Stress beyond the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Discharge: Implications to Outcome

Amy Nagorski Johnson*

Stress beyond the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Discharge: Implications to Outcome. The ethical concept of beneficence (doing good) provides the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse with a framework for wanting to lower stressors as much as possible prior to discharge.

There is a growing body of research evidence that examines the postpartum stress experience of mothers of the extremely premature infants. According to findings, mothers of premature infants are at increased risk for postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress, yet screening factors for early identification are not standardized practice. In a recent study of mothers of premature infants (N=135), investigators found that maternal sociodemographic factors as well as the infant’s
physiologic stability did not contribute to early identification of postpartum traumatic stress in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Studies agree that the postpartum transition to parenthood is a major life stress, yet the incidence of postpartum traumatic stress in full-term births is 6%. This is a much different statistic in the
premature population.

Any parental stress experience arising from NICU admissions is not a surprise. The hectic, technological intensive care environment of the NICU presents a challenge for nurses to integrate care that supports the development of premature infants while facilitating mother-infant attachment and supporting parents as collaborators in the care of their infant.

NICU nurses support families while in the NICU. This study shows the importance of doing so, and the ethical need for referral and intervention to lower stress levels. The findings illustrate
unresolved family stress can last well beyond the birth of the baby, and provides support for early identification of stressed families and interventions to normalize that stress before discharge. Although that source of stress differs for each family.

Pediatr Neonatal Nurs Open J
. 2016; 3(1): 15-19. doi: 10.17140/PNNOJ-3-120