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What Is Vanishing Twin Syndrome?

By Rachel Lacourciere, edHelperBaby

  What Is Vanishing Twin Syndrome?
           Vanishing twin syndrome is when one fetus in a set of twins disappears in the uterus during pregnancy, resulting in a miscarriage.  This condition occurs because of early chromosomal trouble that prevented the deceased fetus from properly developing and is not the result of something the mother has done.  The tissue of the deceased fetus is then reabsorbed by the mother's body and the surviving fetus' placenta.


           Any of the following symptoms may indicate vanishing twin syndrome and should be discussed with your regular prenatal care provider immediately:
  • Uterine cramps
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal vaginal spotting or bleeding

       Please note that some women who experience vanishing twin syndrome never go through any of the above symptoms.


  Risk Factors
           A woman may be at a higher risk than others of experiencing vanishing twin syndrome if she is more than 30 years old.


           A vanishing twin is usually discovered during an ultrasound.  Typically, two heartbeats are identified at the initial ultrasound performed during the mother's first trimester.  However, when the mother returns for her follow-up appointment, only one heartbeat can be identified with a Doppler.  The doctor or midwife will likely conduct an additional ultrasound to evaluate the mother's uterus in more detail and confirm that only one of the twins remains while the other has "vanished."


  Prognosis For The Surviving Twin
           Most commonly, the fetus dies during the first trimester and the surviving twin develops as expected with the mother delivering a healthy baby.  However, if the fetus dies during the second or third trimester, the risks do increase for the surviving twin.  These risks include cerebral palsy which is caused by chromosomal damage to the brain, affecting muscle control and motor development as the baby gets older.  In these cases, the pregnancy will likely be treated as high-risk and the doctor or midwife will closely monitor the pregnancy until delivery is either safe or becomes necessary.       

       Take the time to talk to your regular prenatal care provider about any additional questions or concerns you may have about vanishing twin syndrome.


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