Pregnancy

A Short Guide to Identical Triplets

Team Peanutabout 2 months ago6 min read

Can triplets be identical? Yep, they can – but it’s super rare!

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So, whether you’re expecting a terrific trio of your own, or you’re just a little curious, scroll on to discover everything you need to know about identical triplets.

How common are they? How does it happen? When will you know you’ve got three onboard? And how on earth do you tell them apart? Let’s find out.

First thing’s first: what are triplets?

When you’re pregnant with more than one baby, doctors often refer to it as a “multiple pregnancy”.

If you’re carrying two babies, that’s twins. When it’s three, you’ve got triplets. Four babies are quadruplets; five are quintuplets, six are sextuplets, and so on.

So, are identical triplets possible?

Is it possible to have identical triplets? Yep, but it’s very rare (more on that below).

Multiples can be either fraternal or identical, and with triplets (or more), you can have any combination.

Basically, if more than one egg is fertilized, you’ll have fraternal (non-identical) babies. But if one egg splits (into two, three, four, etc.) before implanting, you’ll have identical babies.

With triplets, you could have all fraternal, all identical, or one fraternal triplet and two identical.

What’s the probability of having identical triplets?

Giving birth to identical triplets is incredibly uncommon simply because the egg has to split three ways to produce a trio of tiny lookalikes.

Just how uncommon, however, is up for debate.

Depending on who you ask, the odds of having identical triplets vary from one in 60,000 to one in 200 million. Either way, if you wind up with three adorable doppelgangers, it’s going to be newsworthy!

How are triplets formed?

Let’s dig into the science of a triplet pregnancy.

The majority of triplets are “trizygotic”. This is where three individual eggs are fertilized by three separate sperm.

Each baby will share the same characteristics as any other sibling with the same biological parents.

Trizygotic or fraternal triplets can be the same or opposite genders (three boys / three girls / one boy, two girls / two boys, one girl).

Triplets can also happen when two separate eggs are fertilized by two different sperm, and one of those eggs splits into two, forming monozygotic (identical) twins.

Two of the babies would be alike and the same gender, while the third could be the same or a different gender with their own unique features.

However, when identical triplets are formed, one egg fertilized by one sperm splits into three, meaning all three babies share the same gender, DNA, characteristics, and features.

Research suggests that some monozygotic triplets actually start as quadruplets, but one of the embryos becomes reabsorbed. This is often referred to as “vanishing twin syndrome” — but we don’t call it that anymore.

How will I know if I’m expecting identical triplets?

It won’t be immediately obvious that you’re carrying triplets, but those extra passengers could mean you start showing from as early as 6 weeks.

Before your bump makes an appearance, you might have an inkling you’re expecting more than one baby due to more severe pregnancy symptoms, like reflux, nausea, or back pain.

However, triplets will only be confirmed by ultrasound – and even then, it’s not always clear if they’re going to be identical.

If the ultrasound shows they’re sharing a placenta, this is often a strong sign they’re identical, but it can be difficult to determine how the placenta is structured.

Sometimes it only appears as though it’s one placenta when they could be completely separate.

Are there risks associated with carrying identical triplets?

Expecting triplets is super exciting, but it does introduce some extra possible complications.

The good news is that your OB will keep a close eye on you and your babies from the moment your triplet pregnancy is confirmed. With that in mind, here’s what you (and they) should be aware of:

  • Premature birth: With three occupants, there’s only so much womb for maneuver, making it more likely that your babies will arrive early. You may go into labor before 37 weeks. For the average triplet pregnancy, babies are born around 32 weeks.

  • Delivery: When it’s time to deliver your little trio, a c-section is often advised for the safety of mama and babies.

  • Placenta: The placenta nourishes your babies, helping them grow and develop. However, in the case of identical triplets, one placenta is supporting all three babies. This could mean the nutrients you’re passing along are shared unequally, resulting in one baby who’s smaller than their siblings.

  • Early newborn complications: Because the average triplet is born early, they usually weigh under four pounds. And with a shorter time spent in your womb, it can mean their eyes, lungs, brain, and other vital organs aren’t finished developing. That’s why it’s common for triplets to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There, they’ll receive expert care from doctors and nurses to ensure they continue to grow and thrive.

If you have any questions or concerns about your triplet pregnancy, make sure you speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Finally, how can I tell my identical triplets apart?

Depending on how you view things, trying to tell your triplets apart can be an opportunity to exercise your creativity – or the beginning of a lifetime of clothes-swapping shenanigans!

Speaking of which, using distinctly colored clothing is the obvious starting point, separating each baby’s outfits into their own individual drawer or space in the closet.

You may also choose to keep their hospital wristbands on for a little longer until you know who’s who.

Some parents of multiples even paint a teeny tiny fingernail of each baby a different color with non-toxic nail polish, which can help tell them apart in the early stages.

However, as they grow, you’ll soon get to know their unique personalities, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. They might have fun swapping places and fooling their friends and teachers, but they won’t fool you. A mama always knows.

Want to chat with other mamas of triplets? Download Peanut today!

Read also:
Pregnant With Triplets? Here’s a Quick Guide
Do Identical Twins Have the Same DNA?
Twin Telepathy: What’s the Truth?
How to Conceive Twins
Identical vs Fraternal Twins: What’s the Difference?
Identical Twins: All the Important Details