Background: Preterm infants are at greater risk for neurodevelopmental disabilities than full term infants. Interventions supporting parents to improve the quality of the infant's environment should improve developmental outcomes for preterm infants. Many interventions that involve parents do not measure parental change, nor is it clear which intervention components are associated with improved parental outcomes. The aim of this review was to categorize the key components of early intervention programs and determine the direct effects of components on parents, as well as their preterm infants.
Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ERIC, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched between 1990 and December 2011. Eligible randomized controlled trials (RCTs) included an early intervention for preterm infants, involved parents, and had a community component. Of 2465 titles and abstracts identified, 254 full text articles were screened, and 18 met inclusion criteria. Eleven of these studies reported maternal outcomes of stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-efficacy, and sensitivity/responsiveness in interactions with the infant. Meta-analyses using a random effects model were conducted with these 11 studies.
Results: Interventions employed multiple components categorized as (a) psychosocial support, (b) parent education, and/or (c) therapeutic developmental interventions targeting the infant. All interventions used some form of parenting education. The reporting quality of most trials was adequate, and the risk of bias was low based on the Cochrane Collaboration tool. Meta-analyses demonstrated limited effects of interventions on maternal stress (Z = 0.40, p = 0.69) and sensitivity/responsiveness (Z = 1.84, p = 0.07). There were positive pooled effects of interventions on maternal anxiety (Z = 2.54, p = 0.01), depressive symptoms (Z = 4.04, p <.0001), and self-efficacy (Z = 2.05, p = 0.04).
Conclusions: Positive and clinically meaningful effects of early interventions were seen in some psychosocial aspects of mothers of preterm infants. This review was limited by the heterogeneity of outcome measures and inadequate reporting of statistics. IMPLICATIONS OF KEY FINDINGS: Interventions for preterm infants and their mothers should consider including psychosocial support for mothers. If the intervention involves mothers, outcomes for both mothers and preterm infants should be measured to better understand the mechanisms for change.