Miscarriage is a heartbreaking reality for millions of women across the world. One lesser known tragedy is Vanishing Twin Syndrome, a kind of miscarriage in which a twin or multiple is absorbed into the uterus. Australian journalist Sarah Harris opened up about a loss she suffered in 2015, in which her son Paul’s twin was miscarried.
In an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly, Harris disclosed that she lost a child through Vanishing Twin Syndrome when she was eight weeks pregnant. “I started bleeding really heavily,” she said. “I’d only just moved house and I’d been lifting heavy boxes and I thought, ‘I caused this’, which of course is not true.”
There has long been a stigma surrounding pregnancy loss, leading many women to feel they must suffer the loss in silence. But the bravery of mothers like Harris is helping to let countless families around the world realize they are not alone.
Harris hadn’t even realized she was pregnant with twins. She had an appointment for a dilation and curettage, or D&C, to remove the remains of what she thought was her miscarried child. But the sonographer heard a heartbeat, and determined she had actually been pregnant with twins. “There were two sacs and one of the babies was lost and one of them was okay – and that baby was Paul,” she explained.
Paul was born in 2015, and is now four years old, and was followed by Harry in 2017.
Vanishing Twin Syndrome can be detected in a number of ways, according to the American Pregnancy Association. If a woman has an early ultrasound with two babies detected, and only one heartbeat is able to be heard later on the doppler, it may be due to Vanishing Twin Syndrome, even if there are no signs of miscarriage. Other women, like Harris, may think they’re having a miscarriage, only for an ultrasound to reveal that they are still carrying one healthy baby.
While it’s not always known why Vanishing Twin Syndrome happens, analysis of the placenta can sometimes give answers. It’s not unusual for the vanishing twin to have chromosomal abnormalities, while the surviving twin is more healthy. If the vanishing twin passes away during the first trimester, there are often no risks to the surviving twin, though there are increased risks if Vanishing Twin Syndrome takes place later in pregnancy.
It is not uncommon for women to suffer miscarriages or struggle with infertility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 8 women struggle to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term, while one in 100 pregnancies end in stillbirth. Vanishing Twin Syndrome is estimated to take place in approximately 36% of twin pregnancies.
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