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Vanishing Twin Syndrome: Symptoms, Signs and Effects

Knowing that you are carrying a child is one of the biggest sources of joy that any woman can ever experience in his or her life. Indeed the joy multiplies when you get to know that you are carrying not just one but two babies in you. Indeed, most parents see this as a cause of celebration and go ahead with the same. However in some cases, it is observed that in the initial ultrasound reports there appears to be more than one child but in the later ones, there is only one child.

To a layman, that would look like one of the babies simply disappearing from the womb. However, this is not actually the case. Doctors have not just found the medical explanation for this particular condition but have also coined a term for the same. This is what is known as the vanishing twin syndrome.

Speaking from a medical point of view, what happens here is that initially there are two different fetal tissues, which means that there are two twin babies. Whether the twins are identical or not is not our cause of concern here. However, in the course of pregnancy (usually in the first trimester itself), one of the fetal tissues is absorbed. This absorption may occur either by the other twin or multiples, the placenta or, in extreme cases, the mother itself. This gives an illusion of the fetus vanishing into thin air and hence the name.

How Common Is Vanishing Twin Syndrome?

Vanishing twin syndrome occurs more commonly than we think. The reason for the lesser talked up nature of this condition is the fact that in most cases people are unaware of its existence at all. In reality, vanishing twin syndrome is observed in every 1 out of 8 twin pregnancies. This would account for 20 to 30 per cent of all multi-fetal pregnancies.

Its occurrence is all the way more commonly seen in the case of pregnancies that are achieved by IVF. This is because, in such cases, there is more intense fetal competition for space and nutrition and as a result sometimes one of the fetuses is unable to survive. This condition is all the way more popular in the case of women over 30.

Symptoms And Signs Of Miscarrying A Twin

The sheer number of unreported cases of vanishing twin syndrome suggest that it is difficult to identify the same. However, a little alertness on the part of the pregnant mother will pave the way for the correct identification of the symptoms of this condition.

1. Vaginal bleeding

Most women associate vaginal bleeding with a complete miscarriage but that may not always be the case. Most women who go through this condition in the advanced stages of pregnancy report a slight vaginal discharge for a few days. Usually, there is no cramping associated with vanishing twin syndrome and that is why most pregnant women tend to neglect it. That is why if you know that you are carrying twins and you experience something of this sort, you should immediately go for an ultrasound as that is what will confirm the same.

2. Sudden light feeling

Although there is no scientific theory to back this particular point, the fact is that many women report feeling certain lightness in the stomach in the days following this. A logical explanation to this would be the fact that since the fetus does not exist, its anosmatic fluid is now being absorbed by the other twin and the mother's body and as a result, she ends up feeling lighter.

3. Decrease in circulating pregnancy hormones

If a pregnant woman who is carrying multiples is having frequent blood tests and she suddenly realizes that there is an abrupt decline in the circulating pregnancy hormones, it may be because her body is now carrying a single child and the other fetus has ceased to exist. However, this particular change will be noticed only if the concerned woman indulges in regular blood tests. Without those, it will be virtually impossible for any woman to be able to tell apart the levels of hormones.

How Does Vanishing Twin Syndrome Affect The Mother And The Baby?

In most of the cases, the twin vanishes in the first trimester itself. In such cases, no clinical signs or symptoms are noted in the pregnant mother or the surviving child and they go about with a safe and healthy pregnancy. The growth rate of the other twin is usually seen to be normal.

However, in the rare instances, when this condition occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, there is a certain amount of risk involved with the other surviving fetus. Very often, it is such that such babies grow up to have cerebral palsy in the later stages of life. A host of other neural disorders are noticed in such surviving twins so much so that the process of delivery itself becomes way more complicated than what it would normally be.

Talking from the psychological point of view, something like that is indeed trying on the mother. She ends up feeling guilty about the loss and being sad about the same. However, it is important to realize that the vanishing twin syndrome is definitely not the mother's fault. Instead of brooding over what is lost, you should learn to celebrate all that you have and look forward to having the little bundle of joy into the world.

Having understood the scientific explanation about the vanishing twin syndrome, you know how to identify the symptoms and you will definitely be more alert about the same. However, since this condition is not really controlled by you, in case such a thing does happen, you should not be overly depressed and must make conscious efforts to look at the brighter side of things.

Read more about: twins
Story first published: Saturday, August 11, 2018, 17:25 [IST]