More than 50 twin babies are dying each year because of failures to follow official guidance on multiple births, new research conducted by charity, The Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba) has revealed.

Health authorities recommend that patients expecting twins are to be regularly reviewed by a specialised team of medics, have extra scans during pregnancy and that the babies are screened for Down syndrome.

What are the risks of having Twins?

There are a number of specific risks associated with multiple births such as Twin to Twin Transfer Syndrome, where there is an imbalance in the placental blood vessels that connect both twins so blood is not shared evenly between the two. However, twins and multiple pregnancies are also affected more frequently by other pregnancy complications including:

1. Anaemia: A shortness of red blood cells, which can be treated with a diet rich in iron.

2. Pre-eclampsia: A complication which causes high blood pressure and potential organ damage.

3. Gestational diabetes: High blood sugar brought on by pregnancy – although diabetes is normally lifelong, gestational diabetes usually goes away after birth.

4. Vaginal bleeding: One in four multiple mothers report some vaginal bleeding – it is often harmless but should be reported to a doctor.

An audit, funded by the Department of Health, has found 42% of larger maternity units are not following the guidance, and nor are 61% of smaller units. Twins and other multiple births need special care because they are more likely to die in the womb or as infants and have lower birth weights. There is also a higher risk of disability with babies in a multiple birth.

In the first research of its kind, Tamba claims a fifth of the 270 deaths of twin babies younger than a month old could be avoided. This equates to approximately 55 babies who could be saved every year by hospitals following multiple birth guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Tamba examined 30 hospitals and found only 58% of large hospitals and 39% of smaller ones properly follow NICE advice, The Times reported. These worryingly low statistics exacerbate the risks of childbirth even further. It is not surprising that twins and triplets are more than three times more likely to die as babies than individual births, and over one-and-a-half times more likely to be stillborn.

The charity has called the results 'worrying' and said babies' lives can be saved if guidelines are followed. 

Keith Reed, Tamba chief executive, said: “What's worrying is many maternity units do not have such a team in place to begin with and it's down to pot luck if you have healthcare professionals who are experienced in multiple births.”

Given the added risks and complications associated with multiple births it is essential that NHS Hospitals follow guidelines intended to save lives.  

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