Maternal Stress and Anxiety in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

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Abstract

Background

Mothers whose infants are born with complex congenital heart disease (CCHD) experience stress during their infant's hospitalization in a pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU).

Objectives

This study addressed 2 research questions: (1) What are the parental stressors for mothers whose infants with CCHD are in the PCICU? And (2) What are the relationships of trait anxiety and 3 parental stressors to the parental stress response of state anxiety in mothers whose infants with CCHD are in the PCICU?

Methods

This descriptive correlational study included 62 biological mothers of infants admitted to a PCICU within 1 month of birth who had undergone cardiac surgery for CCHD. Maternal and infant demographics and responses to the Parental Stressor Scale: Infant Hospitalization and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were collected at 3 major PCICUs across the United States.

Results

Mothers’ scores revealed that infant appearance and behavior was the greatest stressor, followed by parental role alteration, then sights and sounds. The combination of trait anxiety and parental role alteration explained 26% of the variance in maternal state anxiety. Mothers with other children at home had significantly higher state anxiety than did mothers with only the hospitalized infant.

Conclusions

Results from this study revealed factors that contribute to the stress of mothers whose infants are born with CCHD and are hospitalized in a PCICU. Nurses are in a critical position to provide education and influence care to reduce maternal stressors in the PCICU, enhance mothers’ parental role, and mitigate maternal state anxiety.

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