Depression following childbirth can come in different forms, ranging from a short period of mild depression, the ‘baby blues’, to a more intense and long-lasting postnatal depression (PND).
The baby blues is a brief period of anxiety, sadness and mood swings after delivering a baby/babies and usually goes away after 1 or 2 weeks.
PND is depression suffered by a mother following childbirth. Some women trace their depression back to their positive pregnancy test or finding out they were pregnant with twins, triplets or more at the scan. More commonly, you may find PND developing after the birth of your twins, triplets or more, with the baby blues getting progressively worse as time goes on. Other women do not develop PND until much later; sometimes several months after their babies are born.
While one in ten mothers of singletons suffers from postnatal depression (PND), the stats show that rates are slightly higher among mothers of twins, triplets or more.
Understandably mothers of multiples have increased demands put upon them by virtue of the practical needs of more than one baby met by limited resources, you are only human. If you have an underlying vulnerability to developing a postnatal illness, this increased stress may trigger it. Likewise, any life-changing and stressful event could have a similar effect.
If you have a previous history of mental health problems, you may be more likely to experience post-natal depression (PND) which is why it is important to talk to your midwife. They may recommend a referral if necessary to a perinatal mental health professional. The dietician, mental health professional, physiotherapist and infant feeding specialist are part of what NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) call an enhanced team, the team are there if you require their expertise.
Fathers and partners can also suffer PND, especially fathers of twins, triplets or more who may be both sleep-deprived and working full-time. Studies of parental sleep have found fathers of multiples are the group most affected by sleep deprivation in the initial months.
Recognise the symptoms...
It is important to recognise the symptoms of PND. We have listed some below (Source: NHS.uk):
- a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- feeling that you're unable to look after your babies
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
- feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you "can't be bothered")
- feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
- difficulty bonding with your babies with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in their company
- frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your babies; these can be scary, but they're very rarely acted upon
- thinking about suicide and self-harm
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and think you may be depressed, talk to your GP or health visitor as soon as possible so you can get the help and support you need.
If you think you might be suffering from PND, please do get help. Talk to your midwife or doctor about how you are feeling, as well as friends or family. You can also ring Twins Trust’s freephone helpline Twinline on 0800 138 0509.
However tough it gets, PND does not last forever and need not blight the early years with your children. Access help, and try to get out of the house every day. Connecting with other parents of twins, triplets or more can also be hugely beneficial for your emotional wellbeing. Find your nearest twins, triplets or more club, where other parents may have experienced what you are dealing with and can provide understanding and support. We also offer parents the chance to meet from the comfort of their own homes with the Twins Trust Virtual Twins and More Club.
Triplet mum Teresa hopes her story will encourage other multiple birth mothers and fathers who are struggling, to seek out and get help.
Twin mum Anna shares her experience and advice she would give to other parents with PND.