Unique challenges for Indigenous Australian multiple-birth mothers


Published: Thursday 09 September 2021

Indigenous Australian twins and their mothers face unique challenges, according to new research supported by Twins Research Australia.

All mothers of twins face challenges but the study found these may be more difficult to overcome for some Indigenous Australian mothers. 

Outcomes of multiple births in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter respectfully called Aboriginal) people are investigated in this interesting new paper written by Alison Gibberd from the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Epidemiology Unit, alongside TRA researchers Jess Tyler and Katrina Scurrah, and their colleagues. The study investigated the birth data of over 64,000 indigenous twins in NSW and WA.

Noting that perinatal outcomes for singleton pregnancies are poorer, on average, for Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people in Australia, they set out to explore how multifetal pregnancies fared. Pregnancies, births and perinatal outcomes for Aboriginal twins born in Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW) were compared to Aboriginal singletons in both states and to non-Aboriginal births in NSW.

It was found that many Aboriginal twin pregnancies and births are physically and practically challenging and the majority of multiples are born early and small. Factors included that they are: more likely to live far from specialist medical care, are younger, more socio-economically disadvantaged, and more likely to have older children. Researchers recommended that specific guidelines for the care of indigenous mothers and twins may be needed to improve outcomes.

This study highlights the importance of policies that support health services to meet the practical, financial and psychosocial needs of mothers and families, in addition to meeting their health needs. 

You can read the paper in full here. The researchers have provided this simplified explainer.


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Twins Research Australia has received continuous funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) since 1981, most recently through a Centre of Research Excellence Grant (2015-2022). TRA is administered by the University of Melbourne.

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