NIH Logo Triplet births apparently have a high rate of complications because they tend to be born very early, and have a low birth weight. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health claims that triplets are under a greater threat of dying or developing a disability than single born infants or twins before the age of 2 years. The study findings call for developing measures to prolong pregnancy among women carrying multiple fetuses.

During the study, investigators evaluated the medical records of around 11,000 ELBW infants born between 1996 and 2005 in the NICHD Neonatal Research Network centers. The survival rates and health status of triplets between 18 and 22 months were compared along with other higher order multiple births to that of twins and singletons falling into the same age group. It then appeared that triplets are almost twice as likely as single born infants, and about one and a third times as likely as were twins to die or develop a disability.

“Triplet births have a high rate of complications because triplets tend to be born very early, and are smaller than most other categories of infants,” said Rosemary Higgins, M.D., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Our study found that even when you compare them to single born infants and twins of comparable size and gestational age, they still face greater risks.”

It was noted that at the age of 18 to 22 months, the ELBW triplets and higher order multiples allegedly had 1.7 times the risk of death or neurodevelopmental impairment as ELBW singletons, and 1.27 times the risk as ELBW twins. An infant either died in the first or second year of life or presumably suffered from neurodevelopmental impairment. ELBW triplets and higher order multiples probably were twice as likely as ELBW singletons and about 1.4 times as likely as ELBW twins to have neurodevelopment impairment.

The study was published online in Pediatrics.