The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can cause significant psychological distress in a mother. There is no common definition of maternal distress in the NICU currently in use.
To develop a clear conceptual understanding of maternal distress in the NICU using conceptual definitions and empirical findings.
A literature search was conducted using EBSCOhost, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychINFO, and Google Scholar. The concept analysis was guided by Walker and Avant's (2011) guide.
Maternal distress in the NICU consists of a combination of depressive, anxiety, trauma, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. The symptoms occur together on a spectrum and present differently in each mother. The antecedents to maternal distress are a NICU hospitalization and a perceived interruption to the transition to motherhood. Consequences of maternal distress in the NICU are issues with developing a healthy maternal–infant bond, adverse infant development, and decreased maternal quality of life.
A complete understanding of maternal distress in the NICU will lead to increased awareness of adverse mental health states in this population.
Identification of mothers at risk for maternal distress in the NICU, as well as the identification of antecedents and consequences related to the mother and the infant from maternal distress in the NICU. Using a single, clear definition of maternal distress in the NICU population will lead to a more cohesive body of literature.
College of Nursing, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.
Correspondence: Morgan A. Staver, BSN, RN, College of Nursing, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 4101 Dewey Ave, Omaha, NE 68131 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.