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Stanford Medicine

Parenting, Pediatrics

The emotional struggles of parents of preemies

Having a baby born prematurely and spending time in the NICU can be incredibly emotional and stressful for parents, and feeling misunderstood or unsupported by those around them doesn’t help matters. A new report (.pdf)  from Inspire.com, an online patient community website, demonstrates this: In a survey of 630 mothers of premature babies, 55 percent reported that insensitive comments from relatives or close friends contributed to a sense of stress and isolation, and one-fifth of respondents said such comments results in lost relationships with people who they called “very important to them.”

Common Health’s Carey Goldberg covered the story on Friday and included a parent-generated list of things not to say to parents of preemies. (Among the comments: “He’s so small,” and “You’re so lucky that you didn’t have to go through the end of pregnancy.”) She also quoted Stanford/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital psychiatrist Richard Shaw, MD, who discussed the psychological struggles of  parents of preemies and noted that many develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress during the first few weeks of their child’s life.

There’s clearly a need to advocate more strongly for this parent community, Shaw concluded at the end of the Inspire report.

Photo by bradleyolin

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