After a high-risk twin pregnancy followed by six postpartum surgeries, Laura Wilson describes her transition to motherhood as “overwhelming” and confessed to have been left feeling “isolated and uncared for.”
Her lengthy hospital stay compounded with additional costs of having twins led Wilson to seek financial assistance.
But when she learned the eligibility criteria for the federal government’s Multiple Birth Allowance, she was shocked.
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“You’re told your two babies only count as one. And if you wanted to be considered a multiple birth, you should have had three,” she said.
“If you had two babies over two different pregnancies, you would be financially supported double the amount.”
Research commissioned by the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) identified several key issues faced by families who had multiple births. At the forefront was declining mental health.
“You are five times more likely to experience postpartum depression as a parent of multiples,” AMBA director Silje Andersen-Cooke said.
Wilson concluded that had she been eligible for the Multiple Birth Allowance, “it would have meant that mine and my partner’s mental health could have been looked after a lot better”.
“We were having to decide who (out of the two of us) could have a psychology appointment,” she said.
Andersen-Cooke, who is a mother of triplets, recalls being on the phone “so many times” with social workers.
“And they told me that unless you’re about to harm your child, there’s nothing we can do,” she said.
The report revealed that Australia is ranked last out of 47 OECD countries in terms of support of multiple birth families.
Among the policy recommendations put to the Albanese Government was an extension of paid parental leave.
With 68 per cent of multiples born premature and admitted to NICU or SCN, some parents end up exhausting their parental leave before their children have even been discharged from hospital.
Andersen-Cooke’s triplets were born prematurely, and partner Jordan was already back at work before they were brought home.
“There were so many times where I would pass a baby through the door while he was working and he’d be holding a baby on a video call,” she said.
When asked for comment on the additional support provided to parents of twins, a spokesperson for the Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth referred to the Newborn Upfront Payment and the Newborn Supplement.
Twins are recognised as individuals for the purpose of these payments, and if eligible, the maximum amount received for the second child is $1,191.05. However, twins do not qualify for the Multiple Birth Allowance.
“(This) barely scrapes the surface as twins cost not twice as much but five times as much as a singleton, and triplets 13 times as much,” Andersen-Cooke said.
“We are 1.4 per cent of births — just over 4000 of us every year. It’s not a huge ask in comparison to how much they already spend in social services.
“It feels like we’ve been forgotten.”