A new research study suggests mothers and fathers of twins conceived either spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technology (ART) suffer more mental health symptoms after delivery and one year later than do parents of singleton babies.
However, the mothers of ART twins had fewer symptoms of depression before the birth than did mothers of twins conceived spontaneously.
“This may be due to better counseling and preparation of infertile couples for twins,” Dr Leila Unkila Kallio told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.
“The good mental health during pregnancy may also reflect the couples’ satisfaction with successful treatment and fulfillment of hopes for parenthood,” she added.
After birth, fathers of twins in both groups showed more depression, anxiety, social dysfunction and sleeping problems than did fathers of singletons.
The study is the first to investigate the mental health of both mothers and fathers of twins conceived either spontaneously or through ART using their own sperm and eggs, covering the transitional period to parenthood from pre-birth through to one year afterwards.
Dr Unkila Kallio said that it showed that psychological well-being of prospective parents should be taken into account when deciding how many embryos to implant during ART – as well as the health risks of twin pregnancies to both mothers and babies.
“We believe it is important to reduce multiple pregnancies worldwide by introducing single embryo transfers. Our results on parental mental health of twin parents provide further evidence to support this policy,” said Dr Unkila Kallio, who is a senior consultant in gynecology and obstetrics at Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki (Finland).
Dr Unkila Kallio concluded: “For some couples it is difficult to overcome the emotional pain that infertility and its treatments bring, even though parenthood is finally achieved. As ART has become more common and ART parents are seen in all well-baby clinics, we need to consider how these parents, especially fathers, could be supported in the best possible way to avoid the harmful effects of hurt self-esteem or feelings of insecurity about parenthood. The present study on mental health of parents with twins is a part of a larger multi-dimensional study, exploring the early environment of babies born by ART.”