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ACOG Practice Bulletin #231, Multifetal Gestations: Twin, Triplet, and Higher-Order Multifetal Pregnancies

The incidence of multifetal gestations in the United States has increased dramatically over the past several decades. For example, the rate of twin births increased 76% between 1980 and 2009, from 18.9 to 33.3 per 1,000 births 1. However, after more than three decades of increases, the twin birth rate declined 4% during 2014-2018 to 32.6 twins per 1,000 total births in 2018 2. The rate of triplet and higher-order multifetal gestations increased more than 400% during the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at 193.5 per 100,000 births in 1998, followed by a modest decrease to 153.4 per 100,000 births by 2009 3. The triplet and higher-order multiple birth rate was 93.0 per 100,000 births for 2018, an 8% decline from 2017 (101.6) and a 52% decline from the 1998 peak (193.5) 4. The long-term changes in the incidence of multifetal gestations has been attributed to two main factors: 1) a shift toward an older maternal age at conception, when multifetal gestations are more likely to occur naturally, and 2) an increased use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), which is more likely to result in a multifetal gestation 5.

A number of perinatal complications are increased with multiple gestations, including fetal anomalies, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. One of the most consequential complications encountered with multifetal gestations is preterm birth and the resultant infant morbidity and mortality. Although multiple interventions have been evaluated in the hope of prolonging these gestations and improving outcomes, none has had a substantial effect. The purpose of this document is to review the issues and complications associated with twin, triplet, and higher-order multifetal gestations and present an evidence-based approach to management.