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Multiple birth mental health outcomes throughout pregnancy, delivery and postnatally

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      Background

      While there is awareness that multiple birth pregnancies and postnatal experiences are more challenging generally, little is known of the mental health impacts.

      Aim

      To explore multiple birth mothers pregnancy experience and mental health outcomes during pregnancy, following delivery and postnatally.

      Methods

      An open online anonymous survey was used to collect data from multiple birth parents, 1006 responses were collected. 713 completed the survey fully, providing very detailed responses to open-ended questions, whilst 293 provided high level responses only.

      Findings

      The challenges of a multiple birth pregnancy was associated with high levels of mental distress and mental health problems. 73.3% of respondents noted that they experienced challenges during their pregnancy, and of these, 84.7% cited these challenges as directly impacting upon their emotional or mental health. Despite the challenges, 70% of these respondents did not seek treatment or a diagnosis. At birth, 73.7% of those surveyed had a caesarean delivery and another 2.3% had at least one baby delivered via caesarean. Almost 28% of respondents reporting experiencing a traumatic birth, with over 60% not seeking support or treatment.
      The heightened risk of postnatal mental health problems and emotional distress is indicated with 69% of respondents experiencing stress, anxiety and/or depression in the postnatal period. In addition, over three quarters (77.5%) experienced feelings of isolation.

      Conclusion and Implications

      The results reveal the significantly higher risks of emotional and mental health distress for parents of multiple births. This begins in the antenatal period, and continues at birth and throughout the postnatal period. The results highlight the imperative need for information, screening and early detection, support and treatment. Given the high prevalence of emotional and mental health distress, low rates of help-seeking, and isolation, the need for continued advocacy to support the unique needs of this population group is urgently needed.
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