Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome is one of the extra health concerns that are unique to a twin pregnancy.
Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, or TTTS, occurs only with identical twins while still in the womb. Only monochorionic twins, or those that share a placenta, are susceptible to TTTS. TTTS is a rare condition that happens in only 10-15 percent of identical twin pregnancies.
Due to how abnormal blood vessels form in a shared placenta, TTTS occurs when one twin becomes a “donor” and transfers blood to the other twin (known as the “recipient”). The donor twin will have stunted growth due to a lack of blood and amniotic fluid. The recipient twin will have too much blood and amniotic fluid and subsequent heart trouble.
Why does TTTS happen?
Why TTTS occurs is largely unknown, but it can occur during any point in the pregnancy and can happen suddenly. Moms often indicate that their belly seemed to grow significantly bigger overnight or they experience rapid weight gain (not due to eating).
Your doctor will be able to tell early via ultrasounds what types of twins you are expecting and if they share a placenta or not. Due to the complexities of twins pregnancies, Mom will be getting lots of ultrasounds. There will therefore be lots of opportunities to monitor and verify the health of your twins.
Prevention and Treatment
Some research indicates that TTTS can be prevented with certain nutritional plans. A TTTS diagnosis will likely mean bed rest for Mom. Laser surgery can be used in severe cases to prevent further transfer of blood between the twins.
TTTS, like many health concerns with twins, is a very serious issue. It can lead to health issues with your twins and even death. However, the odds are in your favor that it won’t happen with your twins. When TTTS does occur, advances in modern medicine allow early diagnosis and highly successful treatment that will likely lead to two healthy babies joining your family.
Due to the wide variety of possible twin complications, I advise that you take the preventative measures you can, but don’t stress out about every possibility. As a new diagnosis or information becomes available during the twin pregnancy, consult with Mom’s doctor and take action accordingly.
For more information on Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, visit the TTTS Foundation, which has a comprehensive explanation of the details of TTTS including a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Share Your TTTS Story
James Bethe’s twins were born super early due to TTTS. Listen or read about his family’s experience with TTTS on this episode of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Josh Wise and his wife discovered their twins had TTTS just 8 weeks after they found out they were pregnant with twins. Listen to or read his experience here.
Did your twins have TTTS? Share your experience in the comments below.
Picture by Anfuehrer