Maternal and Paternal Depression Symptoms During NICU Stay and Transition Home

Pediatrics. 2021 Aug;148(2):e2020042747. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-042747. Epub 2021 Jun 18.


Objective: To examine the trajectory and risk factors of depression symptoms among parents from NICU admission to 30 days postdischarge. We hypothesized depression symptom scores would decrease from admission and then increase from discharge to 30 days.

Methods: Prospective longitudinal cohort study of premature infants in NICU. Parents completed the validated Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 4 time points: NICU admission, discharge, and 14 days and 30 days postdischarge. EPDS score change across time and probability of a positive screen (EPDS ≥10) were by assessed using mixed effect regression models.

Results: Of 431 parents enrolled (mothers, n = 230 [53%]), 33% of mothers (n = 57) and 17% of fathers (n = 21) had a positive EPDS screening. Score change was 1.9 points different between mothers and fathers (confidence interval [CI]: 1.3-2.6; P < .0001), with mothers decreasing 2.9 points (CI: 2.1-3.7; P < .0001) and fathers decreasing 1.0 points (CI: 0.1-2.0; P = .04). Over time, mothers decreased 10.96 times (CI: 2.99-38.20; P = .0003); fathers decreased at a nonsignificant rate. Admission or discharge screening improved 30-day depressive symptom prediction (AUC 0.66 baseline demographics only versus 0.84+initial [P < .0001], and versus 0.80+discharge screening [P < .001]).

Conclusions: Mothers and fathers experience different depressive symptom trajectories from NICU to home. Screening parents for postpartum depression during the NICU stay is likely to result in improved identification of parents at risk for postpartum depression after discharge. Focused attention on fathers appears warranted.

Trial registration: NCT03505424.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospital to Home Transition*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors

Associated data