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Exploring Biobehavioral Outcomes in Mothers of Preterm Infants

Howland, Lois C. DrPH, RN; Pickler, Rita H. PhD, RN, PNP-BC, FAAN; McCain, Nancy L. RN, DSN, FAAN; Glaser, Dale PhD; Lewis, Mary BSN, RNC

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2011 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 91–97
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e318205587e
Feature Article

Purpose To evaluate physiologic measures of stress with self-reported perceived stress and depressive symptoms among mothers of preterm babies currently hospitalized in an NICU.

Study Design and Methods This was a cross-sectional, descriptive, single-visit study of 20 mothers of hospitalized preterm infants. Data collected included self-report behavioral measures and a brief structured interview. Biological data were available on 17 mothers. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.

Results Mothers reported high levels of stress and depressive symptoms. Higher levels of stress and more depressive symptoms were associated with higher levels of certain serum cytokines, higher levels of waking and afternoon salivary cortisol, and abnormal diurnal patterns of salivary α-amylase.

Clinical Implications A NICU admission is a stressful time for which families typically have not had the opportunity to prepare. Mothers with higher levels of stress and depressive symptoms may be at higher risk for poorer physical and mental health. This study highlights the high levels of stress and depressive symptoms that may be experienced by mothers of preterm infants, and suggests the potential value of developing effective strategies to target maternal psychological distress.

This study highlights the high levels of stress and depressive symptoms that may be experienced by mothers of preterm infants, and suggests the potential value of developing effective strategies to target maternal psychological distress.

Lois C. Howland is an associate professor at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA. She can be reached via e-mail at lhowland@sandiego.edu.

Rita H. Pickler is a professor at School of Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Nancy L. McCain is a professor at School of Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Dale Glaser Glaser Consulting, Lecturer, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA

Mary Lewis is a PRO Study Clinical Coordinator, School of Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

The authors have disclosed that there are no financial relationships related to this article.

Conflict of interest statement: None of the authors have a conflict of interest in reporting these research findings.

Disclosure of financial support: Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research (P20 NR008889, N. McCain, Principal Investigator), School of Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Hahn School of Nursing, University of San Diego

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.