Twin mums at greater risk of depression and anxiety, new survey reveals

Twin parenthood is hard [Photo: Getty]
Twin parenthood is hard [Photo: Getty]

Parents of twins, triplets and other multiple births are at a greater risk of depression and anxiety than most other parents, new research has revealed.

As any multiple parent will likely say, looking after more than one baby at the same time is a tricky business. (Just ask Beyonce)

But as well as depriving you of all the sleep, being thrown in at the parenting deep end could also take its toll on your mental wellbeing.

The new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, found that almost half (48%) of the multiple birth parents who took part suffered extreme mental health issues, particularly in the first three months.

But while many of the participants said they could have benefited from mental health treatment, less than ten per cent received such care.

For the study, 241 parents of multiples completed survey questionnaires, in person or online.

Of the participants, 197 were mothers and 44 were spouses/partners.

Around a fifth of the multiples were conceived through fertility treatment.

The survey shows that 48 percent of the parents said they would have been interested in some type of mental health treatment during pregnancy or the first year after their children were born.

Participants reported a wide range of concerns, including symptoms of depression or anxiety, elevated stress, relationship issues, and “managing having multiples.”

There was general consensus that the first three months were the hardest for multiple birth parents.

During the new parent fog, a quarter suffered generalised anxiety disorder (apprehension and uncertainty), while 15 percent suffered major depressive disorder (hopelessness and feeling of certain doom, without worry).

All of them suffered poor sleep, though new mums were worst hit, and all of the participants said they struggled to find time to seek out mental health care due to their busy schedules.

Parents of multiples are at greater risk of depression and anxiety [Photo: Getty]
Parents of multiples are at greater risk of depression and anxiety [Photo: Getty]

“There is a large, unmet need for mental health treatment in parents of multiples in the perinatal period, especially the early postpartum months,” study authors Susan J. Wenze, of Lafayette College and Cynthia L. Battle of Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University wrote.

Researchers are hoping the findings might help encourage increased investment in online services to help multiple birth parents get the mental health care they need.

“We recommend that healthcare providers attend carefully to parents of multiples’ mental health during pregnancy and the early postpartum periods, and proactively integrate discussion of perinatal mental health concerns into their prenatal care regimens,” they said.

The new research follows a recent study earlier this year, which found that half of mums who experience post-natal depression and other maternal mental health issues keep it hidden from their friends and family.

The survey, by parenting site Netmums, also revealed that just 1 in 3 mums seek professional help to tackle mental health problems after giving birth.

When it comes to the reasons women hid their mental health concerns from their partners and family, shame was a key factor with almost a third (30%) feeling scared of being judged and a quarter lacking the confidence to tell anyone.

Other reasons mums cited for not sharing their distress with their friends and family included feeling they were a terrible person, feeling they wouldn’t understand, feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

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