Parents of NICU babies highly depressive
Parents of infants admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) show high levels of depressive symptoms at discharge even if their baby was born at term, a recent study has found.
Drawing from the Giving Parents Support trial, researchers surveyed 300 parents (mean age, 30±7 years; 89 percent female) prior to NICU discharge. The Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-10), Parental Stressor Scale:NICU (PSS:NICU), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10), and Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) were all used to assess the parents’ psychological state.
Nearly half (n=135) of the parents ultimately showed depressive symptoms, earning a median CESD-10 score of 13. There were no significant score differences between mothers and fathers. However, those with a female infant were 81 percent more likely to be depressive than parents of male infants.
In addition, parents whose babies were born near or at term were 5.60 (p=0.01) and 7.87 (p=0.002) times more likely to show depressive symptoms than comparators with infants born <28 weeks of gestation.
PSS:NICU scores were moderately heightened across all participants, and 43 percent scored >20 on the PSS-10, suggesting high levels of perceived stress. This was particularly apparent among younger parents.
On the other hand, the MSPSS found that participants generally had good social support. MSPSS scores were inversely proportional with depressive symptoms, such that parents who had a weaker support system tended to be more depressive.
The present findings thus indicate that “[u]niversal screening for postpartum depression and social support during NICU stay and at discharge should be encouraged,” the researchers said. At the same time, “[i]nterventions to reduce hospital-induced stress, increase parent education, and manage parent expectations are vital.”