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Research Suggests Parenting Twins Holds Higher Risk Of Depression

twins with mom's hands

It's estimated that one in seven women experience postpartum depression (PPD), a condition that's categorized by the American Psychological Association as including feelings of stress, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, exhaustion, or weeping (or, in fact, any and all of the above). Although well-meaning organizations are working hard to place more awareness around PPD, research studies often uncover that few women affected by it actually seek professional help.

It should come as no surprise that moms (and, yes, dads even though there is less research on paternal postpartum) are so susceptible to depression following the birth of a child. Bringing a baby into the world is an incredible experience, but the shifting hormones, sleepless nights, and overall change to life as one previously knew it create the perfect storm for an attack on one's mental well-being.

Now imagine having two tiny humans to care for at the exact same time. Twins who both need to be fed every two hours, require diaper changes, and endless emotional support. It's double the work and double the stress. NPR recently drew attention to the idea that parents of multiples are even more likely to experience PPD, noting a 2009 Pediatrics study that concluded new moms of multiples were 43 percent more likely to have PPD than those who had given birth to a single child.

More recently, a separate survey published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice last May questioned parents of multiples about how they felt during the initial three months after giving birth. An astounding 48 percent of those surveyed admitted they had a difficult time emotionally after their kids were born, but about 10 percent said they didn't seek help to address their feelings.

tired parents with twins
Credit: iStock / monkeybusinessimages

Study author Susan J. Wenze, an assistant professor of psychology at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn, told NPR that the reason many parents didn't explore help was because it ends up feeling like just one more thing on an endless to-do list. Between tending to the multiples themselves, finding someone to watch the babies while they sought counsel, and the financial burden of paying for therapy if not covered by insurance makes the task feel less like self-care and more like a burden.

In the end, experts interviewed suggested parents of multiples "find their tribe" early on, seeking out other families who are in the same boat. Feeling that you're not alone and being able to talk to fellow parents who are experiencing the very same things you are can do wonders for one's emotional health an quality of life. And, of course, if there is a way to seek the help of a mental health professional, by all means, pursue it.

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