The Womb Twin Survivors Research Project
Althea Hayton, writer and therapist, discovered she was a womb twin survivor in 2003. After spending a great deal of her time researching this area, there was no information on how the loss of a twin/multiple would psychologically affect the survivor, so she set up a website, www.wombtwin.com, to carry out a private, self-funded research project using critical interpretive qualitative research methods. Starting with a few tentative ideas, she gathered characteristic statements from thousands of womb twin survivors across the world over several years.
The Womb Twin hypothesis
Within a few months of launching the website it was clear that womb twin survivors had a specific psychological make-up, which appeared to be related to the loss of their twin. On that basis, the Womb Twin hypothesis was formulated:
Womb twin survivors spend their lives re-enacting the life and death of their womb twin. Nothing is more important than that, even life itself. Once the real pre-birth scene, which is constantly being re-enacted, is made clear, then the re-enactment tends to diminish or cease altogether, greatly to the benefit of the individual.
The research consisted of an online questionnaire with a series of statements (rated by womb twin survivors in the survey) commonly made by womb twin survivors about their feelings, behaviour and attitudes. Physical indicators were also included and an option for the respondent's story. By 2007, the questionnaire had been refined 6 times as a result of the type of responses that were given. Repeated analysis of the various versions of the questionnaire consistently supported the Womb Twin hypothesis, which is still valid today.
The 6th version of the questionnaire was the final version used to form a statistical study and Althea made this available online until 1000 questionnaires had been completed.
500 questionnaires were completed between 2007-2009. Around half of these were by womb twin survivors who could provide evidence of their lost twin. A preliminary professional analysis was carried out in 2009 by the University of Hertfordshire by the Statistics Department and only the responses declaring 'proof of twin loss' were used.
Full details are provided in Althea’s book Womb Twin Survivors (2011), pp183-275.
By September 2011 over 1200 questionnaires were completed. The data was submitted to psychology professor, Dr. Victoria Bourne of University of London, who analysed the data from the 877 respondents who had proof that they were womb twin survivors. The findings were jointly presented by Professor Bourne and Althea Hayton at the Womb Twin conference in November 2011.
There were 59 questions about possible psychological aspects of being a womb twin survivor and the following 12 statements ranked the highest (with the highest listed first):
1. I know I am not realising my true potential
2. All my life I have felt as if something is missing
3. I feel different from other people
4. I have been searching for something all my life but I don’t know what it is
5. I fear rejection
6. Deep down, I feel alone, even when I am among friends
7. I have a problem with expressing anger - either there is too much or too little
8. I always feel in some way unsatisfied, but I don't know why
9. I fear abandonment
10. I often feel torn in two between two decisions
11. There are two very different sides to my character
12. I find disappointment very painful
Of course, the loss of one of more co-twins before birth is not the only reason a person might experience these sorts of things. No one would suggest such a thing and expect to be taken seriously! What does seem to be the case, however, is that most people who have evidence of prenatal co-twin loss recognise these patterns strongly, lifelong, and as a major aspect of their journey through life. And that's the key. The point is not just that they experience such things, but that those experiences tend to be strong, difficult, and lifelong. We should also emphasis that having been a twin in the womb is not just a problem. It also has some tremendously positive effects. But they seldom feel positive until the pain has been healed and we have learnt how to make the most of our womb legacy.
Many people have said the Womb Twin Screening Questionnaire is very helpful to review - so we recommend that you read it through and see how the themes relate to your life.
Althea used results of this more focused and in-depth analysis to form the foundation of her book, A Healing Path for Womb Twin Survivors. It has now been in print for a decade and many hundreds of people and therapists have used it, to great effect.
If you want help with your journey, contact us to speak to one of our experts or to attend one of our free monthly Open Sessions where we discuss topics and themes.
If you are a therapist and want to learn more, contact us for an introduction.
Althea carried out the Womb Twin Kids Project because parents of young womb twin survivors are often unsure whether they should tell them about their lost twin at a young age and if they do tell them, how they should approach this.