Spiritual needs of mothers with sick new born or premature infants-A cross sectional survey among German mothers

Women Birth. 2018 Apr;31(2):e89-e98. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.08.002. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Background: Spirituality is part of the basic needs of all humans, yet often undervalued by health professionals. Less is known about the spiritual needs of mothers of preterm or sick new born children.

Aim: Identify unmet psychosocial and spiritual needs of these mothers, and to relate these needs to their perceived stress and impairments of life concerns.

Methods: Anonymous cross-sectional survey with standardized instruments (e.g., Spiritual Needs Questionnaire) among 125 mothers of two paediatric departments in Germany.

Findings: Mothers felt supported by their partner and hospital staff, and hospital staff assured 82% of them that they must not worry about their child's prognosis. They nevertheless did have specific unmet spiritual needs. Religious Needs and Existentialistic Needs scored lowest, while Giving/Generativity Needs were of moderate and Inner Peace Needs of strongest relevance. With respect to the expected diagnosis and prognosis of their child, there were no significant differences for their secular spiritual needs scores, but significant differences for Religious Needs which scored highest in mothers with children having an unclear prognosis (F=8.6; p=.004). Particularly Inner Peace Needs correlated with their stress perception (r=.34), impairments of life concerns (r=.25) and grief (r=.23).

Discussion: Mothers of sick born/premature children felt supported by the hospital team and their partner, but nevertheless experienced stress and daily life impairments, and particularly have unmet Inner Peace Needs.

Conclusions: Addressing mothers' specific needs may help support them in their struggle with their difficult situation avoiding fears and insecurity and thus facilitating positive bonding to their child.

Keywords: Mothers; Preterm infants; Sick new-born; Spiritual needs; Stress perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Spirituality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires