Parental Perception of Risk Associated With Their Premature Infant

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Abstract

Background:

Preterm birth has been linked to increased parental stress, depression, and anxiety. Although the rate of neonatal morbidity and mortality decreases with increasing gestational age, recent research has revealed that there is no threshold age for risk or parental concern.

Purpose:

This study examines parental concern about medical and developmental outcomes of their premature infant.

Methods:

Parents of 60 premature infants were surveyed in a follow-up clinic regarding their level of concern about 11 morbidities and their child's gestation-adjusted age; these were compared with the infant's inpatient chart. “Concern scores” were tallied and compared across gestational age groups and knowledge of gestation-adjusted age using Chi-square tests of independence.

Findings:

Many parents reported concerns about morbidities that were unsupported by their child's diagnoses. Across parents of extremely, very, and moderate-late preterm children, the mean concern scores were 13.9, 15.7, and 19.7, respectively. Overall, 62% of parents incorrectly reported the gestation-adjusted age of their child. Parents who were correct were significantly more likely to correctly anticipate abnormal developmental patterns (70%) and growth patterns (65%) than those who were incorrect (33% and 31%, respectively).

Implications for Research:

Future research should focus on whether NICU graduate parental stress levels are directly linked to the severity of their child's condition, and how physicians can help decrease NICU graduate parental stress.

Implications for Practice:

Parental anxiety regarding all gestational age neonatal intensive care unit infant outcomes can be decreased by a thorough explanation of gestation-adjusted age and a discussion of expected prematurity-related issues.

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