7. What is the survival rate of triplets?
MOST has worked with almost 25,000 families since 1987. During that time the majority of expectant mothers of triplets and quadruplets who have contacted MOST have delivered healthy, albeit pre-term, babies. Even many higher order multiples of quintuplets and sextuplets have had good outcomes. Survival of higher order multiples depends on many factors.
The most important factors are the number of babies involved in the pregnancy and the level of prematurity at birth: the more babies involved the greater the risk, but the longer the gestation, the greater the chance for survival. Infants born more prematurely face a greater likelihood of respiratory distress and other complications. (See the MOST Medical Birth Survey data on infants for more details.)
Note: For morbidity and mortality data on infants born extremely premature (22-25 weeks gestation) see the National Institute of Child Health and and Human Development Neonatal Research Network online tool.
The risk of perinatal loss (loss prior to or at birth) is higher for multiple gestation pregnancies than those with single gestation pregnancies. According to CDC Fetal and Perinatal Mortality data from 2005:
"The increased risks of fetal loss for multiple pregnancies may relate in part to increased rates of preterm labor, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, anomalies, abruption, and cord accidents. Also, many multiple pregnancies are the result of assisted reproductive technologies. Studies have suggested that both the underlying infertility problem, and the use of these therapies may increase the risk of adverse outcomes." (source #2)
Additional factors, aside from a multiple gestation, that can increase fetal mortality include maternal obesity, smoking during pregnancy, severe or uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes, infections, placental and cord problems, intrauterine growth retardation, previous perinatal death, maternal race, and other factors.
The risk of infant death (death following a live birth) increases with the increasing number of infants in the pregnancy. According to the CDC data from 2007, 3% of twins and 7% of triplets compared with less than 1% of all singletons died during infancy (source #3)
*Note: Infant mortality rates for multiples are largely affected by prematurity and low infant birth weight. Multiple births are much more likely to be born preterm and at low birth weight than single births. The higher risk profile of multiple births has a substantial impact on overall infant mortality.
Despite the increased risk for loss, if the pregnancy is managed by a
1. MacDorman MF, Kirmeyer S. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2005. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_08.pdf
2. MacDorman MF, Munson ML, Kirmeyer S. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2004. National vital statistics reports; vol 56 no 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007. ttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_03.pdf
3. Mathews TJ, MacDorman MF. Infant mortality statistics from the 2006 period linked birth/infant death data set. National vital statistics reports; vol 58 no 17. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_17.pdf
For more information, see the MOST Recommendations on the Responsible Use of Fertility Treatments (PDF).
MOST also offers our book Expecting Multiples: A Comprehensive Guide covering a variety of topics related to pregnancy and delivery of higher-order multiples.
Visit the MOST Supertwins Statistics page to learn more about multiple birth complications.
Copyright MOST 2005 Updated 8/16/10