Objective: To compare the psychosocial functioning of the parents (mother and father) of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with the parents of infants born at term and not admitted to the NICU.
Design: Random sample of NICU parents and term non-NICU parents were assessed across a variety of psychiatric and psychosocial measures shortly after the birth of their infant.
Setting: Christchurch Women’s Hospital, New Zealand. Labour ward and level III NICU.
Participants: A total of 447 parents (242 mothers; 205 fathers) with an infant admitted to a regional NICU during a 12 month period; 189 parents (100 mothers; 89 fathers) with infants born at term and not requiring NICU admission.
Main outcome measures: Depression and anxiety symptoms, psychosocial functioning.
Results: Overall, levels of anxiety and depression were low in both parent groups. Compared with control parents, a higher percentage of NICU parents had clinically relevant anxiety and were more likely to have had a previous NICU admission and be in a lower family income bracket. Infant prematurity was associated with higher levels of symptomatology in both NICU mothers and fathers.
Conclusions: Specific interventions are not needed for most parents who have an infant admitted to the NICU as they appear to adapt relatively successfully. Infant prematurity impacts negatively on the father as well as the mother. Consequently these parents may benefit from increased clinical attention.
- DAS, dyadic adjustment scale
- EPDS, Edinburgh postnatal depression scale
- HADS, hospital anxiety and depression rating scale
- NICU, neonatal intensive care unit
- SAS, social adjustment scale
- neonatal intensive care units
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Competing interests: none declared