New research by the Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba) has found that nearly 50 per cent of parents are left struggling unsupported after the birth.
A survey of 1,226 parents found that 46 per cent felt that they didn’t receive enough help and information from a health professional when told that they were expecting a multiple birth and even more worrying was the fact that family doctors came out consistently as the least supportive of the health professionals.
Expecting one baby is life-changing; expecting twins, triplets or more can be almost devastating and this new evidence shows that the extra support and reassurance that multiple-birth parents need from health professionals is just not there.
In-vitro fertilisation and other fertility treatments are now more easily available and multiple births are more likely to occur with IVF because two or more embryos are transferred to the mother’s womb so multiple births in the UK have risen and the need for good support services has never been greater.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that multiple births have risen by 20 per cent over the past ten years and more and more parents with twins or triplets need support, both during their pregnancy and after the birth.
Helen Forbes, the director of Tamba says that it is important that health professionals know more about how to deal with and provide adequate support for parents with multiple births.
The availability of special antenatal classes for multiple-birth parents varies considerably across the UK, only 30 per cent of parents get the opportunity to attend and many parents don’t even know about the classes. A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Midwives says the individual hospital trusts concerned make the decisions whether or not to run special antenatal classes for parents expecting twins or multiple births.
The lack of consistency is a part of the problem and mothers have received widely differing levels of care in different areas and often the lack of help continues long after the birth as well. At a time when mums and dads need extra help coping with two lots of everything, parents of twins are often doubly disadvantaged. For example, because many twins and multiples are born prematurely and need time in specialist care when they are in hospital, they often miss out on the vital midwife support that couples normally get for ten days after they have come home with their baby. Parents of twins often lose financially as well as they have to buy two of everything, for, despite popular misconceptions, parents of multiple births are not entitled to additional benefits or grants. Tamba believes that the current system penalises families with multiple births because the baby tax element of the Child Tax Credit is payable only once, regardless of how many babies you have in a year - which could amount to families of twins losing out on £545 a year.
Tamba is campaigning to get this changed and get twins on the political agenda. With more and more parents facing the challenges of multiple birth, the organisation believes that the need for practical and financial help demands a much higher profile.