Objective: To measure levels of parenting stress and postnatal depression in mothers of very preterm infants in comparison with mothers of infants born at term is the objective of this study. The study also aimed to explore factors associated with parenting stress in the mothers of the preterm infants.
Methods: One hundred and five mothers who delivered 124 babies at ≤30 weeks gestation were enrolled together with 105 term mothers who delivered 120 babies. At one year of age (corrected for prematurity for the preterm cohort), the mothers completed the Parenting Stress Index Short Form (PSI), the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Short Temperament Scale for Toddlers. The infants had neurodevelopmental assessment. The preterm and term groups were compared.
Results: Questionnaires were completed by 101 of the preterm mothers and 98 of the term mothers. The mean PSI Total Stress score was significantly higher for the preterm mothers (70.28 vs 64.52, p = 0.022), with 19% of the preterm group and 9% of the term group having high scores (p = 0.038).There was no group difference on the EPDS or measures of temperament, with disability being greater in the preterm infants. For the preterm group, maternal depression and infant temperament were independent predictors of Total Stress scores on multivariate analysis.
Conclusions: Parenting stress in mothers of preterm infants at one year of age is significantly greater than that found in mothers of term infants. For preterm mothers, symptoms of depression and infant temperament are independent risk factors for higher levels of parenting stress.
Keywords: Infant development; Infant temperament; Parenting stress; Preterm; Term controls.
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