Minimizing Parental Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the NICU: An Efficacy Analysis of Trauma Counseling
The birth of a new baby is known to be a joyful time for families. However, such a treasured experience can quickly reroute in a matter of moments which leaves the family feeling helpless, frightened, and guilty. The innate process of bonding and attachment is interrupted by the resuscitative course following a traumatic birth. Separation, grief, anger, and fear promote what’s being deemed more and more frequently as parental posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rates of parental PTSD associated with separation at birth are equivalating those of post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. Emotionally unstable parents are unable to adequately care for their newborn for both short and long term needs.
Facilitation and support of the parental role in an altered environment, such as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), is thought to create opportunities for relationship security. Establishment of an emotionally invested caregiver has been proven to minimize sequelae of the NICU patient, reduce length of stay, cut readmission rates, and lower the incidence of failure to thrive post-discharge. A parental psychosocial program was instituted in a 32-bed NICU within a southwest children’s hospital. The program efficacy was analyzed several months after implementation. Results are concurrent with the thought that individual counseling for NICU families reduces stress scores and improves patient satisfaction at discharge.