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Neonatal intensive care unit admission and maternal postpartum depression

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Objective: This study aimed to examine the impact of newborns’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) admittance on maternal postpartum depression.

Background: Prior research on the parental psychological impacts of a NICU admittance typically includes a hospital sample of parents following birth, so the causality of NICU admittance and maternal depressive symptomatology is unclear.

Methods: 127 women across 38 counties in a South Central US state participated in online surveys in their third trimester and approximately six weeks post-birth in 2016. Pre- and post-birth assessments of depression were measured with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). NICU admittance was asked in the post-birth survey. t-Tests and multivariable regression analyses were used to determine predictors of NICU admittance and postnatal depressive symptomatology.

Results: Findings indicate that prenatal depression does not differ significantly between mothers by NICU admission status, but NICU admission is a significant predictor of postpartum depressive symptomatology.

Conclusions: Having a newborn admitted to the NICU is a risk factor for maternal postpartum depression. These findings have implications for practice; screening mothers in the NICU for depression as a target for intervention has the potential to improve maternal well-being, which in turn should enhance subsequent infant developmental outcomes.
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Keywords: NICU; Neonatal intensive care; mother(s); postnatal depression

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Human Development and Family Science, Oklahoma State University, Tulsa, OK, USA 2: Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

Publication date: May 27, 2019

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