Resilience in Mothers of Very-Low-Birth-Weight Infants Hospitalized in the NICU

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 May-Jun;46(3):434-445. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2016.11.016. Epub 2017 Mar 2.


Objective: To develop the theme of Resilience of mothers of very-low-birth-weight infants in the NICU from a qualitative study on maternal role attainment.

Design: Secondary analysis using retrospective interpretation, that is, the further development and refinement of content related to resilience that was identified in the original data.

Setting: A tertiary NICU in Chicago.

Participants: Twenty-three English-speaking, predominantly single (74%), minority (Black [57%], Hispanic [17%]), low-income (78%), primiparous (78%) mothers of very-low-birth-weight infants.

Methods: Narrative analysis and core story creation were used to analyze the data related to resilience. A narrative of each participant's birth and NICU story was constructed and recurring meanings were analyzed. Identified patterns were compared across narratives to create one coherent core story that synthesized themes common to all stories.

Results: Participants found meaning in redefining their priorities to become advocates for their infants and to "pick themselves up for their babies" by using resources that actively promoted their mental health. NICU-based breastfeeding peer counselors and bedside nurses helped guide participants through their NICU experiences, provided support so participants could gain confidence and competence, and allowed participants to cope with their long-term psychological distress.

Conclusion: Participants demonstrated resilience as they learned to live with what was beyond their control. NICU nurses are ideally positioned to capitalize and expand on mothers' health-promoting strengths, resources, and coping strategies to help them further decrease their NICU-related stress and better integrate mothering behaviors into their lives long after NICU discharge.

Keywords: NICU; VLBW infants; core story creation; qualitative secondary analysis; resilience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Chicago
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Narration
  • Qualitative Research
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tertiary Care Centers