Stress experienced by parents in the neonatal intensive care units

  • M. Kostović Srzentić
  • Z. Pukljak Iričanin
  • M. Grubić
  • A. Bogdanić
  • B. Filipović Grčić


Background: Birth and hospitalization of infant in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a stressful experience for parents. It relates to illness and treatments the neonate is undergoing, separation from the child and relationship issues. Parental stress may lead to mental health problems, particularly in mothers, and can be a risk factor for child development. Objective of this study was to assess psychological distress in parents of neonates. Stressors related to NICU and outside the hospital, stress reduction technique and care satisfaction were explored. Methods: 132 parents (69 mothers, 63 fathers), aged 17 to 50, completed Parental Stressor Scale-NICU, External Stressors Scale, Stress Reduction Scale, CORE-18 and satisfaction survey. Average gestational age of infants from two regional NICU was 31 week (24-42), birth weight 1520 grams (580-3520) and hospitalization duration 34 days (5-164). Results: The most stressful dimension in NICU was parental role alteration. The impact of significant others on parents’ feelings was the most stressful among stressors outside the hospital. Meeting financial and work obligations was the most stressful for fathers and discharging before baby for mothers. Confiding in others and researching about infant’s condition were mostly used stress reduction techniques, prayer rated as most effective. Even 50% of parents were in clinically significant distress, more mothers than fathers. Care satisfaction was related to lower stress. Conclusions: High level of psychological distress in parents was found. Considering this is the first study in this field in Croatia, results serve as guidelines for psychological support and research related to NICU.
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