Psychosocial impact

Anxious mother

Many people struggle with the emotional, practical and financial repercussions of a multiple birth, with parents far more susceptible to mental health problems such as extreme stress and depression.

Some evidence also suggests that parents of IVF multiples experience greater difficulties with parenting and more problems with child behaviour than parents of naturally conceived children.

The literature suggests that, parents of multiples have often gone through a lengthy and difficult process addressing and treating their fertility problems, which impacts on their longer-term experience of parenthood.

Research shows that:

  • Mothers and families with twins are more likely to:
    • experience severe parenting stress
    • have increased maternal depression
    • have a reduced ability to work outside the home; and
    • have an increased rate of divorce
  • Almost 20% of mothers of twins experience depression and marital difficulties, with first-time parents of twins and those who have had fertility treatment at even greater risk.
  • Twins demonstrate significantly lower levels of cognitive development than their singleton counterparts.
  • Parents of twins experience greater difficulties in parenting and more problems with child behaviour.
  • For first time parents with a history of infertility, these factors add to parenting stress and have an adverse effect on psychosocial wellbeing.
  • Mothers of low birth weight infants who require prolonged neonatal care experience greater levels of anxiety, and feel lower levels of attachment to their babies, than mothers of full-term, healthy infants.

The expert says

“Multiple birth is the single biggest risk to the health and welfare of children born after IVF and so the dramatic reduction in multiple births from a quarter in 2008 to 1 in 6 in 2013 is a remarkable achievement, and testament to the collaborative effort between patient groups, professional bodies and the HFEA. However, we must continue our efforts to get to the multiple birth rate to 1 in 10 or less.”

Sally Cheshire, Chair of the HFEA