Maternal psychological distress and visitation to the neonatal intensive care unit

Acta Paediatr. 2015 Jul;104(7):e306-13. doi: 10.1111/apa.12975. Epub 2015 Feb 27.


Aim: To examine associations between maternal neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) visitation rates, maternal psychological distress ('distress') and preterm infant outcome post-NICU discharge in a contemporary cohort of very low birthweight (VLBW) infants.

Methods: This was a prospective study of 69 mothers and their VLBW infants. Distress was assessed 1-month postbirth, 2 weeks prior to NICU discharge and after NICU discharge at 4-month corrected age (CA). Maternal NICU visitation rates were calculated for the first 2 weeks and 1-month postbirth as well as for the entire NICU hospitalization. Regression analyses adjusted for the impact of (i) maternal and infant characteristics and distress on maternal visitation rates and (ii) the impact of visitation on long-term maternal distress and rates of infant clinic attendance and rehospitalization.

Results: Greater number of children in the home, maternal exposure to a greater number of potentially traumatic events prior to childbirth and lower maternal anxiety consistently predicted lower visitation rate. Lower maternal visitation rate predicted higher maternal depression scores at infants' 4-month CA visit. Maternal NICU visitation rate did not predict post-NICU discharge infant clinic attendance or rehospitalization.

Conclusion: Distress is an important predictor of visitation. In turn, visitation is associated with long-term maternal distress.

Keywords: Maternal neonatal intensive care unit visitation; Maternal psychological distress; Neonatal intensive care unit follow-up; Rehospitalization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult