Risks of multiple pregnancy

Possible maternal complications of multiple pregnancy include:

Common fetal complications of multiple pregnancy include:

  • Increased chance of giving birth before 37 weeks (premature delivery), which poses greater risks of illness, disability, and death. For more information, see the topics Preterm Labor and Premature Infant.
  • Vanishing twin syndrome .

Less common fetal complications include:

  • Differences in size between the fetuses (discordance), usually from twin-to-twin transfusion. In twin-to-twin transfusion, blood shifts from one fetus (the donor) through the placenta to the other fetus (the recipient).
  • Increased risk of birth defects and genetic disorders. For more information, see the topic Multiple Pregnancy: Twins or More.

The delivery and care of multiple infants is costly, especially if they have special needs, which often is the case with babies born prematurely.

If a woman becomes pregnant with several fetuses, she and her partner may choose selective reduction (multifetal pregnancy reduction). This procedure removes one or more of the embryos during the first trimester, giving the remaining fetuses a better chance of healthy survival. However, the procedure also has a minimum 10% risk of ending the pregnancy.1


  1. Speroff L, Fritz MA (2005). Induction of ovulation. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 7th ed., pp. 1175–1213. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: March 21, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA & Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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