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CMAJ. 2003 Apr 15;168(8):969-73.

Effectiveness of a parent "buddy" program for mothers of very preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.



Very preterm birth (< 30 weeks' gestation) is a stressful event for parents, and few support interventions for these parents have been evaluated. In this study, we evaluated the effectiveness of parent-to-parent peer support for mothers of very preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


In this cohort study, 32 mothers were recruited for the intervention group from the Mount Sinai Hospital and 28 mothers were recruited for the control group from the Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, both located in Toronto. The NICUs of these hospitals serve the same region and accept referrals on alternate days. Mothers in the intervention group were paired with trained mothers who had previously had a very preterm infant in the NICU and who provided principally telephone support. Participants in both groups received standard medical and social work services. Primary outcome data consisted of self-reported, standardized measures of parental stress, state anxiety and depression. Secondary measures included self-reported, standardized measures of perceived social support and trait anxiety.


At 4 weeks after enrolment in the study, mothers in the intervention group reported less stress than those in the control group (mean score 1.54 v. 2.93, p < 0.001). At 16 weeks after enrolment, the intervention group reported less state anxiety (mean score 31.4 v. 38.6, p < 0.05), less depression (mean score 2.20 v. 4.88, p < 0.01) and greater perceived social support (mean score 6.49 v. 5.48, p < 0.01) than the control group. There was no difference between the groups in terms of trait anxiety. Of the 24 mothers who evaluated the program, 21 (87.5%) indicated that it was very helpful or helpful.


Support from individual, trained peers was found to be effective in helping mothers deal with the stress of very preterm birth.

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