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Loss of a twin in the womb

What happens if a twin dies in the womb?

Miscarriage of a twin in the womb

Miscarriage in early pregnancy is very common, and sadly, the risk is slightly higher with twin pregnancies. With an identical twin pregnancy, where each baby shares the placenta or sac, there is a further increase of risk.

Early miscarriage of a twin in the womb

Early miscarriage is almost always down to problems with the embryo not developing as it should, and is therefore not preventable, or caused by anything the mum has done.

Occasionally, mums who have had a very early ultrasound scan will be told they have experienced 'vanishing twin syndrome' further along in their pregnancy. This occurs when women have been scanned before 12 weeks and two heartbeats have been detected.  At the mum's next scan, most usually the 12 week dating scan, only one baby will be seen, the other having been reabsorbed by mum's body.

As upsetting as this will be for a couple who have been told very early on that they are expecting two babies, it will have no detrimental effect on the rest of the pregnancy, or the surviving baby.

Miscarriage in the second or third trimester

With the loss of a twin in the second or third trimester, your doctors will have more concerns for possible complications arising with your remaining twin. If you do lose a twin later in your pregnancy, your medical team will work with you and your partner to decide the best course of action to ensure the safety and well-being of your surviving baby. Factors such as how many weeks along you are, what caused one of your twins to die, and the health of your other baby will all be taken into account.

One potential problem for identical twins (babies sharing a placenta) is twin to twin transfusion syndrome, where abnormal connecting blood vessels in the placenta leaves one baby with a greater volume of blood than the other. It carries a high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth if left undetected and untreated. You can get help and advice from the Twin 2 Twin organisation.

Support available

Losing a twin at whatever stage of pregnancy, or for whatever reason, will obviously be a very difficult time for you and your partner, and one where you will need lots of support and information. Organisations such as SANDS and TAMBA (Twins and multiple births association) have helplines you can call and literature you can download from their websites.

Many maternity units may have specialist midwives in multiple pregnancies and bereavement who can support families with the loss of a twin in the womb.

SANDS and TAMBA have helplines you can call to help you through this difficult time

Loss of a twin in the womb