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I was wondering how women (in the old times) were able to find if they were expecting twins. Was it possible a woman give birth to twins without knowing it?

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    People give birth to twins without knowing in advance in this day and age still, so they most certainly did in the past. Just probably more often. Also, define "past" and "old times". Prehistory? Medieval times? The 18th century? – Kate Gregory Dec 9 '17 at 15:53
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    It's possible today for a woman to give birth to twins without knowing it in advance. In fact, I'm sure it happens every day all around the world. If she doesn't happen to have access to ultrasound and a gynecologist, it's very likely she won't know until birth. In fact, I'm not sure why you think a medieval woman would know. – Carey Gregory Dec 12 '17 at 5:39
  • Is historical medicine even on topic here? – Graham Chiu Sep 30 '18 at 0:45
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    @GrahamChiu Well, there's nothing saying it's off topic. I think it's a good question. Arguably it should be on History, and it would probably get better answers there, but I'm okay with it here. – Carey Gregory Sep 30 '18 at 4:24
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Without ultrasound you’d discover by palpation - feeling the abdomen.

Each baby has two poles - the head and the bottom. If you can feel three clearly separate poles there must be at least two babies in there.

It’s difficult to feel 5 poles which would be needed to confirm triplets.

Alternatively, sometimes you can clearly identify poles which are heads - in which case the number of heads you can feel puts a lower bound on the number of babies.

This isn’t a particularly reliable approach - it’s easy to underestimate the number of babies. So multiple babies are often still a surprise if there is no access to imaging.

  • Was this known in medieval times? – Carey Gregory Sep 29 '18 at 5:23
  • @CareyGregory it was certainly known to someone. I doubt most women would have had access to someone who would be looking for twins, or any other kind of antenatal care. For more precision, you’ll need a historian. – rhialto Sep 29 '18 at 6:49
  • Answers here are required to have supporting references, so you're going to need to find something to support your answer or it will likely be closed. – Carey Gregory Sep 29 '18 at 21:28
  • @CareyGregory my reference re Palpating for babies is every obstetric textbook published in the past century. I’m not making any claims about how twins were detected in medieval times, just how they could have been. If that’s not good enough, feel free to delete the answer. – rhialto Sep 29 '18 at 21:33
  • The question was specifically about medieval times. – Carey Gregory Sep 30 '18 at 4:21

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