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When you’re having three… naturally

Posted by Lara Salahi  December 6, 2013 10:24 AM

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One Sacramento couple may want to try a hand at the lottery after welcoming identical triplets last month – that’s because the triple bundles were reportedly conceived naturally.

Multiple births are more common when assisted reproductive technologies are used, such as in vitro fertilization. But doctors say the chance of conceiving identical triplets, where a single fertilized egg divides into three separate embryos, without fertility treatments, is nearly one in a million. 

Thumbnail image for Rare identical triplets

Because of the odds, women conceiving naturally aren’t warned about their risk for multiples – even though some may try to calculate their chances by looking at how often twins may run in their family. But, no matter how a pregnancy with multiples is conceived, the pregnancy is still considered high risk and for that reason, many of the same rules still apply for mothers. (However, the level of shock -- since you did hit the genetic jackpot -- may be different)

The father of the triplets Tom Hepner told the Sacramento Bee his 29-year-old wife is "quite a remarkable woman. She cruised through the experience. Hats off to her." But for many women, carrying multiples doesn't come without a few challenges. Women carrying triplets or more are at higher risk for medical conditions such as preeclampsia, blood clots and gestational diabetes. Their babies too carry a high risk for complication. Babies born in a multiple pregnancy on average have a lower birth weight, and may spend up to a week or more in the hospital before being sent home. Triplets are typically delivered within the 32nd week of pregnancy. 

Identicals have special concerns. Unlike fraternal embryos, identicals share a placenta so in some cases, not all of the embryos may receive the same amount of blood.

"The blood vessels that come from the umbilical cord can mean too much blood flow to one fetus and not enough to another," Dr. William Gilbert, the director of Women's Services for Sutter Health, who treated Hepner family told ABC News.

Close monitoring from a doctor of both the mother and baby throughout the pregnancy, will help to manage the complications.  Because the Hepner family found out early they were having multiples, they could better anticipate the challenges ahead.

And from babies’ birth date and beyond, there will surely be more diapers to change, little feet to chase – in this family’s case, three times the mess and fun.  

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Lara Salahi is an award-winning multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. She has worked in local, network, and cable television, international print, and documentary film. She More »

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