Some research suggests that having multiples increases a parent's risk of mental health concerns — like depression and anxiety — before and after the children are born. Don't be afraid to admit it, parents advise. Emotional support can help.
Some research suggests that having multiples increases a parent’s risk of mental health concerns — like depression and anxiety — before and after the children are born. Don’t be afraid to admit it, parents advise. Emotional support can help.

In 2014, when Crystal Duffy found out she was pregnant with twins, she felt shocked and overjoyed. “Twins run in our family,” says the Houston resident, who was 33 at the time, and already the mom of a 2-year-old. “But we still weren’t prepared for the news.”

Duffy had hoped for a joyful twin pregnancy. But during her second trimester, she began having complications.

“I had a very high-risk pregnancy, and my twins were born premature,” she explains. “They spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a very stressful time. I felt anxious and traumatized.”

While the doctors had told Duffy that twin pregnancies could be precarious for her and her babies’ physical health, they didn’t mention that some research suggests that having multiples also increases a parent’s risk of mental health concerns — like depression and anxiety — after the children are born.

Higher rates of postpartum depression

According to a draft report and statement issued this week by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 8.9 percent of all pregnant women and 37 percent of new mothers experience clinical depression in the months before or after giving birth. (Less research has been done on new fathers, but some studies suggest that about 10 percent of dads may also succumb to postnatal depression.)

But, for parents of twins or other multiples; there’s good evidence that the percentage who experience depression may be much higher. A 2009 study, published in the journal Pediatrics found that new moms of multiples were 43 percent more likely to have postpartum depression than were mothers of singletons.

In a survey published in May in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, parents who’d had at least one multiple birth told researchers they experienced the most difficulty during the first three months of their babies’ lives. For that study, 244 parents of twins and other multiples (including 197 mothers and 44 spouses or partners) completed a series of questionnaires that asked about their mental health during the postpartum period. (About two thirds of the kids in question were over age 5 at the time their parents were surveyed).

Few seek psychological support

The researchers found that although 48 percent of the study participants had struggled emotionally after their babies were born, few got help.

“For the parents in our study, anxiety and stress were the most pressing challenges,” says Susan J. Wenze, the assistant professor of psychology at…

Mayra Rodriguez
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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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