'Moving the boundaries': understanding the concept of parental mental health after a child's admission to intensive care.

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Psychology

Abstract

Every year, over 100,000 babies across the UK receive neonatal care, approximating to one in eight of those born. This hospitalisation can have detrimental effects for parents' mental health, with evidence to suggest as many as 43% of mothers experience moderate to severe levels of anxiety at the time their infant is discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU exposes parents to high levels of threat and uncertainty and the enforced separation limits early bonding opportunities, making parents incredibly vulnerable during the abrupt transition to home. However, little is known about parents' experiences or the best way to help them. Implementing a mixed methods design, the current research aims to conceptualise the post-discharge parenting experience for both mothers and fathers. It will explore the trajectory of distress during the transition period, while exploring the key support needs for parents. Parental distress is associated with adverse outcomes for the infant's cognitive and physical development, growth, emotional and behavioural problems. Negative outcomes regarding mother-infant bonding and caregiving practices have likewise been observed. Better knowledge of the support needs of parents who are likely to experience prolonged distress, and development of tailored intervention, will ameliorate these adversities and reduce unnecessary readmissions, reducing personal, societal and economic burden.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2460053 Studentship ES/P000703/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Katherine Lucy Sabin