Moms who have just given birth to a premature baby have fewer symptoms of postpartum depression when they engage in one-on-one talk sessions with a nurse, according to a new study published in the Journal of Perinatology.
The study shows that when preterm babies’ mothers participated in a series of personal sessions with neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses, they had lower anxiety and depression symptoms and higher self-esteem.
The study, conducted at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, investigated how one-on-one sessions with NICU nurses could affect mothers with premature infants.
For the research, 23 mothers with preterm infants received an average of five one-on-one sessions that lasted approximately 45 minutes each with Rebecca Siewert, D.N.P., co-author of the study and advanced registered nurse practitioner who has 30 years of experience in NICUs.
Before the session, new moms were allowed to choose the setting: their room, an outdoor patio, or the cafeteria. The first session focused on how giving birth to a premature baby felt. The participants described the process as an emotional roller coaster because they hardly saw the baby after the delivery.
The mothers were asked to fill out the Quality of Life, Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire before and after the one-on-one sessions.
Overall, the participants reported a better sense of self-esteem and a more positive outlook on their situation.
The researchers also did a follow-up evaluation one month after the final session to determine the effect that the sessions had on levels of depression and anxiety.
“A lot of times they suffer in silence because they don’t want to sound as if they’re weak and not doing well, and because all the focus is on the baby, they become secondary,” said Lisa Segre, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Nursing.
In the study, depression levels were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The talk sessions between the new mothers and Siewert reduced depression levels from a mean of 14.26 before the sessions started to a mean of 9.00 after the sessions ended—which is below the standard for professional help.
Anxiety levels were measured using the Beck Anxiety Inventory. The participants had a decline in anxiety levels from a mean of 16.57 at the initial start of the study to a mean of 9.13 after the study.
The researchers note that the drops in depression and anxiety levels are statistically significant and reveal the strong beneficial affect that talking can have on mothers with postpartum symptoms.
“The mother needs to be healthy to be able to take that baby home and for that baby to do well,” Siewert said.
The researchers said that the sessions helped the mothers focus on themselves and their needs. Most mothers of premature babies feel that their needs are trivial in comparison to the struggles of their preterm babies.
“Listening is what nurses have done their whole career,” Siewert said. “We’ve always been the ones to listen and try to problem solve. So, I just think it was a wonderful offshoot of what nursing can do. We just need the time to do it.”
One out of every nine babies in the United States is born premature each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Journal of Perinatology