Most new parents will feel overwhelmed at times, and it is incredibly natural to have a cry. With next to no sleep, peace or fun in sight I would be surprised if mums of newborn multiples don’t feel down or have a good bawl every now and then. But there are the ‘baby blues’ and then there is something much more concerning, and that is post natal depression with twins.
PND is concerning in any new mum, not just parents of twins and multiples. Any mum suffering from depression has it incredibly hard and needs help and support through this time.
And it isn’t just the mums of course; one in ten new dads will also suffer from PND.Panda
The reason PND with twins and multiples is concerning is that the incidence of it is much higher with these parents (um, it’s not that strange, they do have double the workload and half the amount of sleep!), so everyone around the new super-sized family needs to keep a special eye out.
PND with twins and multiple birth babies is more common than with mums of single babies
Studies have shown that mothers of multiples may be up to twice as likely as mums of single babies to suffer from PND. As many as 35% state that they have PND or suspect they do.
Parents of multiples have a higher incidence of PND for many reasons, including:
- the workload never seems to end
- feeding and crying happens twice as often (and lasts twice as long)
- your body may take longer to recover from giving birth or complications from labour
- your babies may have more health concerns
- you may have less help, support and resources than you need.
How to tell if you might have PND with twins and multiples.
Every mother’s experience of post natal depression is different, and you can suffer from it mildly, moderately or severely. The most common thread between all sufferers of PND is the inability to enjoy any aspect of their motherhood and an impact on their ability to function at all.
When you feel like you have lost control of your thoughts, your emotions or your body, this can be a sign you need help.
Common symptoms of PND include
- Feeling constantly sad, low or crying for no reason
- Losing your sense of enjoyment in anything you used to like
- Constant feelings of exhaustion (even physical pain), being overwhelmed and that there is no hope
- Feeling that you are not good enough for your babies
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Low or no sex drive
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having trouble concentrating or remembering
- Feeling no connection or bond with your babies
- Having thoughts of harming your babies
- Having thoughts of death or suicide, or to just walk away from it all
It is very common to feel symptoms of anxiety at the same time as depression, which may also include:
- Panic attacks (physical sensations like racing heart, shortness of breath, shaking, need to escape, worry that you are having a heart attack or stroke)
- A persistent generalised worry or fear, usually for your babies
- Feeling quick to get angry or irritated
- Sudden mood swings
What you need to do to help yourself
If anything at all on the above list sounds familiar – talk to someone! Start with your partner or a close friend if you feel comfortable, but it is better to approach your doctor, maternal and child healthcare worker or even a counsellor.
Even if you are not sure if the feelings you are having are PND – talk to someone and check. It can never hurt to make sure, and absolutely no one is going to turn you away or think you’ve wasted their time with asking.
The sooner you seek help the sooner you will get treatment, and you be able to enjoy this precious time with your babies instead of stumbling through it in a fog.
Friends, partners and family; what to watch out for
If you are close to a mum of new twins or multiples, keep a close eye on them. Check in with them regularly and make sure that they are ok.
Signs that someone close might be suffering from PND (on top of all of the ones we listed above)
- She is withdrawing from contact or cancelling plans with you
- She has withdrawn from intimacy and doesn’t want to be touched
- Her level of self-care or hygiene has dropped
- Her mood or personality has drastically changed in that she really doesn’t seem like the person you know and love
- Loss of appetite and refusal to eat
Tips to help someone with PND and twins or multiples
Don’t be afraid to broach the topic; ask her if she is ok, if she thinks she may have depression, or if she is overwhelmed by her current situation. Recommend that she seek some professional help, and take her along to the appointment if she needs it.
Give her an opportunity to speak to you about any concerns and really listen to her, don’t just rush in to try to fix everything. Some of her thoughts may be very scary to her and hard to voice out loud, so gently give her the space to do this.
Offer to help with definite practical assistance (that means don’t just ask ‘is there anything I can do?’ or say ‘call me if you need’; this isn’t quite good enough!).
Make a time to take her out for coffee and a walk, or send her out while you have the babies. Tell her you are bringing her dinner and you don’t care one bit about what her house looks like. Even little things like sunshine and fresh air, and giving her the chance to talk can make a world of difference.
She will need help but very often be unable to recognise it or ask for it, or may easily turn it down if offered. You need to be persistent with this one.
If you have any doubt, ask for more advice or talk to your own GP about your friend.