Thinking About Delivering Triplets Naturally? Here’s what you need to know…

Of the five million decisions facing every expecting mother, figuring out how to give birth is one of the most personal and important ones to make. There are more options than ordering a sandwich at Subway – “Natural vaginal birth? C-section? Water birth? Home birth? Would you like a side of epidural with that?” It’s important to consider all of your options and create a birth plan that is best suited to you and your new little one. If you’re expecting multiples (congratulations and good luck!), you definitely need to factor this into your birth plan. Read on to learn everything you need to know about delivering triplets naturally.

Why choose to deliver triplets naturally?

Firstly, a “natural delivery” means different things to different people. Some expecting moms interpret a natural birth as a vaginal delivery with only minor/necessary medical intervention. In contrast, others take it to mean a vaginal birth without any medical intervention whatsoever – no surgical procedures and no pain relief. It’s easy to be drawn to the idea of a natural delivery, especially now that phrases like “all-natural” and “naturally-derived” are splashed across products that are supposed to be better for our bodies.

vaginal delivery with triplets

These are some of the most common reasons for choosing a natural delivery:

  • It can be empowering. Have you ever wondered just what you’re capable of? Do you like testing your body and pushing it to the limit? A natural delivery will do just that, and you will know for the rest of your life that you have experienced one of the most painful sensations known to womankind, and lived to tell the tale.
  • Breastfeeding may come a little easier. The hormones produced as a result of your body going in to labor start initiating milk production. While the lactation process will still occur one your uterus begins contracting after birth, it can take a little longer for those hormones and the subsequent milk production to get flowing. Talk to your midwife for assistance in getting your milk supply up and don’t worry if a natural delivery isn’t an option for you…plenty of women have had caesarean section births and successfully breastfed triplets or more!
  • It adds to the “primal” aspect of pregnancy. Being pregnant is the most natural thing in the world – humans and other animals have experienced pregnancy since the dawn of time. For many women, keeping the experience as “pure” and as primal as possible is an important part of the journey.
  • Your little one’s lungs may get a helping hand. Contractions during labor can be great for helping clear the gunk out of babies’ lungs as they pass through the birth canal and make their journey into the world. Research published in the British Medical Journal reported that babies born via caesarean section are up to four times more likely to experience breathing difficulties in the first few days following birth compared to those delivered naturally.
  • It’s certainly an experience you will remember. You won’t lose any sensation or alertness during a natural delivery. In fact, the whole experience will likely stick with you very vividly for years to come, whether you like it or not. One reassuring thought for you…while the idea of pushing multiple babies out may seem daunting, multiple births are usually smaller sized babies than their single birth counterparts!

Although some people see benefits in a natural birth, it’s not the safest option for everybody. Complications may arise if your pregnancy is considered “high risk,” or if you have certain medical conditions. Also, although single babies and often twins can be delivered naturally, delivering triplets naturally is not usually recommended.

What is full term for triplets?

Premature labor is the biggest / most common complication when it comes to multiple births. A standard pregnancy goes for around 40 weeks and anything before 37 weeks is considered preterm. Births that occur before 34 weeks gestation are referred to as early preterm. When babies arrive into the world too early, they might not survive and can be at risk for a whole host of health issues.

Higher order multiple (HOM) pregnancies (that is, carrying three or more babies) are more likely to result in preterm labor. Many women carrying twins have a goal of 37 weeks. For HOM pregnancies, the goal is often just keeping them in as long as possible! The more babies on board, the greater chance of premature labor. 2020 data from the CDC shows that more than 98% of triplet pregnancies result in preterm birth, with more than 65% considered early preterm. The good news is that the amazing technology available in our healthcare systems mean than babies born prematurely stand a much, much better chance of surviving and thriving these days..

Why delivering triplets naturally might not be your safest option

The general rule of pregnancy is that it’s better to keep the babe incubating in the uterus for as long as possible. However, this advice changes when you’re cooking multiple babes. Delivering triplets naturally rarely happens and isn’t recommended by health professionals. Getting one baby out of there is hard enough, but with three, the risks greatly increase – the placenta or umbilical cord can become compressed, or the babies can become entangled.

If the first triplet is born vaginally, the risks for the other babies are amplified. They suddenly have much more space to move around in the uterus, increasing the chances of becoming tangled or in the wrong position for birth. The risk of placental abruption also increases after the first triplet is delivered vaginally.

Most obstetricians will prefer to approach a triplet delivery via caesarean section, simply because it is challenging to monitor the fetal heartbeats when there are multiple babies. If one of your babies is in distress, it can be harder for them to detect this and intervene if necessary. These are some of the reasons why many medical professionals don’t generally recommend delivering triplets naturally.

What are the alternatives to delivering triplets naturally?

Although there are instances of delivering triplets naturally, it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Triplets are almost always delivered by caesarean section (C-section) as this offers more control over the delivery and can be scheduled in advance. Many women are relieved to have a scheduled delivery date, and as triplets often require extra medical care after birth, it’s safest to have everything arranged in advance.

If you’re expecting triplets and were hoping for a natural delivery, it may be possible if you discuss the options with your medical team. However, there are certain instances when a natural birth will definitely not be recommended, including if:

  • One or more of your babies are breech /not in a safe position
  • Your placenta is low-lying
  • Your triplets are all sharing one placenta
  • You have previously had a C-section or a difficult/complicated vaginal delivery

If any of those scenarios apply to you, you will need to deliver your triplets via C-section in a hospital.

Naturally delivering triplets: Can it be done?

There are certainly greater risks associated with delivering triplets naturally compared to single babies or even twins. It may be possible, and if it is something you feel very strongly about, you should discuss your options with your doctor/midwife/OBGYN.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to ensure your babies enter the world safely, and you are there to welcome them into your soon-to-be-very-full arms.

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