Your mental health is important, both for your wellbeing and your children. It’s important that you feel supported throughout your journey of becoming a parent and have a safe space to talk about how you are feeling.
Many women pregnant with twins, triplets or more experience some sort of anxiety or depression during their pregnancy, wondering about their future, parenting skills, financial considerations or partly due to the potential increased risks that can occur in a multiple pregnancy. This doesn’t mean this will happen to you, but if you do feel depressed and this feeling is not being helped by talking it over with your partner or someone you feel close too, talk with your midwife as they will be able to refer you to someone who will be able to help. Remember you shouldn’t have to cope alone.
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.
Teresa's experience of PNDTriplet mum Teresa hopes her story will encourage other multiple birth mothers and fathers who are struggling, to seek out and get help.
Anna's experience of PNDTwin mum Anna shares her experience and advice she would give to other parents with PND.
Parenting can come with its highs and, at times, its lows - it is something that all parents feel at points through their parenting journey. You will often hear the term ‘parental guilt’ and this is certainly something that you will experience at times but remember that this is completely normal, and you are not alone in feeling this way. The most important thing to remember is that you are doing the best you can, with the best of intentions, and that this is good enough.
Try to avoid comparing yourself to other parents as this is never helpful – all families are unique and different. You might think that the family you are comparing yourself to are doing everything right, but it is also very likely that they are looking at you and thinking the same!
You may feel guilty because you blame your babies for your tiredness or change in lifestyle. It is a big change for you and your family so these feelings are understandable, and it can be a big adjustment for you all, so give it time (especially if you are very tired!).
When you have two or more babies you may feel that you are trying to split yourself across them and feel guilty about perhaps spending more time with one baby than the other(s). This could happen if you have one baby who is not as good at feeding as the other(s) or one who is poorly. During this stage you may need to give more time to this baby but, as time goes on, you will find that the other baby/babies will need you for other reasons and it will change again. One thing that might help is to identify positive things about each baby and to avoid comparing them with each other.
Take time for you. If you can organise a time for someone to sit with the babies so that you are able to go to the shops, take a nap or catch up on your favourite TV programme, this will help with your own wellbeing which will also positively impacts on your ability to care for your babies. Try to get out of the house at least once a day, even if it is just for a quick walk - this will not only help you, but will also help the babies. Fresh air and daylight will help with tiredness and can help to restart the day if you have been finding things difficult up to this point.
You and your partner
Having twins, triplets or more is wonderful for the majority of the time. Recognise the pressures you are both under, make allowances and share the joys and burdens of parenthood. The babies are small for a very short time, so try to enjoy it and make the most of it. Keep talking and, as the babies grow, the pressures on you will lessen, and you can resume your lives as a couple.
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