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Maternal Distress & Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Stays

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posted on 2022-05-17, 21:36 authored by Ashley Lynn SnyderAshley Lynn Snyder

Background: Many mental disturbances can be experienced as a result of the peripartum experience, including maternal distress. Experiences in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can worsen and negatively contribute to the development of maternal distress. 

Purpose: To investigate the following research questions: How does having an infant requiring a NICU stay affect maternal distress during and after NICU discharge? How can maternal distress can be decreased?

Methods: A literature review was performed using databases relevant to the research field and articles were included based on their relevancy to the research question. 

Results: Maternal distress consists of a combination of depressive, anxiety and trauma/PTSD related symptoms, and affects NICU mothers at a higher rate than mothers of well-infants not requiring a NICU stay. There are many contributing factors to the development and severity of maternal distress, disproportionally affecting mothers with an infant in the NICU. Multiple validated screening tools, paired with support from the healthcare staff and increased parental involvement in care can aid in improving maternal distress. 

Conclusions: Maternal distress is an issue that affects NICU mothers at a high rate. Recognition of risks, screening, and support from the healthcare team can improve maternal distress in addition to maternal support systems and maternal involvement in infant care. 



Kihn, Paula


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  • Health Sciences - HLSC