Fathers of premature babies are more stressed than mothers
Parents are full of excitement while they prepare for their baby to arrive.
While it is wonderful when they bring their baby home, it can be stressful for parents as they constantly care for a newborn.
But how much stress do parents endure?
A study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examines the stress levels in mothers and fathers when they transition from critical care to Home setting with their premature born babies. The study examines how cortisol is associated with psychosocial stress and parenting sense of competence.
Both parents need to encourage each other to take rest and help them find ways to reduce their stress – as when parents are stressed it impact their parenting and can alter their attachment with their baby.
For this study in a neonatal intensive care unit, 86 parent completed salivary collection and self-reported psychosocial measures which included Perceived Stress Scale and the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (which measures parenting satisfaction).
Saliva samples were collected 3 times a day on the day before discharge from hospital and then collected on three subsequent days at home – after one day, five days and 14 days.
Both the parents had high levels of stress hormone cortisol in their saliva before the discharge from the hospital. The mothers stress levels remained constant over the 14 days their saliva was tested. However, the stress levels in fathers increased as measured several times over 14 days.
Over the 14 days, the fathers’ stress levels steadily increased while the mothers’ stress levels went back down to where they started.
The fathers’ stress levels as per their salivary test were higher than what they reported in the surveys. This indicates that fathers are not in touch with how stressed they really are.
The researchers suggest that fathers need help relieving their stress and easing the transition. And this can be done by helping fathers get comfortable with caring for their baby and thus gaining confidence while the baby is still in the neonatal unit.
Both parents need to encourage each other to take rest and encourage each other to find ways to reduce their stress – as when parents are stressed it impacts their parenting and can alter infant attachment.
This is even more pronounced when babies are pre-term and thus in a more vulnerable state.
Although this test wasn’t done on full-term babies, the researchers believe that parents will still be stressed when they come home due to lack of sleep, lack of control and constantly attending to their baby’s needs.
And it seems that fathers tend to be more stressed during the transition from hospital to home, especially if their babies are pre-term.
Source: The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing
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