I was talking to one of my on-line Twitter friends @onefinebreeder about twin delivery. I was telling her about how things used to be.. how vertex-nonvertex twin gestation’s were always delivered vaginally ….. and she commented on how it was sad that some of the old OB skills have been totally lost to surgery… So Very True!
I got to thinking about the first combination Twin delivery I had witnessed back in the very early 80’s. This was actually one of our own (hospital employee) nurses . She was a multip…. around 37-38 weeks and healthy…no complications during pregnancy. Twin A delivered spontaneously, vaginally with a generous episiotomy as they often performed at that time… The baby , a girl, was about 6 pounds, vigorous and had no problems. We were all marveling at the first baby, checked fetal hearts on the second twin and started waiting for him to get in position. Still before consistent ultrasound, we were not worried. However, we had a newer doctor who was attending this birth. He began to get concerned after 5- 10 min when contractions slowed and he was worried that if this baby was breech, he would have difficulty with the “after-coming” head. Up to this point, all I had learned was this can be a real concern if the smaller feet or buttocks present through a cervix which is not fully dilated. Much research was done later on but at the time, I did not know about it. He began to ask us to call the OR for a C/S. This was unheard of in my limited experience at the time…. my 70’s world. I thought.. how can they do a C/S now when one baby was already born??? I tried to be an advocate… (my early days… )”We have Piper forceps…” I said meekly… “Have you tried to grab a large part and help bring the baby down… ?” This was my limited knowledge… all I knew to suggest. I kept wishing one of the other doctors was on duty that day.. or maybe we could call them???
In front of the mother, he said to me “I’m not going to have a bad outcome here!” By now it was 20 minutes or so. There was no cord prolapse, no drop in fetal hearts, no evidence of immediate trouble… the baby was seeming to work itself into breech position…. To the mother he said “Your baby is in serious danger and the best thing to save him is to take you for a Cesarean now!” “I’ll sew your episiotomy together while we are in the OR.”
I was in shock. She signed, scared to death of course. So we prepped her for the OR. She went up for a C/S of her second twin and repair of her generous episiotomy. Her second baby was delivered frank breech… a beautiful boy about the same size and was also vigorous and healthy. I remember I felt as though she was almost assaulted. I remember feeling that this was a true rare event if it every happened before. There was no immediate access to information like today.
Luckily mom and babies did fairly well in the postpartum period even though healing from both the episiotomy and the C/S was difficult for her.
" Psst-- How can I get out if I'm not head 1st ??"
I wanted to see how much research I could find on this topic. I had gone to the green journal (OB & GYN) website but then it locked me out. (You can only look at abstracts anyway unless you want to purchase the article. You are on your own for that.) I had some luck with the abstracts at PubMed so I have put a few here.
I decided to take a look across time…….
This first one is from 1981. . Quoted abstract from the PubMed site:
Cesarean Section for Delivery of the Second Twin
Evrard,JohnR.; Gold, Edwin M.
Obstetrics & Gynecology. 57(5):581-583, May 1981.
Four cases of combined vaginal-abdominal delivery of twins are presented, and an additional 5 cases from the recent literature are discussed. Malposition, malpresentation, and contracted cervix were the main indications for cesarean section for the birth of twin B. In the 9 cases presented, there were 2 perinatal deaths.
Interesting that this research was done during the same time frame as my experience above. I’d like to know more about those poor outcomes 😦
The next interesting article I found was researched over a 10 yr period, somewhat close to here in a larger facility, published 1997. THIS study examines the delivery of the second twin by utilizing external version vs breech extraction . 😉 The results are showing in favor of breech delivery vs version (those meeting exclusionary criteria ).. Versions were associated with higher a incidence of Cesarean and fetal distress. Neonatal outcomes no different and are stated below:
Method of delivery of the nonvertex second twin: a community hospital experience.
Smith SJ, Zebrowitz J, Latta RA. J Matern Fetal Med. 1997 May-Jun;6(3):146-50
Abington Memorial Hospital, Pennsylvania, USA.
The purpose of this study is to examine the incidence of cesarean section and fetal distress complicating the delivery of the second twin in vertex-nonvertex twin gestations in which the second twin underwent either breech extraction or external version. The intrapartum courses of 510 twin gestations delivered at a community hospital over a 10-year period were retrospectively analyzed. All vertex-nonvertex twin gestations were identified in which the second twin underwent attempted breech extraction or external version. Exclusion criteria included birthweight < or = 1,500 g, fetal anomaly, intrauterine demise, and monoamniotic twins. Of the 76 twin sets that met inclusion criteria, 33 underwent external version and 43 underwent primary breech extraction. The two groups had similar demographic characteristics. External version compared to breech extraction was associated with a significantly greater incidence of cesarean section (8/33 vs. 1/43, P = .008) and fetal distress (8/33 vs. 1/43, P = .008). There was no difference between groups in neonatal outcome for the second twin as measured by length of stay, 5-minute Apgar < 7, intensive care unit admissions, hyaline membrane disease, intraventricular hemorrhage, and traumatic birth injury. In conclusion, the increased incidence of cesarean section and fetal distress in patients undergoing attempted external version suggests that breech extraction may be the preferable route of delivery for the nonvertex second twin weighing more than 1,500 g
The next study was published a little later in 2001 and covered a 20 year span of time… during the 80’s and 90’s at a larger center in Nova Scotia, Canada. They noted an increase in their combination vaginal/cesarean twin births and documented some statistical data, looked at reasons for an operative second twin birth. I wish to read this study further some day to see if there is mention pertaining to mother/baby outcomes other than statistics outlined (even though that wasn’t their objective) in this abstract:
Combined Vaginal-Cesarean Delivery of Twin Pregnancies
Obstetrics & Gynecology . 98(6):1032-1037, December 2001.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate the incidence and factors associated with combined vaginal-cesarean delivery in twin pregnancies. METHODS: We studied all twin births weighing 500 g or more during a 20-year period (1980-1999) at a tertiary care center. Major anomalies, monoamniotic and conjoined twins, and antepartum fetal deaths were excluded.
