect the back and pelvic areas as ligaments start to loosen and our bodies are pulled in different directions!
Being strong through your back will also help with your posture to counterbalance your changing shape - preventing rounded shoulders as you're pulled forward by new weight across your chest and abdominal area, or a hollowed lower back from your bump pulling you forward, often causing backache.
Moreover, the strength and stamina developed or maintained in pregnancy can help to achieve an active labour. Being able to walk around between contractions, stay on your feet, use squats and let gravity take effect can all help to speed labour up and minimise interventions.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)
If you are suffering with PGP, take a look at Busylizzy's free 20-minute video with exercises to help alleviate symptoms. In this video, expert pregnancy instructor Lucy takes you through a pregnancy yoga class sequence. This session is suitable for all pregnant women from 14-weeks and includes exercises to alleviate the symptoms of PGP.
Balancing out imbalances
Pregnancy also changes our centre of gravity as our bump grows and throws us off balance. Movements that we have taken for granted for so long such as getting up and down from the floor can now feel strange and place undue pressure on our hips and pelvis if done incorrectly.
Pregnancy specific exercise teaches us how to move in a safe and healthy way, as well as helping to find new balance in our bodies. It builds awareness of our new shape and improves our neurological connection with muscle for more effective and efficient movements, not to mention creating mobility in our joints and building our body for the athleticism which parenthood requires! Even when they're no longer in utero, carrying babies - whether in our arms or in a pram - can be hard work.
The power of movement
Even though it might be the last thing you feel like if suffering from morning sickness, movement can actually help to combat feelings of nausea. Yoga-based exercise can also teach us how to harness the power of breath - to calm our minds, better activate our muscles and energise - which of course can be carried through to childbirth to help manage contraction pain. Not only that but the endorphins created through exercise also help to boost our mood and balance out hormonal changes for a smoother ride throughout pregnancy.
Don't ignore the pelvic floor
Encouraging pelvic floor engagement in pregnancy is vital to help support your baby's weight and protect against incontinence postnatally. The right pelvic floor exercises will also teach you how to relax your pelvic floor. Being able to 'let go' as well as tighten is a key aspect of giving birth vaginally!
Being in tune with our bodies through exercise during pregnancy can help to protect it from some of the most common pregnancy induced problems and injuries. It can also play a major part in a smooth childbirth experience and in our subsequent postnatal recovery; enabling us to harness our muscle memory, especially where the pelvic floor is concerned.
If you are newly pregnant and also new to exercise then it's a good idea to wait until you are 14-weeks into your pregnancy when the placenta is fully attached before you start exercising. If you have been exercising prior to pregnancy then it's still a good idea to avoid anything new in those first 14-weeks. Even the most avid exercisers are best advised to do things a little more gently during the first trimester and a period of such enormous physical changes. Make sure you find pregnancy-specific classes, or an instructor who is trained in pre- and postnatal training to make sure you are doing the right things for your body.
We've partnered with Busylizzy Family Club, who offer all Twins Trust members two free Zoom classes every month so you can prepare yourself and your body by taking part in safe and effective classes from the comfort of your home.
Looking after yourself
Taking good care of yourself during your pregnancy both physically and mentally is important. We have information that can help.
Taking good care of yourself in pregnancy starts with eating well. While there’s not much research on what that means for a woman carrying twins, triplets or more, the NHS promotes healthy, balanced meals for all pregnant women.
In the absence of any real science, it’s probably best to aim for healthy, balanced meals along the lines the NHS promotes to all pregnant women. You will need to drink plenty of fluid, ideally eight large glasses of water a day as a minimum.
You will need more protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 than in a singleton pregnancy, so make sure you have a varied diet. Try to eat little and often. Fresh foods are likely to give your body more of what it needs nutritionally than foods that have been processed. Taking a pregnancy supplement is also a good idea.
It’s worth bearing in mind that sugary snacks can give you highs and lows which may be unpleasant and can also lead to developing diabetes in pregnancy. Slow-burning foods such as whole grain breads and crackers, vegetables, beans, oats, brown rice and whole grain pasta will tend to keep your blood sugar more stable and may satisfy you for longer.
For more on what foods to include and what to avoid, download our Healthy Multiple Pregnancy Guide.
How big will I get?
Expectant mothers vary in size as in any pregnancy, but you can certainly expect to gain more weight and your belly will grow larger than in a singleton pregnancy. In addition to the extra baby or babies, multiples mums carry extra placentas, amniotic fluid and maternal body fluid. There are certain conditions that can cause excess amniotic fluid, though, so do tell your multiples healthcare team if you’re concerned.
Keeping comfortable can be a challenge. It’s probably best not to plan too much towards the end of your pregnancy as your body is working extra hard and you’ll likely be tired. Plus getting in and out of cars and negotiating seatbelts can become tricky.
