Victoria Vasquez, PhD
“Relationships of Parent-Infant Contacts and Postpartum Depression Symptoms in Mothers of Preterm Infants in the NICU: A Mixed Methods Approach”
Background: Postpartum depressive symptoms in mothers of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit are a health crisis for both mothers and infants. Mothers are at risk for mental suffering and infants are at risk for negative developmental outcomes.
Research Purpose: To investigate the relationship between a NICU mother’s postpartum depressive symptoms and NICU parent – infant contact.
Design: Mixed- methods, sequential, explanatory design
Methods: Convenience sample of 26 mothers of preterm NICU infants 28 – 32 6/7 weeks gestation participated. Maternal postpartum depressive symptoms were measured using the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale (PDSS). The PDSS was administered at 14 (PDSS_14) and 28 (PDSS_28) postnatal days of life. Parent – infant contact was recorded. A qualitative interview was conducted with the mother on day of life 28. Descriptive analysis was used for demographic and contact data; correlations for maternal demographic and characteristics data, parental – infant contact data, maternal data with PDSS data and parental contact data with PDSS data, and content analysis for qualitative interviews.
Results: The majority of mothers: 25-39 years old, married, Caucasian, educated; mean infant gestational age was 30.6 weeks. Seventy percent of mothers had elevated PDSS_14
scores and 60% of mothers had elevated PDSS_28 scores. High Cronbach alpha reliabilities were present for all PDSS dimensions. There were significant correlations between: maternal
demographics and PDSS subscales, maternal – infant and paternal – infant contact, parent – infant contact and PDSS subscales and long form scores. Content analysis revealed six themes: the all important mother-infant connection, under the maternal watchful eye, NICU staff: make or break a mother’s experience, the cycle of mental and physical exertion and recovery, somebody to lean on, and a place of unending stimuli.
Discussion: NICU mothers are suffering from elevated postpartum depressive symptoms. Maternal – paternal – infant contact relationships indicate high potential for decreasing PDD symptoms. Addressing the concerns from the thematic analysis could be highly beneficial.
Conclusion: NICU maternal postpartum depressive symptoms need to be addressed and
parental – infant contact needs to be encouraged.
Keywords: postpartum depression, preterm, NICU, mother, father, infant, contact, postpartum depression screening scale, PDSS