RESULTS: During this 20-year period, 105,987 women delivered, of whom 1565 (1.5%) had twins. Of these, 1151 twin sets fulfilled the study criteria. The mode of delivery was vaginal in 653 (56.8%), cesarean in 448 (38.9%), and vaginal-cesarean in 50 (4.3%). During the 20 years there was a statistically significant increase in combined vaginal-cesarean and elective cesarean deliveries, with a decrease in vaginal deliveries. Parity, gestational age, and birth weight discordance (>25%) were not associated with combined delivery. Compared with vaginal delivery, the nonvertex second twin was associated with a twofold higher risk of cesarean delivery (relative risk [RR] 2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3, 3.8; P =.002); and an interdelivery interval of over 60 minutes with an eightfold higher risk (RR 8.2; CI 4.6,14.6; P <.001). Vaginal-cesarean delivery had a 22-fold higher use of general anesthesia compared with vaginal delivery (RR 21.8; CI 5.4, 88.5; P <.001). CONCLUSION: There has been a significant increase in combined vaginal-cesarean and elective cesarean deliveries among twin gestations, with a decrease in vaginal births. Vaginal-cesarean delivery is associated with nonvertex second twin and a prolonged interdelivery interval.
Now we come to 2008! There is a study here from Texas. This study looked a twins born by C/S after labor and twins who had cesarean birth of the second twin. they campared outcomes to see if the twin of a combined delivery had more problems. The most important pieces of information I gather from this abstract of results…. (again, having NOT read the entire study):
“Combined twin delivery may be associated with endometritis and neonatal sepsis when compared with a twin delivery where both are delivered by cesarean in twin pregnancies experiencing labor. More serious neonatal sequelae, including hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and death, were not affected by the route of delivery of the second twin.” Hmmm
Cesarean Delivery for the Second Twin
Alexander, James M.; Leveno, Kenneth J.; ….et al:for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network (MFMU) Obstetrics & Gynecology . 112(4):748-752, October 2008.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75235-9032, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
OBJECTIVE: To examine maternal and infant outcomes after a vaginal delivery of twin A and a cesarean delivery of twin B, and to identify whether the second twin experienced increased short-term morbidity as part of a combined route of delivery. METHODS: Between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2000, a prospective cohort study of all cesarean deliveries was conducted at 13 university centers. This secondary analysis was limited to women with twin gestations who experienced labor and underwent cesarean delivery. We compared outcomes of the second twin in women who had vaginal delivery of the first twin and a cesarean delivery of the second twin to those who had cesarean delivery of both twins. RESULTS: One thousand twenty-eight twin pregnancies experienced labor and underwent cesarean delivery; 179 (17%) had a combined vaginal/cesarean delivery. Gestational age at delivery was 34.6 weeks in both groups (P=.97). The rupture of membranes to delivery interval was longer in the combined group (3.2 compared with 2.3 hours, P<.001). Endometritis and culture-proven sepsis in the second twin were more common in the combined group, respectively (n=24, odds ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval, 1.0-2.7; n=15, odds ratio 1.8, 95% confidence interval, 1.0-3.4). These differences were not significant after logistic regression analysis. There were no statistically significant differences in an arterial cord pH of less than 7.0, Apgar score less than or equal to 3 at 5 minutes, seizures, grade III or IV intraventricular hemorrhage, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or neonatal death. CONCLUSION: Combined twin delivery may be associated with endometritis and neonatal sepsis when compared with a twin delivery where both are delivered by cesarean in twin pregnancies experiencing labor. More serious neonatal sequelae, including hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and death, were not affected by the route of delivery of the second twin.
I gather from these studies that a combined delivery route leads to more problems.. however…there are probably more problems than breech presentation alone to lead the provider to make that choice. I believe that many newer providers of obstetrics in a hospital setting are more apt to do a scheduled C/S for any vertex-nonvertex twins they encounter. That is what is done in my facility today. The same for all breech presentation singleton gestation.
Where is that old-fashioned nurse when you need her?? How ’bout the old fashoined doc??? 😉
I am very interested in anyone’s story or experience either in healthcare or your personal birth. Please let me know if you know anything about this!
Thanks for reading!