As the babies grow, keeping physically comfortable can be a challenge. It’s probably best not to plan a huge amount of activity for the last few weeks of pregnancy – getting in and out of cars as well as negotiating seatbelts can become difficult, and you will probably be more tired with all the extra work your body is doing. It can help to swap tips with other pregnant mums (as well as share experiences) via local clubs or call Twins Trust Twinline on 0800 138 0509. Our helpline is here to provide the support you need. Sometimes you may just need a listening ear from somebody that has been in your situation.
Good care matters
Multiple birth pregnancies are considered higher risk (though plenty go without a hitch) and there are certain conditions that occur only in multiple pregnancies, so you should receive specialist maternity care. This will include more appointments and scans and increased contact with specialists, so you’ll have a different appointment schedule to someone pregnant with a singleton.
Appointments should take place at a twin/ triplet clinic where you see the same group of midwives, sonographers and obstetricians, who should all have a specialist interest in multiple pregnancies.
Multiples grow and develop at about the same rate as singleton babies, but even in the early stages there are differences in a twin, triplet or more pregnancy. Twins Trust has created a Pregnancy Countdown Tool to support expectant parents and help you make informed choices about pregnancy and care.
Each week the tool will give you a heads-up on changes you might be experiencing, send information on how your babies are developing in the womb, tell you what care you should expect, and signpost you to resources relevant not just to your pregnancy but to when you’re finally holding your babies in your arms.
Common pregnancy symptoms
Inevitably, there are aches, pains and discomforts along the way because of the sheer scale of the task you are accomplishing. If any symptoms worry you, talk to your doctor or midwife so they can reassure you or do further investigations. Here are some of the most common problems.
Morning sickness is badly named. While some women do get a bout of acute nausea in the mornings, others get it in the evenings or even all day. A lucky few don’t suffer it at all.
Higher hormone levels in a twin, triplet or more pregnancy do make you more likely to suffer nausea, but there are things you can do about it. The main cause is low blood sugar, so try to eat little and often. Some women find regular nibbles of dry biscuits help. Others have found relief by wearing a travel sickness band.
Different foods trigger nausea in different women. The commonest culprits are oily or spicy foods and foods with strong odours. Avoid these if it helps. You can also try eating foods rich in zinc (dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, ginger, maize, nuts and pulses), which has been found to help combat morning sickness.
If you vomit three times a day for three days, contact your doctor or midwife for some help so that your body doesn’t start to miss out on important minerals and fluid.
Indigestion often gets worse when you are hungry, so eat little and often. Some foods make it worse: try avoiding cheese, spicy foods, tomatoes and chocolate.
A glass of milk before bed can help to neutralise acid in the stomach. You can also try sleeping in a more upright position, either by propping yourself up with pillows or by sticking some books under the bed at the head end.Gentle exercise such as yoga helps some, while others swear by hot drinks like peppermint, ginger and fruit teas. If all else fails, speak to your midwife or doctor, you can get a prescription for Gaviscon or other medication.
Foot and knee trouble
More fluid circulates round your body in pregnancy and, owing to gravity, some of it collects in your feet. If they swell up, avoid tight-fitting socks or shoes, and sit down with your feet up as often as possible. Gentle exercise such as walking and swimming can help disperse the fluids.
Extra supplies of the hormone relaxin can also leave you with aching knee joints. Again, rest up and support your knees where possible.Although swelling is normal, if it appears suddenly and is accompanied by swelling in your hands and/or face, it may be a sign of preeclampsia. Tell your doctor or midwife if this happens at once so they can rule this out or make sure you get appropriate monitoring.
The extra blood needed to nurture your babies can put pressure on your veins. Varicose veins are swollen veins just below the skin, and they can become uncomfortable towards the end of pregnancy. A doctor can prescribe support tights or stockings.
Shoes with a small heel (not flat and not too high) may reduce the onset of varicose veins. It also helps to put your feet up and avoid long periods of standing.
Each week our Pregnancy Countdown Tool gives you a heads-up on changes and how your babies are developing
Help and Information
- Find out what antenatal care you should have.
- Download our Healthy Multiple Pregnancy Guide.
- Find your local twin/multiples clinic.
- Twins Trust has created a Pregnancy Countdown Tool to support expectant parents and help you make informed choices about pregnancy and care.
- We’re here to support you: please get in touch with any questions about the care you’re receiving.
- Our Early Pregnancy Workshop is aimed at pregnant women and their partners before 20 weeks. Get your questions answered in a friendly, non-judgmental environment.
- Reach out to our Twinline listeners, all parents of twins and triplets, who are happy to lend a friendly and understanding ear on 0800 138 0509 (10am-1pm & 7pm-10pm, Monday to Friday) or if you'd prefer not to call but would still like support, complete our Ask Twinline form.