Today we’re asking: How are YOU?
World Mental Health Day is recognized each year on October 10th. The World Health Organization uses this day to raise awareness of mental health issues, and also boost support of organizations who support mental health programs. It’s about making sure that people can talk openly about their diagnosis, and fostering the idea that mental health care should be made a priority.
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Mental Health and Multiples
Multiple pregnancies are difficult. The standard risks of prematurity, low birth weights, growth restriction, cerebral palsy, extended neonatal intensive care time, and even neonatal death can be devastating, to begin with. When you factor in the complications with monochorionic twins with TTTS, TAPS, and SIUGR – extra screening, complicated diagnosis, uncertain outcomes, and the possibility of laser surgery – it’s no wonder that mothers of multiples reported a 43% higher chance of moderate to severe depressive symptoms.
After birth, there is still no reprieve. A survey found that parents identified the 0-3 month age range as the hardest time, with many identifying that they needed help with mental health issues, but very few actually sought treatment or care.
With a high-risk pregnancy, there is a need for not only obstetric care but also mental health care, particularly for parents of multiples. Anxiety and depression are a real threat to this type of pregnancy, and parents should be screened for, and assisted with their needs.
With this type of pregnancy comes the risk of loss. In the first year of life, multiples are at a 40% higher risk of death by both accidental and non-accidental causes. The loss of one, or both babies also has a significant effect on the mental health of the parents, and they should also be supported and referred for support.
What can we do?
This pregnancy is balls. There’s no other way to describe it. You’re stressed, you’re at the doctors every other week and it feels like there is always another issue or complication. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. Please always seek help and ask for resources. Connect with communities on social media, but also find professional help, and don’t hesitate to connect with your care providers if you need help
It’s hard. You’re probably feeling a lot of guilt and uncertainty. Take the offers of help and support from your community, but also don’t be afraid to leave that NICU. Do things for you – take the time to do things that are part of your normal routine. You can have a coffee with friends, you can do the laundry. Check the support your NICU offers – do they have a number you can call in and check on your baby/ies? Do they have a webcam or an app? You can be connected, and not feel any guilt. Remember, you are also needing time to grow and adapt, and you need to make sure you’re ok.
After Birth and Beyond
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Connect with your care providers, talk with your family and friends, and take help that’s offered. Make sure you’re in tune with yourself. A parent of multiples often puts themself last, because they’re attending to the needs of everyone else. You are also important, and you need to take a rest. We all joke that a trip to the supermarket is a vacation, but the reality is, you need to also make it a cup of coffee and a chat sometimes.
For Loss Families
Talk about your children, share your stories. Celebrate their birthdays and mourn their loss. Be sure to get appropriate counseling and support, and connect with the grief support networks. We are proud to share a partnership with the TTTS Support Team, who are specialized in families experiencing loss.
For Friends and Family
Check-in on the families of multiples in your life. Ask how you can help, lend an ear, and support them. It’s important that we build a village together, where everyone is safe, happy and well. It extends beyond just asking though. Make sure you carry out promises and don’t be afraid to push a little. We all like to think we’re tough and put on a strong face to the world, but underneath, there are people who are tired, scared and overcoming some difficult times. If they are loss parents, support them around the time they lost their baby/ies, and help them celebrate compassionately.
For Healthcare Providers
Don’t assume that because your patient is nodding, that they understand everything that’s going on. Take the time to check that they’re ok with what’s being said. Make sure you acknowledge their concerns and find ways to explain things in less jargon if needed. Check-in on your patients, where they are, and point them in the direction of help if they need it. Be part of the village needed to support these parents.
For Everyone Else
Our focus is parents of monochorionic twins, particularly those diagnosed with TAPS. But we understand the importance of mental health for everyone. Our challenge today is for you to ask someone “How are YOU?”. Take the time to hear someone’s story, be their village, and most importantly, help where you can. It’s so important to do this for everyone in your life, but of course, we’re wanting our multiple parents and their networks to take that extra time.
A special thank you to our doctors, nurses, psychologists, researchers, counselors and social workers working with parents of multiples today. Mental health is vital to our community.