The parents of twins suffer more mental health symptoms than the parents of single-born babies, the results of a new study indicate.

Researchers followed the mothers and fathers of 111 sets of twins and over 700 single-born babies at three different times - during the pregnancy, when the children were two months old and when they were 12 months old.

The Finnish team found that parents of twins had more depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and social dysfunction than parents of single-born babies.

The findings applied to twins conceived spontaneously as well as those conceived with assisted reproductive technology (ART). However, the mothers of ART twins had fewer symptoms of depression before the birth, compared to the mothers of twins conceived spontaneously.

“This may be due to better counselling and preparation of infertile couples for twins. The good mental health during pregnancy may also reflect the couples' satisfaction with successful treatment and fulfilment of hopes for parenthood,” said Dr Leila Unkila-Kallio of Helsinki University Hospital.

The researchers found that after delivery and at 12 months, mothers of twins in both the ART and spontaneous pregnancy group had more symptoms of depression and anxiety than the mothers of single babies.

Fathers in all groups had similar mental health during the pregnancies, but showed more symptoms of depression and anxiety after the birth.

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.

Dr Unkila-Kallio said that it showed that the psychological wellbeing 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,” the researchers concluded.

The results were presented at the 24th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.