Perinatal Depression (PND), or Post-partum mood disorder (PPMD) is two to three times more common in parents of twins or higher order multiples than parents of singleton babies, according to recent research.
In support of Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week held recently from 15-21 November, the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) encouraged those expecting twins or higher order multiples to connect with others as early support can lead to better outcomes.
AMBA Communications Director Ali Mountifield, mum to triplets, said multiple birth parents were at increased risk of perinatal mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
"The International Council of Multiple Birth Organizations completed a study in 2014 on PPMD in parents of multiple birth children," she said.*
"More than 5,000 parents from over 18 countries participated. The PPMD rate was 31.5 per cent, much higher than the 10 to 15 per cent rate often quoted for singleton births."
Ms Mountifield said: "Finding out you are expecting multiples can be overwhelming.”
“As well as the obvious physical changes, psychological changes occur during pregnancy too such as joy, excitement, and crying, feeling sad or nervous.”
"Some parents worry about the possibility of losing the babies, or going into hospital for medical procedures. Occasional doubts and negative thoughts or dreams are part of the normal adjustment to becoming a parent. The joys, doubts and fears can multiply with twins or more.”
“A family expecting more than one baby may experience difficulty adjusting to the news and, as a result, experience low mood or anxiety.”
“Even other people’s well-meaning reactions of ‘I don’t know how you do it’ can be challenging.”
"But parents expecting multiples should know they’re not alone. Discussing any doubts or fears with ‘those who know’ can be really helpful.”
Many parents say that the best thing they did was to speak to other parents of multiple birth babies as they understand the unique challenges and joys of caring for multiples.
AMBA provides opportunities for contact, in person and online, with other families and amazing information, support and benefits to help families along their journey.
This includes support and playgroups nationwide plus online newsletters and Facebook links and advice offering helpful tips to parents.
However Ms Mountifield said that only 25 per cent* of expectant families connected with support from AMBA and this was a concern.
"With Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week approaching, AMBA is reaching out to expecting parents, as well as their loved ones to make contact early", she said.
"Often, all parents need is someone to talk to, and that’s where AMBA and clubs around Australia play a crucial support role. Our members tell us time and time again how wonderful it is to have met people who’ve been there and done it."
Jacqui Chaplin, author, mental health and wellbeing advocate, points to the importance of ‘networks of support’ in moving beyond ‘coping’ in challenging times for expectant or new parents of more than one baby.
“Every day challenges abound. For multiple birth parents those challenges increase dramatically", she said. "This increased demand on emotional, physical and psychological resources requires support above and beyond our daily supportive relationships. There are two keys to accessing this kind of support.”
"Firstly, be clear about creating, growing and sustaining your family’s network of support. Secondly, it’s crucial to be ‘more than OK’ about making requests for support. These two keys will help move multiple birth families beyond ‘coping’ into surviving and then thriving in their new circumstances."
“AMBA and its clubs are a great support because they’ve been there and done that and come out the other side smiling!”
CEO of PANDA, Terri Smith, added “Parents of multiples who seek support through the National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline (phone 1300 726 306) speak of the overwhelming responsibility of feeding and caring for more than one baby, often not feeling ‘up to the job’ and needing encouragement and reassurance that they are a good parent."
“A sense of loss is also expressed by many parents when their babies’ early lives have been dotted with medical interventions, difficulties and separation... 'This isn’t how it was supposed to be’. Experiencing these mixed emotions of joy and sadness can leave a parent feeling very alone. What we know is that talking helps and seeking support early leads to better outcomes for the whole family.”
PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline (1300 726 306) offers confidential counselling, support, information and referral for new mums and dads: 10am – 5pm Monday to Friday.
Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Australia : http://www.panda.org.au