Imagine you’re pregnant, nearing your due date, and filled with a combination of both excitement and nervousness, but then things take an unexpected turn and your baby is here early. They are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and you have to touch your baby through the door of an incubator.
Parents of infants admitted to the NICU encounter high levels of stress and face higher levels of anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms as compared to the parents of healthy infants (Obeidat, Bond, & Callister, 2009). Most parents get to take their babies home from the hospital in just a few days with the ability to care for their newborns during their stay in the hospital and building a strong bond the entire time. NICU parents often experience stress and worry due to an inability to protect their child from pain, loss of control, anxiety over separation, and of course concern over the well-being and prognosis of their child.
So, as a healthcare professional, what can you do?
Allow parents to do as much for their baby as they can. Let them hold their baby, change the diaper, encourage them to touch their baby often. Help them to find a balance between work life, home life, and time at the hospital. Celebrate the progress their child makes with them. It’s important to give parents an active role in caring for their child and encourage interactions between baby and parent. This bond is important in their lives, their health, and your ability to care for their baby and the parents during their time in the NICU. After all, healthcare providers take care of more than just babies in the NICU.
What is your advice on helping parents in the NICU? How could the system be improved? Share with your coworkers or friends and see what they think!
Obeidat, H., Bond, E., & Callister, L. (2009). The Parental Experience of Having an Infant in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 23-29.