Mothers who have multiple births and their babies

Multiple births are births of more than one baby from a single pregnancy, and include twins, triplets and higher order multiples. This section focuses on mothers who had a multiple birth and babies born as part of a multiple birth.

While considered higher risk, most multiple pregnancies have positive outcomes for mothers and babies. However, women who have multiple births, and their babies, are at increased risk of certain conditions, including preeclampsia, anaemia, gestational diabetes, post-partum haemorrhage, pre-term birth, low birthweight, twin–twin transfusion syndrome and developmental delay (Twins Research Australia 2019). Families with multiple births may also experience financial stress, social isolation, and difficulties in accessing appropriate education (Twins Research Australia 2019).

Additional care for families who have twins or other multiples is essential to eliminate or manage complications associated with multiple pregnancies (Twins Research Australia 2019). Appropriate support is important from early pregnancy through to the early years of the babies’ lives, including frequent antenatal care visits, access to specialist obstetric and paediatric care and access to services to support child development (Twins Research Australia 2019).

The number of multiple births in Australia each year is small and has remained relatively stable at around 2-3% of all births (from 3.1% (9,442) of births in 2010 to 2.9% (8,469) of births in 2020).

In 2020, of this small proportion, almost all multiple births (98%) were twins, while the remaining 2% were other multiples (that is, triplets, quadruplets or higher).

Mothers who had a multiple birth

In 2020, mothers who had a multiple pregnancy accounted for 1.4% (4,205) of all women who gave birth.

The data visualisation below presents data for women who had a multiple birth gave birth, by selected maternal characteristics over an 11-year period (where available).

The figure shows a line graph of trends in the proportion of mothers who have a multiple birth by a range of topics including antenatal care, maternal age, onset of labour and smoking status from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 1.4% or 4,205 women had a multiple birth.

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Most mothers of multiples attended an antenatal visit in the first trimester (82%) and had 5 or more antenatal visits (95%). 

Over half of mothers had no labour, and this proportion has increased over time (49% in 2010 compared with 59% in 2020). Mothers of multiples therefore had a high rate of caesarean sections (75%).

For more information on mother who had a multiple birth see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data table 2.25.

Babies born as part of a multiple birth

In 2020, babies born as part of a multiple pregnancy accounted for 2.9% (8,469) of all births.

The data visualisation below presents data for babies born as part of a multiple birth, by selected baby characteristics over an 11-year period (where available).

The figure shows a line graph of trends in the proportion of babies born as part of a multiple birth by a range of topics including admission to SCN/NICU, birthweight, gestational age, and method of birth from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 2.9% of babies were born as part of a multiple birth.

Most babies from multiple births had an Apgar score of 7–10 at 5 minutes (95%), indicating that they have adapted well post-birth. More than half of babies in multiple births were born low birthweight (57%) or pre-term (66%), including babies who were both low birthweight and pre-term. As a result, 68% of multiple births were admitted to SCN or NICU, and 50% had hospital stays of 6 days or more.

References

Twins Research Australia (TRA) (2019) Multiple perspectives: what support do multiple birth families need to live happy and healthy lives, TRA, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, accessed 21 June 2022.