Background: Psychological stress of parents of preterm infants is aggravated by prolonged hospitalization. Early discharge programmes (EDP) have been implemented to alleviate this situation.
Objective: To evaluate parental psychological stress in an EDP for the first three months after Neonatal Intensive Care Unit discharge.
Design/Methods: Prospective randomized trial comparing parents of preterm infants assigned to EDP (n: 72) or SDP (standard discharge) (n: 68). At discharge, parents were evaluated using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD), and the Likert scale for well-being every 10 days for 3 months. Parental narrative of Worrying and Helping issues was assessed using a semi-structured interview.
Results: Length of stay was greater in the SDP group (p<0.01). HAD showed no differences in anxiety, but SDP mothers scored higher in depression (p<0.05). Altogether, parents reported a worrisome emotional condition (EDP: 87.2%; SDP: 80%), which decreased at the end of the study (EDP: 45.2%; SDP: 34.5%). Baby's physical well-being was the most relevant issue in the narrative for Worrying and Helping issues at discharge (EDP: 69.2%; SDP: 67.5%); however, it decreased at the end of the study (EDP: 22.6%; SDP: 24.1%). At discharge, paediatrician's support was more important for SDP group. No differences on the Well-Being Scale were found, but the EDP group scored better.
Conclusions: Vulnerability of parents enrolled in an EDP did not increase after hospital discharge. Physical well-being of the baby was the most important issue for both groups. EDP parents requested less paediatric support and scored higher in the Well-being verbatim.
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