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Early Hum Dev. 2003 Aug;73(1-2):61-70.

The impact of very premature birth on the psychological health of mothers.

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Centre for Nursing Research, School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove Campus, Locked Bag, No. 2, Red Hill, Qld 4059, Australia.



The birth of a very premature infant is a critical event in the life of a family and studies have shown that mothers of these infants are at greater risk of psychological distress than mothers of full-term infants.


A total population study of mothers of preterm infants born at less than 32-week gestation at a tertiary referral hospital.


Sixty-two mothers of very preterm infants (<32 weeks) participated in the present study which examines correlates of maternal depressive symptomatology at 1 month following very premature birth. Information was obtained from structured questionnaires completed by mothers at 1 month after infant admission to neonatal intensive care.


Forty percent of the mothers reported significant depressive symptoms on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS). Logistic regression analysis indicated that high maternal stress resulted in an increased likelihood of depressive symptoms (OR 1.15, CI 1.04-1.26, p<0.01). Higher levels of maternal education (p<0.05), and increased perception of support from nursing staff (OR 1.06, CI 0.88-1.00, p<0.05) resulted in decreased likelihood of depressive symptoms.


The birth and subsequent hospitalisation of a very premature infant evokes considerable psychological distress in mothers. These results have implications for policy development in order to enhance family centred care in the neonatal intensive care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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