Several—but not all—studies indicate that, when adult cancer patients are given an audiotape of their first conversations with oncologists, they experience less anxiety and psychological distress and recall more information. The present randomized single-blind trial sought to determine whether psychological well-being and recall of information are improved when mothers whose infants are in neonatal intensive care receive such audiotapes. Of 200 eligible mothers, 102 were given audiotapes. All participants were interviewed 10 days and 4 months after the initial conversation to estimate recall of the information provided and to identify any changes in psychological health, general health, or perceived parenting stress. The two groups were initially similar except that mothers given a tape tended to have less education.
At least 80% of mothers in both groups did not mind having their conversations taped. Most of those given a tape felt that it helped them to remember what had been said, and also that it helped the family to understand and recall information. More than 90% of mothers in the intervention group listened to the tape, once by day 10, twice by 4 months, and three times by 12 months. At both assessments, mothers in the tape group recalled significantly more information than control women about diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. At 4 months, mothers given a tape were 75% more likely to recall all treatment information. Six mothers, all in the control group, were unable to recall their conversations. Women in the two groups were similarly satisfied with their conversations and had comparable anxiety and depression scores. Parenting stress also was similar in the two groups. There were no differences in overall psychological well-being. The mothers of infants having a poor outcome were more satisfied with their conversations when given a tape than were similar mothers in the control group.
Taping conversations between mothers of infants under intensive care and their neonatologists is a practical measure that, in this study, appeared to improve recall of information without altering the mothers’ well-being or increasing the stress of parenting.