Multiple births: you need support
Women facing multiple pregnancies often need more help emotionally and financially, we look at who can help them.
Firstly, remember that having multiples is a unique and special experience! It's not multiple trouble, but multiple fun and joy!!
The three basic keys to coping
- Be prepared.
- Get organised.
- Ask for help.
Pointers from The South African Multiple Birth Association (SAMBA)
- When you fall pregnant with multiples, you'll have to have more pre-birth check-ups.
- Be prepared for the possibility of experiencing a double dose of everything – a higher level of hormones is produced, so expect to experience a double dose of morning sickness.
- Multiples place greater stress on your body: with twins, a weight gain of 20kg isn't unusual. You should therefore be prepared to suffer from heartburn, indigestion, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, among other symptoms.
- You'll need help – lots of it! Ask for it, there's nothing shameful about admitting that you can't cope alone.
- Get plenty of rest – this is absolutely vital, both during your pregnancy and after the birth, when you'll need a fighting chance to cope with the demands made on you.
- For emotional support and a chance to speak to other parents of multiples, get in touch with your local SAMBA group and participate in their monthly activities.
- The chances of premature/pre-term labour increase with a multiple pregnancy. Read about prematurity, discuss it with your doctor (ask about receiving drugs to develop your babies' lungs) and visit the hospital to see where your babies will be born and what will happen to them if they should arrive prematurely. Don't worry unduly or be put off by horror stories – just be prepared, and know that it might happen. Full term for multiple twins is usually 37 weeks, for triplets 34 weeks, and for quadruplets 30 weeks. A stay in an incubator for one or both/all babies may be necessary – be prepared.
- Eat especially well (a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and lots of liquid), to keep your strength up, as well as your milk supply (if you breast-feed). Keep healthy tid-bits in the fridge at all times.
- Make sure your work surface is at the correct height, as you spend a lot of time there. Have everything ready and close by, before you start, so that anyone can help, if needed. Change and dress both/all your babies at the same time.
- Accept second-hand stuff and borrow from friends and family – it isn't necessary to have everything identical.
- Wait till after your baby shower and then buy everything you need. People can be very generous!
- Don't buy a lot of premature clothing, as babies grow very quickly. You can always buy more if needed.
- Routine is vital: being organised will make your life easier.
- Do the minimum of housework necessary – get help if you can and don't have any qualms about accepting offers of assistance.
- Stock up on groceries and cooked meals before the babies are born.
- Sleep when the babies sleep.
- Plan for the next 24 hours on a daily basis. Prepare feeds (bottles), nappies, etc.
- Make some time for yourself whenever you can. This is essential for your own well-being and your relationship with your partner (and any other children you may already have).
- Get out of the house as often as possible. It can be difficult travelling with multiples, but make the effort, even if only for an hour, it will help to keep you sane.
- Treat your multiples as individuals.
- Write down things to ask at pre-birth appointments and make notes of the answers.
- If your partner can arrange some leave when the babies come home from hospital, all the better! It will help to make him feel included in the whole experience, and create a sense of shared responsibility.
What is SAMBA?
The South African Multiple Birth Association (SAMBA) is a support group for parents of multiple-birth children. It's a multi-racial, non-profit-making organisation, founded in 1975, and is headed by a national committee.
Who can belong to SAMBA?
Parents or caretakers of twins or higher-order multiples, parents-to-be of multiples, adult twins and supertwins (triplets, etc) may join the association. This includes foster parents, guardians and single parents. SAMBA draws its members from the RSA and our southern African neighbouring states. It also has a branch in Zimbabwe.
What does SAMBA offer?
According to SAMBA's national PRO, Liesl Ross, the primary purpose of the organisation is to offer moral support to parents, as well as to increase understanding and awareness of child development and rearing, which relates especially to multiple-birth families.
Other services SAMBA offers
- Allows its members access to reading and research material, particularly concerning the rearing of multiple-birth children
- Offers invaluable practical advice to members
- Forms a network of contacts between parents of multiples, their doctors, educators and others having an interest in caring for families and children. It focuses attention on solutions to problems specifically related to multiple-birth children and their families
- Recognises that the material needs of a member family are often put under strain, and therefore runs a second-hand facility. It also organises discounts on products such as milk, formula and nappies.
How can I contact SAMBA?
SAMBA is within easy access of city-dwellers at local groups, and country groups are run in outlying areas. SAMBA's groups meet regularly and are often addressed by guest speakers, to provide an informative atmosphere of awareness, togetherness and friendship. SAMBA National arranges Expectant Parents Seminars, Toddler's Workshops and Parent Seminars.
Call for details of a branch near you.
Other useful numbers:
Family Life Centre: (011) 833-2057.
Family planning information: Johannesburg branch – (011) 407-6111 (they will provide numbers of other branches).