Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Signs of a lost twin in pregnancy (1) The "vanishing" twin

For the next few days I will explore the visible signs, noticeable during pregnancy, of a twin conception that ends with the birth of one baby.  I will begin with the so- called "vanishing twin pregnancy." If you search this blog with the term "vanishing twin" you will find plenty of information here.  There are also three chapters in the new book, "Womb Twin Survivors" devoted to this topic.

It may be useful at this moment to continue our discussion of useful terms.  What exactly is a "vanishing" twin?

A pregnancy starts with two gestational sacs, made visible on ultrasound at an early stage and when a second scan is made at a later stage one of them has disappeared.   It is a real, physical event, made visible only on ultrasound and consequently only discovered in the 1980s.   It is subject to many misconceptions:

These little lost twins do not vanish, they simply die. The term is misleading when it is used inaccurately.  If you say you "had a vanished twin" it would be more accurate to say you had a twin who died in the early weeks of pregnancy, disintegrated and left no trace at birth.  If there were traces on the placenta then the twin did not vanish, for signs were still there. 

I use the term "womb twin survivor" for a very good reason - we need a term that covers all the eventualities that can occur when a twin or multiple conception ends in the birth of one living baby, and this is it. As far as I know there is so other.  

"Vanishing twin" only describes a missing twin gestational sac, that was once visible on an ultrasound scan. We need a more general term for the situation when a twin dies in pregnancy or close to birth. 

Anyone got any suggestions?  We are still searching for a simple, global term  for this situation.  "Womb twin survivor" describes the surviving twin but not the situation of losing a twin. 

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