• Penni from Up Up n Away

Triplets

Updated: Mar 12, 2021


Currently in Australia triplets occur in 1 in every 9000 naturally conceived births. Via fertility assistance the likelihood increases to around 1 in every 40.

All good things come in threes! Although rare, it is entirely possible for women to conceive naturally with three babies, however fertility assistance is the strongest influential factor when it comes to having triplets.


Triplets can be either monozygotic (formed after one fertilised egg has split into three identical embryos) or dizygotic (formed from separate eggs). Polyzygotic triplets can also occur when there is a set of identical (or monozygotic) twins conceived and another egg is released which is then fertilised by another sperm.


Common parent reactions when triplets are confirmed


Shock, denial and anxiety are the most common responses. Most parents find out they are expecting triplets when an ultrasound is done and three tiny embryos are seen on the screen. Multiples may be suspected beforehand due to exaggerated pregnancy symptoms, the use of fertility drugs or assistance, or alternately, a family history of multiple births. But suspecting triplets may perhaps be in your future and having this confirmed are very different realities.


Many couples emerge from the ultrasound office feeling numb and in shock. They know what they’ve been told and even what they’ve seen, but the reality of this can be too much to take in. There is no one right way to feel when being told that you’re having triplets.


It is also common for couples to respond very differently to each other; one may be utterly delighted from the start and the other partner almost horrified. It can pay to just aim for a quiet few days to let the news settle into your brain and for rational thought to replace surging emotions. Don’t worry about the embryos “knowing” you’re less than delighted. This is impossible and their brains too immature to be capable of interpreting their parent’s reactions.


Be prepared for some interesting responses from your family and friends and even total strangers when you tell them you’re expecting triplets. Their responses are often so much more about how they would react given the same situation, rather than their feelings about your reality. Just be prepared to smile and try to ignore any negative comments.


Support from close family and friends, as well as multiple birth agencies will help you to process any nagging doubts and/or anxieties.

What increases the likelihood of having triplets?

  • Women over 30 years old have a greater chance of conceiving multiples. As the eggs get older their quality diminishes and the chances of them splitting increases. Production also tends to peak as women age; there is generally a spike in fertility before women enter their peri-menopausal years.

  • A diet high in milk, yams and dairy foods.

  • Women of African descent are more likely to have triplets.

  • Around 85% of triplets are conceived through fertility assistance.

  • Women who have previously had fertility assistance have a higher than average chance of conceiving naturally with triplets with their consecutive pregnancies.

  • Conceiving with multiples is more common in women who have had babies previously.

  • Women who come from a family where there is a history of multiple births.

  • Those who are very, very lucky!

Will my triplets be born early?


The majority of triplets do not reach full term and are born premature. The normal gestational period for babies is 38-42 weeks, however most triplets are born between 32-34 weeks of gestation. There are many reasons for this but generally it is because of a lack of room to grow any further in the mother’s uterus.


Caesarean section delivery is common. Smaller hospitals tend to refer mothers who are pregnant with triplets to larger, metropolitan or tertiary maternity hospitals. This is because of the availability of specialist staff and resources for both obstetric and premature baby care.


Complications of having triplets

  • Greater risk and range of pregnancy complications generally.

  • Premature delivery.

  • Delayed fetal growth otherwise known as Iugr – Intra Uterine Growth Restriction, or Sga – Small for Gestational Age.

  • Maternal Pre Eclampsia.

  • Gestational Diabetes.

  • Anaemia.

  • Placenta Praevia.