Mothering in the NICU: A qualitative exploration of maternal engagement

Soc Work Health Care. 2019 Sep;58(8):746-763. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2019.1629152. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Research suggests maternal engagement in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may positively impact maternal and infant health outcomes. However, the U.S. has lower rates of maternal engagement in the NICU compared to other developed countries. This qualitative study reflects a transdisciplinary research partnership between social work, nursing, and neonatology. Qualitative inquiry explores maternal experiences in the NICU from the perspectives of mothers of preterm infants hospitalized in 2 U.S. NICUs. Results support an ecological systems framework to understanding barriers and facilitators to maternal engagement in the NICU and the utilization of a trauma-informed health care approach in NICU settings.

Keywords: Maternal engagement; NICU; neonatal intensive care unit; parental paid leave; social work; transdisciplinary research; trauma-informed care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States