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Mental Health and the Preemie Parent


SharonH 1 / -  
Jan 8, 2022   #1

English 101 research



Feedback on draft of research report needed for English 101.

Everyone knows someone who has given birth prematurely or has at least heard of premature birth, which is when an infant is born under 32 weeks gestation. What most people don't know is the toll premature birth takes on the mental health of parents. The stress of it all is often compared to a battlefield as a long term stay in the NICU and war can both cause P.T.S.D (post traumatic stress syndrome). After the NICU things are forever changed the world just feels different. There is a mental health decline in preemie parents that is little talked about or acknowledged. These parents like soldiers should be evaluated for mental health issues after facing these traumatic events just as soldiers are after war.

A 2009 study done by Richard Shaw M.D showed that almost 60 percent of parents whose infant was in the NICU developed P.T.S.D (Dreger 1.). Which comes as no surprise to me since premature birth is a traumatic event and should be treated as such. In a blog post for the website Hand to Hold, a NICU support page, author Danielle Dreger tells of her personal experiences giving birth to a premature infant as well as her time in the NICU. Here is a quote "Like many, I attributed P.T.S.D to soldiers coming back from war or victims of assault. In many ways the N.I.C.U is like a warzone for parents as their premature baby fights to survive. It's not one trauma but a series of events that occur after an early or unplanned arrival. Watching their sick infant undergo constant tests and procedures takes a toll on parents" (Dreger.1). Dreger perfectly states the emotions she went through while she and her child were in the N.I.C.U. I personally believe this is how most parents feel but are too focused on their infants needs to even verbalize their own needs. Often parents are not even asked how they are doing. Which is understandable to a degree since everyone including the parents are focused on the infant. However, since parents must be well to assure the child is well it just seems they should at least be asked how they are.

I personally dealt with depression and PTSD due to giving birth to a completely healthy 10-pound baby, then three years later giving birth unexpectedly at 29 weeks gestation to a 3-pound baby. I felt so alone in my struggles. The NICU was a strange, unfamiliar, depressing place. There I saw my baby hooked up to numerous monitors, I. V's (at one point one was even in her head), nasal cannulas, and a feeding tube. I didn't even get to hold her until about 12 hours after she was born. In all honesty, just writing of my experience in the NICU takes me back mentally to those times, it changes my mood and causes some anxiety. There is something about seeing your child hooked up to tubes and wires that leaves a lasting imprint on your brain and heart. The day to day of not knowing what your child will have to go through or even if they will make it through the next day is a special kind of unexplainable stress. I now know I am not alone in my struggles as studies have shown that mothers of premature infants are at greater risk of psychological distress than mothers of full-term infants (Science Direct.com). In one study, 62 mothers of very premature infants (<32 weeks) that examined the correlation of maternal depressive symptomatology at 1 month following the very premature birth via questionnaires. The results found that 40 percent of mothers reported significant depressive symptoms on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS).

Even after the N.I.C.U days parents have reported being haunted by flashbacks to their time in the NICU when their child gets sick, goes to the hospital for a routine procedure, or even on their birthday. While other parents are celebrating milestone birthdays. Preemie parents are reliving some of the most stressful times of their lives. Which may lead to them isolating themselves from family and friends causing a rift in their closest relationships. I can personally attest to these statements, as I too often have flashbacks of the NICU. They normally happen when my child is sick and, on her birthday, just as stated above. This all points to a decline in mental health of preemie parents. As some of us are at times living in the past so to speak.

When a premature infant has lasting health issues it is even harder on parents, which then makes things harder on the whole family. They feel an intense guilt for what their child is going through. They usually spend more time at doctors' offices and therapy sessions than at home. Often becoming so overwhelmed by their infants needs they stop caring for themselves, that then causes further feelings of depression. Feeding issues particularly exacerbates the mental health decline. As it is hard to understand how or why they just can't eat on their own. Especially if they have older children who had no feeding issues. Learning to administer tube feedings or gastronomy button feedings can be intense and extremely stressful. The road to the child eating on their own can be long and very slow. Feeding issues with my preemie were the most stressful times in our journey. Although my preemie now eats by mouth, 7 years later and I still find myself worrying if she is eating enough and is well nourished.

1 in 10 babies are born premature each year (March of Dimes.org), which translates to 1 in 10 parents suffering from mental health issues. Although most won't realize it until they are fully enthralled by depression and/or P.T.S.D. When they do realize it, they won't complain because they feel their feelings are insignificant compared to all their child has gone through. One day they will look up and realize the whole family dynamic has changed without them even noticing as they have been razor focused on there preemie. Maybe, just maybe if more people are at least aware of the issues preemie parents face. They can at least provide them an ear to listen and help them feel just a little less alone.

"Works Cited"

Dreger, Danielle. "PTSD and NICU Parents." Hand to Hold

Davis, Leigh. Edwards, Helen. Mohay, Heather. Wollin, Judy. "The Impact of Very Premature Birth on The Psychological Health of Mother." Science Direct, Early Human Development
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 13,051 4255  
Jan 8, 2022   #2
Good work on the creation of the discussion premise. The backgrounder and topic statements are quite solid and clearly delivers the topic coverage in terms of discussion points.

Richard Shaw M.D

Since his research is the primary source of your information, then you need to provide a simple but notable professional background for this doctor. He cannot just be a regular MD. Convince the reader that he is in a position of authority that has led to this research based and evidence supported information. The convincing power of your thesis relies on the factual believability and background of your sources.

no surprise to me

Unless otherwise stated, the writer should not use first person pronouns in the presentation. It is a research paper, not a personal opinion presentation. The idea is to allow the reader to come to their own conclusion based on the information presented.

You may use personal pronouns when discussing your personal experience but try to avoid it when giving a general discussion.


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