Uncertainty and Perinatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Research in Nursing & Health
Original Item ID
Parents of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at increased risk of developing perinatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PPTSD), a mental health condition known to interfere with healthy parental and infant attachment. Feelings of uncertainty about illness have been theorized as an antecedent to post-traumatic stress, however the relationship has not been explored in parents of infants requiring care in the NICU. The purpose of this prospective study was to explore parental uncertainty during and after NICU discharge and the relationship between uncertainty and PPTSD. The sample consisted of 319 parents during NICU hospitalization and 245 parents at 3 months postdischarge. Parents who screened positive for PPTSD 3 months after hospital discharge reported more uncertainty both while in the NICU and 3 months after hospital discharge (p < 0.001). In parents with a personal or family history of mental illness, the moderated/mediating structural probit analysis showed no direct or indirect effect of uncertainty during hospitalization or at 3 months after hospital discharge on screening positive for PPTSD. In parents who did not report personal or family history of mental illness, uncertainty at 3 months after hospital discharge had a direct effect (b = 0.678, p < 0.001) and indirect mediating effect (b = 0.276, p < 0.001) on screening positive for PPTSD. The results provide actionable implications for mental health and NICU providers: (1) routine screening for uncertainty and risk factors including previous personal and family history of mental illness, and (2) the development of NICU follow-up support services to mitigate risk for PPTSD.
Malin, Kathryn J.; Johnson, Teresa S.; Brown, Roger L.; Leuthner, Jonathan; Malnory, Margaret; White-Traut, Rosemary; Rholl, Erin; and Lagatta, Joanne, "Uncertainty and Perinatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit" (2022). College of Nursing Faculty Research and Publications. 947.
Research in Nursing & Health, Vol. 45, No. 6 (December 2022): 717-732. DOI.