At week 19 of Kristin Whittington's pregnancy, she arrived for her scheduled sonogram appointment, having been told just three weeks earlier that she and her husband, Chuck, were having fraternal twin girls. As Kristin lay on the table for what she expected to be a routine exam, she received disturbing news: The babies were actually identical twins – a higher-risk pregnancy than fraternal twins – and they had twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS.
TTTS is a disorder of the placenta that occurs in about 10-15% of monochorionic, identical-twin pregnancies – meaning it affects identical twins (or higher multiple gestations), who share a placenta. Sharing a placenta can create problems if one baby receives the majority of nutrients and blood, while the other baby doesn't get enough. Without treatment, TTTS can result in many complications and often leads to the loss of one or both babies.
"I'd never heard of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. I didn't know what the doctor was talking about," Kristin says. "As he continued the sonogram, I knew there was a problem, but I didn't know how serious it was. I lay there on the table and silently cried."
A dangerous diagnosis
The Whittingtons learned that one baby, Lola, had too little placenta to provide enough oxygen and necessary nutrients for normal growth or even survival. The other twin, Seren, had enough placenta but was overloaded with blood transferred from her smaller sister.
Their doctor gave them two choices: take a wait-and-see approach or schedule a consultation with Carl Weiner, MD, maternal fetal-medicine specialist at The University of Kansas Health System. The Whittingtons were sitting in Dr. Weiner's office just hours later.
"Dr. Weiner was able to see we had a more serious case than first thought," Kristin says. "He had a very reassuring way about him. As harrowing as those days were, I trusted his care and his timing.